Must-win and trap games of 2017: Colorado Buffaloes

When is it too early to start dissecting the 2017 football schedule? Whenever it was, it is behind us ...

We’re taking a look at some of the most important games each Pac-12 team has waiting for it in the fall: the must-wins and the trap games. Next up: Colorado.

Must-win game: Nov. 4 at Arizona State.

The Buffs end their season with three-consecutive Pac-12 South games. Arizona State is the first of those three (followed by USC and Utah). And if the past is any indicator, the race for the South will come down to those final few weeks of the season to determine which team is headed to the Pac-12 championship game, so setting the tone against Arizona State -- on the road, nonetheless -- could be a huge boost for a team looking to repeat as the South’s representative. Colorado has split its past two games with Arizona State (the first being a 25-point win for the Sun Devils in Arizona and the second a 24-point win for the Buffs in Colorado), which is pretty representative of how up-and-down the South has been the past few seasons. If the Buffs can take care of Arizona State, they head into a home game against USC feeling much more confident and riding a bit higher (the Trojans, on the other hand, face Arizona at home the week before). Obviously, in a tight conference, every game matters. But, a game -- like ASU -- that can give a team confidence and momentum is one that can’t be overlooked.

Trap game: Oct. 14 at Oregon State.

It was just two years ago that this game featured the two worst teams in the Pac-12 (the Buffs won that one with a Chidobe Awuzie interception, giving them their only conference win of the 2015 season). Last year, the Buffs took a major step forward while the Beavers continued a slow-and-steady forward climb. But, even Oregon State coach Gary Andersen has looked at Colorado as a good blueprint of how to build a program, and you can bet that in Year 3 of the Andersen era, there will be some more big upsets and unexpected wins coming from Oregon State. Don’t expect any Mike MacIntyre team to overlook anyone in the conference (the past is too recent for them here), but if there were a time for the Buffs' britches to maybe be getting too big for them, the time could be against the Beavers. Colorado opens conference play with tough games against Washington and at UCLA. Then they move on to Arizona and Oregon State, two teams they handled easily last season, outscoring them by a combined 96-30. With a big win against the Wildcats the Beavers could potentially catch the Buffs looking ahead to a road game in Pullman against Washington State if Colorado isn’t careful.