KICKOFF: Saturday, 6 p.m. ET
SITE: Folsom Field, Boulder, Colo.
TV: Pac-12 Network
SERIES: Oregon is 9-8 against Colorado and has won both meetings since the Buffs joined the Pac-12 by a combined score of 115-16.
AP RANKINGS: Oregon No. 2; Colorado unranked
KEYS TO THE GAME
Mark Helfrich makes his first trip back to Colorado as a head coach on Saturday.
Helfrich will be an overwhelming favorite as he leads No. 2 Oregon into Boulder to face the Buffaloes (2-1).
Helfrich was the offensive coordinator for three seasons at Colorado before being hired to that position at Oregon in 2009. Helfrich coached at Colorado under Dan Hawkins, but Hawkins was fired and so was his replacement, Jon Embree, before Mike MacIntyre was hired this season.
"Obviously I wish we could have won more, and a great deal of that is my fault, but yeah, you learn a thousand things," Helfrich said.
Helfrich said his best memory of Colorado was the birth of his son, Max, and added that he didn't expect to get too emotional upon his return. He was the offensive coordinator when the Ducks won at Colorado in 2011.
"The administration is different and the coaching staff is different, so there is so much turnover from a time when it might be more emotional that doesn't come into play," Helfrich said. "Certainly, at a place you used to work, it is always a little different. A little awkward to come out of the visiting locker room at a place you worked, but more or less, I approach it like any other team."
Colorado started the season with back-to-back wins to exceed last year's one-win season, but then lost 44-17 at Oregon State on Saturday.
"They're definitely a lot better and the first couple games were a lot different," Helfrich said. "They played really, really well defensively and are doing some things very sound, creating pressure."
The Ducks are 4-0 and have outscored their opponents by an average of 49 points per game. The Ducks have scored more than 50 points in four straight games for the first time in school history and rank second in the country with 59.8 points per game and third in total offense at 599.3 yards while leading the country with 332.5 rushing yards per game.
"Obviously, from a record standpoint, we wouldn't want it any other way," Helfrich said. "That's part of the bottom line, but we can play a lot better and that's encouraging in a lot of ways. In every phase. As good as our defense has been, we can be better. As good as our special teams have been, we can shore up some things there, and offensively we can get a ton better. We have players that want to do that and be part of that. That's fun to be around, and hopefully we think our best days are ahead."
Oregon could be without junior running back De'Anthony Thomas against Colorado. Thomas averaged more than 112 rushing yards in Oregon's first three games, but he suffered an ankle injury on the opening kickoff against California and did not return.
Thomas said he would have to wait and see how he felt later in the week to determine his playing status, but Oregon could choose to rest him against Colorado so he is healthy the following week at Washington.
Coming off a one-win season, Colorado improved on that with a 2-0 start under new coach Mike MacIntyre, but then the Buffaloes went on the road for the first time and lost 44-17 at Oregon State last week.
"You can't put your finger on one thing that went wrong," Colorado quarterback Connor Wood said. "I think all facets of the game had some: special teams made mistakes, defense made mistakes, and our offense had their fair share as well, so there are a lot of things we can improve on this week."
It would take a massive improvement for the Buffs to be able to hang at home Saturday with second-ranked Oregon, which is averaging 59.8 points per game and has beaten Colorado by a combined score of 115-16 in the past two seasons.
"We have the best team in the country coming, so we have to regroup as a team and get ready," cornerback Kenneth Crawley said.
Colorado is a 38-point underdog, but MacIntyre knows from personal experience that beating Oregon is not an impossible task. In 1998, he was an assistant at Temple when the Owls -- 35-point underdogs against undefeated Virginia Tech -- won 28-24.
"I have been a part of it before as a coach, so I know it can happen," MacIntyre said.