Deion Sanders and his team aren't running from the smoke. After Colorado football suffered a humbling blowout loss to Oregon on Saturday tinged with personal animus from Ducks coach Dan Lanning, though, Coach Prime couldn't help but wonder whether Buffaloes opponents are focusing on the wrong foe.

“I don't think there's a target on our back. I just think there's just…Teams are trying to beat me, they're not trying to beat our team,” he said. “They keep forgetting I'm not playing anymore. I had a great career. I'm serious, I got a gold [Hall of Fame] jacket in back, so I'm good. But that's what it really is. I don't think they get any extra satisfaction, you know? It is what it is. And I signed up for it, so let's go.”

Colorado fell to Oregon 42-6 in Eugene on Saturday, suffering its first loss of the Sanders era. Lanning made headlines during the game for a fiery pre-kickoff speech to his team that was shown on the broadcast, insisting Sanders and the Buffs are “fighting for clicks” while the Ducks—a program backed by Nike founder Phil Knight whose always attention-grabbing uniforms included color-changing cleats for Saturday's clash—are “fighting for wins.”

“The Cinderella story is over, men. They’re fighting for clicks, we’re fighting for wins. There’s a difference,” Lanning told his players. “This game ain’t going to be played in Hollywood. It’s going to be played on the grass.”

Sanders, as he admits, brought that over-the-top bulletin-board material from opposing coaches and players on Colorado. But his decades-long, proudly braggadocious persona certainly shouldn't take away from the work his completely rebuilt team has put into to emerge from the Pac-12 cellar in 2023. There's absolutely nothing to suggest the Buffaloes' preparation and commitment to winning lags behind any other program's across the country.

The more headlines, recruiting victories and wins Coach Prime and his team rack up, though, the more they'll be subject to lazy, possibly coded criticism. Shame.