Will UW stop Colorado’s comeback?

DENVER (AP) — For a team picked to be at the bottom, ninth-ranked Colorado sure made a quick ascent to the top.

No wonder the Buffaloes used “The Rise “ as one of their motivational mantras.

Coach Mike MacIntyre and the Buffaloes (10-2, 8-1 Pac-12, No. 9 CFP) have turned into one of the biggest surprises of college football this season. Picked last in the South Division during the preseason media poll , the resurgent Buffs reeled off six straight conference wins to earn a spot in the Pac-12 championship game Friday against No. 4 Washington (11-1, 8-1, No. 5 CFP).

That “Make CU Great again “ slogan plastered across the front of hats worn by Colorado players may need a little revising, because they’re well on their way. “We’re getting there,” receiver Devin Ross said after beating Utah on Saturday.

The Buffaloes play a Washington team that wasn’t a total surprise to win the North, even if Stanford was forecasted in the preseason poll.

“Hopefully we’ll show up and play our best game of the year,” Washington coach Chris Petersen said of the Pac-12 title game.

The Huskies go against a Colorado team led by a turnover-producing defense and gritty quarterback Sefo Liufau, who made a quicker-than-expected return from a severe foot injury he suffered a year ago. The Buffaloes finished last in the Pac-12 South in each of MacIntyre’s first three seasons in Boulder — winning a combined two league games — before this year’s transformation.

“The best word I can use right now is joy,” MacIntyre said.

Here are things to know heading into the title game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California:

SEFO’S SUCCESS: Colorado wasn’t sure if Liufau would even be healed in time for the season after having surgery last November to fix a Lisfranc injury , which usually involves a separation of ligaments and joints in the foot. The team courted graduate transfer QB Davis Webb, the gunslinger who announced he would be joining the Buffaloes soon after graduating from Texas Tech only to change his mind and head to California. Liufau, who’s from Tacoma, Washington, has set or tied 87 school marks over his career.

BROWNING’S MOMENT: Jake Browning was deservedly in the Heisman Trophy conversation for most of the season. Then, he was quickly dropped after struggling in Washington’s loss to USC when he threw two interceptions.

Don’t discount Browning, though — his three-TD performance on Friday against Washington State may get him back into consideration. A big game against the best pass defense in the Pac-12 just might get Browning to New York as a finalist. Browning has 40 touchdown passes this season.