David Zalubowski, AP
Colorado Buffaloes running back Phillip Lindsay (23) in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Guys have been excited about playing this game. There is a lot on the line. —Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre

Last year, the Colorado Buffaloes needed to beat Utah at home for one of the most impressive turn-around stories in college sports.

This year, they need to beat Utah at Rice-Eccles to salvage their season.

In 2016, head coach Mike MacIntyre earned the National Coach of the Year Award. In 2017, he is coaching his 100th game at one of the most hostile environments in the Pac-12 for the chance to take his team to a bowl game.

So how did he start the last of his weekly press conferences? With a bit of advice that doesn’t have much to do with Saturday’s 8 p.m. regular-season finale against Utah.

“This is always a time you can reflect, but you definitely should be grateful,” he said. “Also, it’s hard on a lot of people too, because it brings back a lot of family memories, of people who aren’t here anymore. Be thankful for all the time you have with everyone you have. And be thankful we live in this country. I know we have a lot of issues, but I’m thankful I live here and not a lot of other places.”

McIntyre and the Buffaloes opened with three wins, then went on a three-game losing streak. After that, they basically beat the teams experts thought they should and didn’t pull off any upsets. Their conference wins are over Cal (2-6) and Oregon State (0-8). Now they face Utah, a team that, like them, has a 2-6 conference record.

The Buffaloes are coming off a bye week after losing to both Arizona State and USC.

“We’ve had good practices,” MacIntyre said. “They’ve been energetic. Guys have been excited about playing this game. There is a lot on the line.”

In that loss to the Trojans, who easily won the Pac-12 South with an 8-1 record, Colorado’s sophomore quarterback Steven Montez totaled 376 passing yards, going 27 of 49 with two touchdowns. His performance, which was marred by two interceptions, set a new career high for passing yards for the Texas native.

His favorite target is Juwann Winfree, who made a little history for himself — and the school, with his performance against USC. He caught five passes for 163 yards, a tie for the fifth-highest in a single game by any Pac-12 receiver. He caught touchdown passes of 79 and 57 yards, marking the first time in school history that any receiver caught two passes for more than 50 yards in a single game.

Running back Phillip Lindsay is one of 11 semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award. Three other Pac-12 running backs are finalists, including Bryce Love, Stanford; Royce Freeman, Oregon; and Ronald Jones II, USC. In his senior season, he became the first Colorado running back to rush for more than 1,000 yards a season in back-to-back seasons. He had a rushing touchdown in each of the first seven games of the season, and he had a touchdown against USC. He finished that game with 68 yards on 20 carries.

The Buffaloes benefit from a veteran offensive line led by Jeromy Irwin, Gerrard Kough and Jonathan Huckins.

The Buffalo defense is ranked No. 8 in the Pac-12, while the rushing offense is ranked just ahead of Utah’s at No. 7. Their rushing defense is ranked No. 10. The team has allowed opponents an average of 198.7 yards.

MacIntyre said he doesn’t feel like he has to do much to motivate his team for Saturday’s game. “We’ve had some guys banged up, but some of them hurt in that last game are doing really well,” he said. “We’ll hopefully get a lot of guys back. This is always a big game, a close game and exciting game. It’s always fun to play at Utah.”