Colorado v. Colorado State – “T.I.P.S.” for the 2016 Rocky Mountain Showdown

A real treat: “The Rise – Episode 1”, from CU Video

From YouTube … “Every … thing … matters!!”

 

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Note … For those of you new to CU at the Game, “T.I.P.S.” is my weekly preview for CU’s upcoming opponent. Divided into sections on “T – Talent”; “I – Intangibles”; “P – Preparation/Schedule”; and “S – Statistics”.

“T.I.P.S.” will try and give you some good information, and perhaps a few insights, into what to expect each weekend.

 

The nice thing about a nine month off-season is that there is plenty of time to forget all of the frustration and disappointment which was the 2015 campaign.

For Colorado fans, the news has been largely positive since last Thanksgiving weekend:

A great hire in Darrin Chiaverini; a nice late bump of highly-ranked recruits for the Recruiting Class of 2016; the formal opening of the long-awaited Champions Center; and an excellent start to the Recruiting Class of 2017.

With the “undefeated” off-season, however, it’s been easy to forget that Colorado comes into the 2016 season riding a five-game losing streak. Who needs to be reminded that two of CU’s four wins in 2015 came against UMass and Nicholls State? That CU’s upcoming 2016 schedule includes road games against No. 7 Michigan, No. 24 Oregon, No. 20 USC, and No. 8 Stanford?

Meanwhile, up in Ft. Fun, it has also been a positive off-season. The new on-campus stadium is under construction, set for a 2017 opening. The Rams have gone bowling each of the past three seasons – the second longest such streak in school history. While still a longshot, the Rams are at least on the list of teams being considered as the Big 12 expands.

With all of that positive momentum, it can be easy for the members of the Ram Nation to forget that CSU is replacing most of its defense, and will be taking on a schedule which includes a road game against Minnesota of the Big Ten, as well as road trips to face Mountain West favorites Boise State, San Diego State, and Air Force.

For one group of fans, the 2016 Rocky Mountain Showdown will reinforce the good feelings from the past off-season.

For the other, it will be a kick in the teeth.

 

T – Talent

Discussion concerning the opposing team’s talent usually begins with taking a look at the quarterback the Buffs will be facing.

But we won’t know – for certain – who will be under center for the Rams until Friday night.

While the starting quarterback has been determined, it has not been officially disclosed. Taking advantage of getting CSU’s main rival in the first game of the season, Ram head coach Mike Bobo has decided to let the CU coaching staff guess who will be the starter. The candidates: junior Nick Stevens, graduate transfer Faton Bauta, and true freshman Collin Hill.

For his money, CU head coach Mike MacIntyre has stated his belief that Stevens, who started every game for the Rams last season, is the most likely candidate. Stevens was named to the second-team All-Mountain West team last fall, throwing for 2,679 yards and 21 touchdowns.

The problem for the Rams isn’t who will be the quarterback, but who will score the touchdowns. Gone are Biletnikoff award finalist Rashard Higgins (1,062 yards and eight touchdowns) and reliable tight end Joe Hansley (415 yards and six touchdowns).  The returning receiver with the most experience is junior Xavier Williams, who had all of 19 catches last fall.

For CSU to be successful offensively, they will have to rely on the running game. The offensive line, with four returning starters and a Nebraska transfer filling the fifth spot, is the best unit on the team. The line will try to make holes for returning starter Dalyn Dawkins, who averaged 5.1 yards per carry on his way to 867 yards last fall.

“Tackle him better,” MacIntyre said of his plans to deal with Dawkins. “He’s a heck of a runner. He’s quick, athletic. He’s a darter. He’ll find (a hole) and ‘boom’ he pops out of there quick. We’ve got to rally to him and hopefully we can get off some blocks better and be able to stop him.”

Stopping Dawkins might be enough for the Buffs to post a victory, as Colorado State returns only two starters on defense. The entire defensive line must be rebuilt from scratch, and only one defensive back returns. “On paper, I would say it’s a rebuilding year because of the experience we lost up front and in the secondary,” said Bobo. “We’ve got what we’ve got”.

Put it this way … if Colorado cannot put together a rushing attack against a defense which was 106th in the nation in rush defense last year and lost all of its starters, it’s going to be a long season for the Buff Nation.

 

I – Intangibles 

When it comes to season openers, my fall back quote is one from fighter Mike Tyson, who once famously said, “Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth”.

I’m not going to bore you with my annual complaint about giving little brother a full month to prepare for their Super Bowl.  “Lingering Doubts” points out the disparity between CU’s record against the Rams when the teams play in the season opener (11-7 since 1983) when compared to when the game is not the first game of the season (9-1).

Memo to CU athletic director Rick George: I understand that there are openings in the 2023 and 2024 schedules all-but reserved for Colorado State (at least according to the CSU athletic director). If FBschedules.com is to be believed, CU has TCU in the 2023 opener on September 2nd and North Dakota State in the 2024 opener on August 31st. Please do not allow CSU to talk you into adjusting anything in terms of timing. If we must deal with Colorado State (and can’t get a two-for-one) at the very least make sure the game is not the opener, but the second or third game of those seasons. 

This just in … I hate having to play Colorado State as the first game.

Fair warning: This message will be repeated before the season openers for the 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 seasons …

And hopefully never again after that …

 

P – Preparation / Schedule

In 2013, in Mike MacIntyre’s debut as the Colorado head coach, the Rams’ head coach Jim McElwain refused to name a starting quarterback, even going so far as to say that Colorado State might use three different quarterbacks in the game.

The result?

Colorado 41, Colorado State 27.

In 2016, Rams’ head coach Mike Bobo has refused to name a starting quarterback, leaving Colorado coaches to guess among three potential options.

The result?

To be determined (though if you offered me a 41-27 victory right now, I’d take it, sight unseen).

Other than the gamesmanship which comes with getting to play your chief rival after a month’s worth of preparation, Colorado State does not have any clear cut advantages over Colorado. Both teams have had the same number of practices leading up to the game, and both will have an extra day to prepare for the next contest.

When looking forward to the next weekend’s games, the Buffs have a slight advantage. Colorado will return to Boulder to face Idaho State, one of the worst teams in the Big Sky Conference. Colorado State, meanwhile, returns to Fort Collins to play Texas-San Antonio, one of the worst teams (3-9 last year) in the Sun Belt Conference. The Roadrunners did give the Rams a game last year, falling 33-31 at home, but are not expected to pull of a road victory on September 10th in the first game of the final season for Hughes Stadium.

No real advantage for either team in this category …

 

S – Statistics

It’s hard to use 2015 statistics as a predictor of 2016 results, but there are some national rankings from last season which may be of some import heading into the Rocky Mountain Showdown on Friday …

— Turnover margin … Last season, Colorado State was a minus-12 in turnovers, ranked 117th in the nation. Colorado, meanwhile, the Buffs doubled the number of forced turnovers from the year before, going from 11 in 2014 (eight fumbles, three interceptions) to 22 in 2015 (eight fumbles, 14 interceptions).

Colorado also had the distinction of being one of only six schools in the nation to force at least one turnover in every game last fall, and the only Power Five conference school to manage the feat. (Not to mention the fact that Kenneth Olugbode’s pick six was the deciding moment of last year’s game).

— CSU’s offensive line vs. CU’s defensive line … Barring a slew of turnovers or special team heroics/gaffes, the matchup between the Rams’ best unit and the Buffs’ (hopefully) most-improved unit will be the deciding factor in the game. Last year, Colorado State was 33rd in the nation in rushing offense, while Colorado was 99th in rushing defense … and those numbers aren’t skewed by the respective conferences of the two teams. In 2014, the Rams gashed the Buffs for 266 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Last season, though the Buffs won the game, the CSU rushing attack generated 218 yards and two touchdowns.

Colorado will have only one starter from last year’s game, Jordan Carrell, in this season’s opener. The senior defensive end will be joined by Josh Tupou and Samson Kafovalu, two players who were not available for the 2015 Rocky Mountain Showdown, but who have plenty of playing experience.

If the Buffs can force the Rams to throw the ball … it could be a fun game to watch for the Buff Nation.

 

Prediction

I’m almost scared to say it.

It’s been so long in coming that I’m not sure it’s real.

Call it “Chiaverini Fever” or “Leavitt Be-lief” … but heading into the 2016 season, there is this weird feeling I haven’t felt in years.

Confidence.

I believe that, for the first time in years, Colorado has a defense which can keep the Buffs in games. Sure, there are the road games against four ranked teams which look to be all but certain losses. But the other eight games? You can certainly present a credible argument that CU should be, at the very least, competitive, in all eight.

It’s still going to take some upsets to get the Buffs to bowl-eligibility.

But, at least until Friday night, I’m drinking the Kool-Aid.

If the Buffs don’t win, I’ll turn to something stronger …

Colorado 34, Colorado State 17. 


 

 

21 Replies to “Colorado State – A Preview”

  1. Chev gives a pre-game speech about how they used to give the “little brother” wedgies back in the day. The team comes out fired up and blasts through the CSU rams 34-13 with 7 of the 13 coming while the 2nd string plays in the 4th quarter.

    Only negative for the game is that Topuo took Chev too literally and is caught given Stevens a wedgie after his first sack and is penalized for a unnecessary roughness on a third down giving the rams an extra set of downs instead of going three and out on there first drive.

  2. Our defense will definitely be challenged by the Rams ground game, but I can see us holding them to 20 points. Our balanced and experienced fast paced offence will take control of the game early against CSU’s inexperienced defense and make it a route with 6 TD’s and 2 FG’s to win 48 to 20. GO BUFFS! This is your year to make a comeback.

  3. I am one of those people who wants this game to go away completely. When the current contract expires, I would like to see it terminated (at least for awhile). It does not matter to me if it is the first or second game, I am just tired of it and would like to play someone else. I know we have a home and home with Air Force, perhaps we could extend that series if they want to keep it close to home. Just my two cents worth!!!

  4. As someone openly wept outside of Aloha Stadium in drunken disbelief (after projectile vomiting months of preseason Kool-Aid (and beer)), I’m trying to keep my preseason delusions under control. But what the hell–forgot to take my meds today. 41-14 CU. GO BUFFS!!

  5. As I am every year I am scared to death of this game. And I am especially scared when I know we have a better team (very much like our 2002 loss). I can’t wait for them to be off of our schedule but in the meantime I predict a 31-20 buffs win but cu puts the Rams away with 2:00 left. Go Buffs!

  6. I want to see Colorado look and play like a PAC-12 team. No deer in the headlights first quarters. No wouda, couda, shouda 4th quarters. Solid play on both sides of the ball. Win big with a 45-10 game.

    CSU is at best a mid-tier team in their conference. If they hold CU to a 24-21 win, or if they beat CU, well, then it’s going to be a long tough year for the Buffs.

  7. I, too, thank you Stuart for your efforts; your site is among my first go-tos every day.

    Buffs stampede 42-7, and it won’t be as close as it looks. Since I’m already here, 8-4 for the season, 6-3 conference. The Kool Ade is very tasty this time of year.

  8. I know it’s a pet peeve, but I have to ask…do the Buffs NOT have a month to prepare for this game? If better preparation is the reason for the strange disparity in season opening results (vs. any other weekly slot) then the Buffs have no one to blame but themselves. Not playing this game in week one is not the answer. Preparing better is the answer.

    Now, please don’t take this the wrong way. I love CU AT THE GAME and I enjoy what you do! Fact is, I have plenty of pet peeves and if I had a similar forum, believe me, you would likely tell me to stop complaining about them too. Thank you for what you do!

    Now to the game. I hope this is not the kool aid talking, but really, I don’t think CSU is better this year than say UMass was last year. Of course there is the rivalry aspect, and the apparent disparity in preparation time (ok, that’s the last one), that doesn’t exist with UMass and that can always be a factor. That said, I think the Buffs double ’em up.

    Final score – CU 42, CSU 21

    1. No qualifiers required (though I do thank you for the compliments about the website) … please call me out anytime you feel I deserve it!

      Yes, both teams have equal prep time, and yes, I wholeheartedly agree that if the Buffs come out flat in their opener, they have no one but themselves to blame.

      I’m just coming from the view that, college football being the emotional game that it is, it isn’t a good idea to give your “little brother” extra time to froth at the mouth. While CU’s coaches and players are looking at the big picture, for the Rams – this is their Super Bowl (compare: How amped up for the UCLA game CU fans and students will be – ESPN on a Thursday night – compared to the Bruins, who are just looking at CU as another obstacle in the road? I would propose that one of the reasons Buff fans are pointing to the UCLA game as perhaps CU’s “breakthrough” game this fall is because of the extra emotion attached to the contest).

      And history bears this out. CU is only 11-7 against the Rams in season openers played since the rivalry was renewed, but 9-1 when the Rams don’t get to spend more than a week plotting for the game against the Buffs.

  9. Is it Friday yet?!?! Enough of the talking, let’s play some football.

    I’m drinking the Kool-Aid too and predict a 38-24 victory for the BUFFS!

    GO BUFFS!

  10. To heck with it. 56-6. Obviously CU with the higher number.

    Btw, anyone have a cool-aid proof flotation device? I’m drowning in it.

  11. I have felt, for a couple of weeks, that the score will be:

    CU 35 CSU 17

    Buffs should have the advantages, particularly if they stop the run. This is the time to produce the convincing win. If CU squeaks this one out or loses, there are big issues. Time to set the tone for the season.

    Go Buffs!!!

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