In more ways than one, Cal coach Sonny Dykes and Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre are living parallel lives. Both are sons of coaches, both were wildly successful coaching at WAC schools and, within days, both parlayed that success into Pac-12 jobs.
It doesn't end there.
Coming into obvious rebuilding situations, expectations for this season at both schools were relatively low. And both have come short of that bar.
When Cal (1-9, 0-7 Pac-12) travels to Colorado (3-6, 0-6) on Saturday, the number of combined wins against FBS schools for the two programs this season will double.
Understandably, it's a topic of discussion both coaches would like to avoid.
"I’ve had the question asked to me by a couple different people: ‘Ya’ll ought to have a good chance of winning this weekend. Your kids ought to think they should win,’" MacIntyre said. "If our kids aren’t thinking they should win every Saturday, then we’re doing the wrong thing and not getting the point across. This game is no different than any other Pac-12 game to us, period."
Dykes' approach is similar.
"It's always important to get a win," he said. "This week is no different."
Except, it is.
The game sits as the best remaining chance for both teams to avoid becoming the 19th team since the Pac-8 was formed in 1968 to finish conference play winless.
Having both come from the WAC, Dykes and MacIntyre are well-versed in each others' schemes. In three head-to-head games, Dykes (Louisiana Tech) won twice, but MacIntyre (San Jose State) won the third in what ended up as the final game for both coaches at their respective schools.
In turning around San Jose State from a 1-12 team in his first season to the No. 21 in Year 3, MacIntyre was widely viewed in the Bay Area as the most logical choice to make the 50-mile move north to take over at Cal. Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour got in touch with MacIntyre, but ultimately passed in favor of Dykes.
"I talked to [Barbour] but, it wasn’t anything big-time or significant or anything," MacIntyre said. "It’s a great school and a great area. We love the area. We liked it at San Jose. I mean, those are crazy times when you’re a coach.
"One night I had five phone calls from five different schools in one night. So, it’s just kind of the way it goes."
Four days after Cal announced the Dykes hire, MacIntyre was on his way to Boulder.
"We kind of laughed about that in the offseason a little bit," Dykes said. "About the way things work and how it's funny sometimes."
Neither fan base is laughing now.
Colorado will enter the game as a slight favorite, and it's something that the Buffaloes are certainly aware of.
"I don’t think we have been favored too many times this year, so it feels nice that somebody feels that we should be the team to win," Colorado linebacker Woodson Greer said. "Lately, they haven’t had much belief in us, but just going into the game and being favored gives us a little more motivation to prove people right. That we can win a game, that we are getting used to the Pac-12, even though we haven’t showed it lately.”