For All Some of the Marbles

When Colorado fans think of Nebraska, they see red.

When Colorado fans think of Utah, they see red.

It’s just that it’s not the same red.

And it’s not that the Cornhuskers’ official colors are scarlet and cream, while the Utes are just “red and white”.

It’s that those colors, those uniforms, those teams, bring out a different set of emotions.

For Buff fans, the emotions which are brought to the fore when thinking of Nebraska are visceral. Call it what you will: hate … loathing … envy? … the feelings are very raw and very real.

When it comes to emotions tied to Utah, the feelings are more detached, more analytical.

CU fans hate Nebraska, and the feeling has dissipated little, even though the teams went their separate ways in 2011, with the Cornhuskers heading to the Big Ten; the Buffs to the Pac-12.

The Colorado/Utah rivalry, meanwhile, was forced upon the two schools.

True enough, the Buffs have played the Utes far more times (63 games in all, with CU leading the series, 32-28-3) than they have any other school in their new conference (Arizona is a distant second, with 20 games – 14-6, Colorado). Until the series resumed in 2011, however, the last game played between the two schools was in 1962.

Now, it’s not as if the players on both teams haven’t tried to make the game into a stirring rivalry. The teams have met six times as members of the Pac-12 conference, and all six games have been decided by a touchdown or less. The Utes lead the Pac-12 edition of the series, 4-2, with the most recent game going CU’s way. Last November, the No. 9 Buffs took down the No. 22 Utes, 27-22, before a sold out Folsom Field crowd of 52,301 to claim the Pac-12 South title.

Can’t get much more stirring than that, right?


Still, it ain’t a rivalry, at least not yet … and I was reminded of that just yesterday.

With the Buffs having a late bye week, I had the opportunity Saturday to take in a Montana State home game. It wasn’t just any home game, though, it was the last game of the season … against the hated Grizzlies from the University of Montana.

I grew up with the Bobcat/Grizzly rivalry, I still follow Montana State football to an extent, and yes, I still hate the Grizzlies. Still, it had been a few years since I had been to a MSU home game, and I hadn’t been to a Bobcat/Grizzly game in almost 20 years.

I had forgotten just how important this game is.

This, my friends, is a rivalry.

The two programs have met annually since 1897, and both schools have a proud football history. While Montana State has more national championships (3) than does Montana (2), the Grizzlies have had the better of it in the all-time series. There was even a time through the 1980’s and 1990’s when the Bobcats lost 16 straight to the Grizzlies (not unlike CU’s losing streak to Nebraska from 1968-85).

Last year, Montana State beat Montana up in Missoula, 24-17, and the Grizzlies were looking for payback. Montana came into the game with a 7-3 record, and hopes for a berth in the FCS playoffs. The Bobcats, meanwhile, were just 4-6, and were playing their final game for pride.

There were the senior introductions, the flyover, and all of the pageantry which traditionally goes with Senior Days all across the country.

Then the sell-out crowd of 19,907 settled in for the 2017 edition of the “Brawl of the Wild”.

The Bobcats led throughout much of the game, but the outcome was in very much in doubt until a fourth down pass from the Montana quarterback fell incomplete with four seconds remaining, preserving the 31-23 win for Montana State.

It was a great football game to watch … and, much to my surprise, it was very, very loud.

Most Folsom Field crowds are two to two-and-a-half times that which you will find in a sold out Bobcat stadium, and I have been witness to games with attendance in the 100,000 range in places like Austin, College Station, Athens and Columbus.

But it has been awhile since I have been a part of a crowd which was in such a frenzy as raucous bunch assembled in the Bobcat stadium Saturday. The crowd was so loud, that, even though the MSU band was one section over from my seats, I couldn’t hear the school song being played after Bobcat scores.

While MSU had won in Missoula in 2016, and had won other road games in the series in recent years, the 31-23 victory was the first home victory for the Bobcats over the Grizzlies since 2005, and the partisan Bozeman crowd ate it up. The students rushed the field, the players hoisted one of the ugliest trophies in the history of rivalries (see photo), and the band played on on and on, with all but the disappointed Grizzly fans forgetting just how cold it was outside.

Brawl of the Wild trophy, going to the winner of the annual Bobcat/Grizzly game

This is not to say that there is not as much emotion and tradition in similar rivalry games played across the nation.

Within the Pac-12, there are five such rivalries:

— USC and UCLA play for the Victory Bell:

— Cal and Stanford play for the Stanford Axe in the “Big Game”;

— Arizona and Arizona State square off for the Territorial Cup;

— Oregon and Oregon State play in the “Civil War”; and

— Washington and Washington State meet to claim the “Apple Cup”.

Colorado and Utah?

Trying to put a rivalry spin on the series where there isn’t yet a rivalry just doesn’t work. The “Rumble in the Rockies” (I swear I had to look back at last year’s media guide for the Utah game to look up the title … I didn’t remember) is just another game in conference play for both teams.

Which is not to say that the meeting next Saturday night in Salt Lake City (8:00 p.m., FS1) is without meaning.

For Colorado, it is nothing less than the divide between a chance at a winning season, and finishing first-to-worst in the Pac-12 South.

The reality … Other than the USC Trojans, who finished conference play with an 8-1 record (10-2 overall), there is little dividing the other five teams in the division.

Arizona is currently 7-4, Arizona State is 6-5, while UCLA, Utah and Colorado are all 5-6.

Imagine this scenario:

— Arizona loses on the road to Arizona State in the Territorial Cup (not to hard to believe), and both teams lose their bowl games;

— UCLA loses either to Cal in its regular season finale, or in a bowl game; and

— CU defeats Utah and wins its bowl game.

Not outside the realm of the reasonable. In this instance, Colorado would finish with a 7-6 record, tied for second in the Pac-12 South in overall records with Arizona and Arizona State.

Not too bad a result, considering how the 2017 season has unfolded, and how close CU came to defeating the likes of Arizona, UCLA, and Arizona State.

Now, imagine this scenario:

— Colorado loses to Utah; and

— UCLA defeats Cal.

Also not outside the realm of the reasonable to assume. In this instance, however, Colorado finishes the season 5-7, 2-7 in Pac-12 play. The Buffs would be alone in the cellar of the Pac-12 South, and the only team in the division not to earn bowl eligibility.

Tied for second place in the division, with optimism (not to mention a two-game winning streak) to take into the 2018 campaign.

Or … last in the division, with pessimism running rampant in the Buff Nation … and nine months of hearing how the 2016 Buffs were one-hit wonders.

Last November 26th, No. 9 Colorado faced No. 21 Utah. At stake for the Buffs was a division championship and redemption for the past decade of losing seasons.

This November 25th, 5-6 Colorado will face 5-6 Utah.

The winner gets a bowl bid; the loser gets a losing season and an unhappy fan base.

Last November 26th, CU played in the “Rumble in the Rockies” for all of the Pac-12 South marbles.

This November 25th, CU plays in the “Rumble in the Rockies” for fewer marbles … but they are no less important.




10 Replies to “For Some of the Marbles ”

  1. I have to say I am starting to feel the rivalry but it is just in the beginning stages. I think beating Utah would be another step down that path.

    As for the offense: I think the facts are pretty clear. Look at the pac12 rankings and d code from there. I think we owe Lindgren a thank you for coming here to a program and helping build it out but at this point we need to try something new. I think the issues were hidden by the fact we were so much better than we had been and were breaking cu records but at the end of the day the results just didn’t show. Frankly, I would love to bring out a more pro style offense and grind. Utah played that way since joining the PAC 12 and were perennial top team they switched to a more wide open offense and look at them now.

  2. Coach Quotes
    If you don’t want responsibility, don’t sit in the big chair. That’s the deal. To be successful, you must accept full responsibility. Even when it doesn’t seem fair.– Pat Summitt

  3. From my ol buddy Brian Howell:
    “Four games into the season, the Buffs ranked 11th in the Pac-12 in scoring, and MacIntyre said at that time, “I expect us to be better, and we won’t end up 11th. We’ll end up somewhere higher than that. I hope it’s higher than 10th, but we won’t end up 11th.”

    With one game to play, the Buffs are still 11th in scoring,…………..

    Well we all kinda knew this would be the case and we all kinda know why but I guess there are some that do not kinda know why.

    That statement by MickeyMac indicates he does’t know.
    Blinded by the light
    Head in the sand
    No clue
    Can’t be the OC
    Has to be the players
    I really believe that I really do.
    I am the reigning coach of the year.
    Hee Haw

    Wishful thinking, repetitive coach speak, taking the credit, deflecting the heat, not taking tough questions, poor response to questions that may put any responsibility on him, sideline demeanor, questionable on the field and off the field decisions.

    The emperor is naked

    But wait in that quote Mac said I hope it’s higher than 10th, but we won’t end up 11th.”

    He hoped it would be higher than 10th??? Hell maybe he did/does know????

    Well damn it if he does/did know………….THEN FRIGGING FIX IT. MAKE THE RIGHT DECISION………GET A REAL OC DANG NAB IT
    ….. and that is the problem has been the problem (since the herd of MWC coaches showed up) and will be a problem until that herd is outta here.
    This ain’t the mountain west coach……….seriously it really isn’t seriously

    And this ain’t new……..Howell also wrote

    “………….This is familiar territory for CU, which has typically had one of the lowest-scoring offenses in the Pac-12 since joining the conference in 2011. They were 12th in 2011 and 2012, 11th in 2013 and 2015, 10th in 2014 and seventh a year ago……

    So there ya have it. Doesn’t matter who the players are, With MickeyMacs
    Lifelong-LowLevel-Logicastor-Lustrum-Lindy-Love at OC there is and will be no hope.

    You can defend all ya want but facts be facts. The peter principle is alive and well in the Champions Center. Deny at your own risk…………….”I was scared of dentists and the dark…………running down to the riptide……………”

    So there……………Go Buffs…………….Beat Utah……………..Get a bowl…………..


    Note: Stuart don’t like to hear it…………but………….FIRE LINGREN………..GET A REAL OC

    1. And therein lies the true issue. This offense (led by the best line in years) was supposed to terrorize defenses.

      So what has happened this year? It is not anywhere near where it was predicted to be. That needs to be addressed, and not with a stern lecture or cajoling.

      Heads need to roll….

      1. Whatever happened to “under promise and over deliver”? “Meet or exceed your customers’ expectations”? McIntyre must have been really ballsy (I doubt it) or totally misinformed/deluded about the offense. Strangely inflated sense of strength, in hindsight. Kind of cut his own throat on that one…

        2016 Coach of the Year. Sorry, never bought that for a second.

    2. Lindgren’s predictability, conservatism, and lack of adaptability to situations have been frustrating. This is not a one season assessment on my part, it goes all the way back to year one. There have certainly been bright spots during his time here. In particular, I liked this year’s homecoming game performance. However, unless pressured by RG, I do not see Mac getting rid of Lindgren. Mac has a long emotional investment in Lindgren who is quiet, does not make waves, and clearly does not take any of Mac’s limelight. Lindgren is not a threatening, passionate, up and coming O coordinator. Mac is obviously comfortable with that arrangement and is overly loyal IMO. If CU wins this game and goes bowling, I do not see that any change will be made and Mac will continue to defend him or just stay silent on the topic. If CU loses the game and stays home for the holidays, that might be enough for the former coach of the year to buckle under some pressure to make the change. This was the season for the O to step up. It did not, so far, unless we see a dominating performance against Utah and one in a bowl game.

  4. <b So in 2015 the KornKobs fisnished the reqular season 5 and 7. Went to a bowl and won so finished 6 and 7.

    And Brian Howell stated there are 20 bowl spots open with only 19 teams left that can finish 6 and 6.

    So, Buffs win they get one. Buffs lose they better dang well get one. Coach MickeyMac deserves it…………..and needs the extra 12 practices.


    Note: No note

  5. In my preseason dream of dreams a Buff’s v. Ute’s finial for the South title (with a CU VICTORY) would have been an ideal way to assist this becoming a “rivalry game”.

    Especially with neither team being picked to make it that far, even with the most optimistic of prognostications.

    So, here we are with both teams battling for a bowl game, maybe even a winning season and the loser ending up at the bottom of the division.

    Maybe, just maybe, a rivalry begins (they have to start somewhere)! It can’t hurt, if we assist that progress with taking this W on their turf.

    AT this stage ALL I WANT for CHRISTMAS is 2 more Buff wins, to help me rest a little more easily with what I saw and didn’t see this season !!!

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