BOULDER — The Colorado Buffaloes have crunched the numbers and it all adds up to the same thing — there’s no margin for error.
Mired in a five-game skid, the Buffaloes (3-6, 1-5 Pac-12) must close the season with three wins to become bowl eligible. It starts Saturday on homecoming at Folsom Field against Stanford (4-4, 3-3), which also is eyeing a bowl berth.
Both teams are already out of contention on their respective sides for Pac-12 division titles.
This is hardly the predicament the Buffaloes figured they’d be in when they started 3-1 start under first-year Colorado coach Mel Tucker. But it’s now their reality. Colorado has missed out on a bowl the past two seasons.
“Everyone has that chip on their shoulder to want to come out and do everything they can,” senior outside linebacker Nu’umotu Falo Jr. said. “It’s really important to all of us.”
The Cardinal have a little more wiggle room with four games remaining, including at Washington State, then home against Cal and Notre Dame. Stanford has gone to 10 straight bowl games, which is the longest streak in school history as well as the longest active streak in the Pac-12.
This bodes well heading down the stretch — the Cardinal are 25-7 under coach David Shaw in November. And this bodes well for their matchup against Colorado — they’ve had roughly two weeks to prepare following a 41-31 win over Arizona.
The main emphasis during that down time?
“Rest,” Shaw said. “Usually we give the younger guys a lot of reps but we have so many young guys playing it was good for us not to practice as much. We looked ahead a little bit to Colorado, but most of it was getting guys off their feet.”
MOVING UP THE CHARTS
Stanford senior QB K.J. Costello didn’t look the least bit rusty against Arizona after missing 3 1/2 games with an injury. Costello threw for 322 yards and three touchdowns.
Costello has now thrown for 5,906 career yards, which is the ninth-most in school history. With 48 career TD passes, he’s five away from tying Jim Plunkett (1968-70) for fifth place on the school’s list.
“He’s been injured a little bit, but we’re going to expect to see him back there, doing what he does best,” Falo said.
SETTLING INStanford has given up five touchdown passes of 25 or more yards this season, and three TD runs of 40 or more yards.
“One of our biggest bugaboos,” Shaw said of long plays. “Hopefully we can cut down on those big plays and play better — complete defense on the road.”
TUCKER’S TAKEWhen Tucker watches the Cardinal on film, one of the first things that jumps out at him is their discipline.
“Their overall operation is strictly business,” Tucker said. “Not a lot of fresh pastry, just a meat-and-potato outfit with a lot of really good players.”
COLORADO HALL OF FAMEFormer Colorado coach Gary Barnett is among the members of the 15th class of the University of Colorado athletic hall of fame being inducted this week. He went 49-38 over seven seasons (1999-2005) and guided the Buffaloes to four Big 12 North division titles. They also went to five bowl games under his watch. Barnett now is an analyst on the Colorado radio broadcast.
Also being honored is late head coach Fred Folsom (1895-99, 1901-02, 1908-15) in the stadium that bears his name — Folsom Field.
HELP DOWN THE ROADDefensive lineman Antonio Alfano recently signed a financial aid agreement with Colorado and is expected to join the team in January. The 6-foot-4, 285-pounder signed with Alabama but didn’t play in any games this season. He entered the transfer portal last month.
Alfano was a highly rated defensive end out of high school. The news of his impending arrival created a buzz around the Buffaloes this week.
“I expect him to be an impact player,” Tucker said. “However, I expect everyone on our roster to be an impact player. Whether you’re a freshman or a senior, a walk-on or a scholarship player, you have to be a star in your role.
“We believe that Boulder is a very, very attractive place for the top recruits in this country and we’re aggressively recruiting those players.”
AP freelancer Rick Eymer in Palo Alto contributed to this report.