STANFORD -- The last time Stanford visited Colorado's Folsom Field, for the 1990 season opener, coach David Shaw was an eager, wide-eyed freshman receiver who burst out of the locker room ahead of his Cardinal teammates.

And then he saw Ralphie.

"It scared the heck out of me," Shaw said of the live buffalo mascot, whose pregame run is one of the great sights in college football.

"I came out of the locker room, and the first thing I saw was Ralphie coming at me."

That was Ralphie III. Colorado's current mascot is Ralphie V, who weighs 450 pounds and is no less intimidating.

The same cannot be said for the Colorado football team.

When the teams met 22 years ago, sixth-ranked Colorado defeated Stanford 21-17 on a questionable touchdown and went on to win the national title.

This version is arguably the worst team in any of the six major conferences:

  • The Buffs have one victory, inexplicably erasing a 17-point, fourth-quarter deficit at Washington State.

  • They lost to Sacramento State by two, Colorado State by five and Fresno State by 55.

  • Their four Pac-12 losses have been by an average of 40 points.

    Stanford beat Colorado 48-7 last year -- Andrew Luck threw for 370 yards -- and is favored by 28 points Saturday.


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    Its greatest challenge will be mustering enough motivation to dispatch the Buffs quickly and efficiently, something it failed to do last week against Washington State.

    It would be hard to fault the No. 15 Cardinal for looking past lowly Colorado to its highly anticipated stretch run against No. 13 Oregon State, No. 2 Oregon and No. 25 UCLA.

    "The type of games we've had don't allow you to look ahead," defensive end Ben Gardner said. "We're not built to run up the score. We've got to bring it.

    "People can talk about Oregon and Oregon State, but those games won't matter if we don't get the wins along the way."

    For more on college sports, see Jon Wilner's College Hotline at blogs.mercurynews.com/collegesports.