- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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Every game counts. But some games count more. Or tell us more.
We're going through the Pac-12 and picking out one game that seems most important -- or potentially most revealing -- for each team from our vantage point today.
And then we'll let you vote from a list of potential options.
We're going in reverse alphabetical order.
Most important game: Sept. 1 vs. Colorado State
Why it's important: This will be the first game of the Mike MacIntyre era. It will be played in Denver's Mile High Stadium against a state rival, one that is undeniably the little brother in the Rocky Mountain Showdown.
And it's against a little brother who humiliated the Buffaloes last year, a 22-17 Rams victory that set a horrible trajectory for perhaps the worst season in Colorado history.
The Buffs never recovered from the opening-day defeat. The next week, while Colorado State was losing to North Dakota State on its way to a 4-8 finish, Colorado lost to Sacramento State, an FCS team. The next week, it was bludgeoned into submission at Fresno State, 69-14, a quintessential white-flag performance from a team that didn't seem to want to play football anymore.
You probably can trace a 1-11 finish and the firing of Jon Embree to the woeful performance against the Rams. Ergo: In order to move on and up, the program needs to win this eminently winnable game.
It needs to win for its beleaguered fans. It needs to win for MacIntyre to get off to a good start. It needs to win so the Buffs develop confidence. It needs to win because it's a Pac-12 team and Colorado State is a Mountain West Conference bottom-feeder (no offense intended, Rams).
If Colorado loses? Wait. Let's start with the good side of things.
If Colorado beats the Rams, it gets to celebrate a win for the first time since Sept. 22, 2012. It also likely would start 2-0 with Central Arkansas coming to Boulder the next week. That means it could double its 2012 win total two games into the season, which is a good thing.
Then Fresno State comes to town. There should be a revenge angle there fueling the Buffs, though the Bulldogs look like a tough out, with 16 starters back from a crew that went 9-4 last year.
So the number is 2-0. It gives a program that has been miserable something to enjoy and build on. On a less scintillating note, it's possible that those will be the Buffs' only two wins in 2013. At this point, they figure to be underdogs over the entirety of the remaining schedule, with the first three Pac-12 games being particularly tough: at Oregon State, Oregon and at Arizona State.
But the path to three or four wins only starts with 2-0.
If Colorado loses? Well, that would be bad. Fans would throw up their hands, "Same lousy team." Players would lose confidence, "Man, we stink." And that would be no fun for MacIntyre and his staff as they try to reverse the course of this once-proud but now sagging program.
MacIntyre and Colorado need a good start. They won't get one without winning the opener. So the date with the Rams is circled in red.