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Colorado v. Colorado State Preview – “T.I.P.S.” for the 2019 Rocky Mountain Showdown

7-6. 7-6. 7-6 … 3-9.

Head coach Mike Bobo was very consistent in his first three seasons at Colorado State, but then the bottom fell out last fall.

In each of Bobo’s first three campaigns in Ft. Collins, CSU lost to Colorado in September, went on to finish the regular season 7-5, then lost their bowl game in December.

Last year, the Rams lost in humbling fashion to the Buffs, 45-13, but this time did not recover. An upset over Arkansas the following week gave the Ram Nation renewed hope, but Colorado State won only two games the remainder of the season (San Jose State [1-11 in 2018] and New Mexico [3-9]), finishing the year with a 3-9 record … and on a five-game losing streak.

Were it not for a $8 million buyout provision in Mike Bobo’s contract, the Buffs and Rams might each be sporting new head coaches this fall (Bobo’s buyout drops to $5.5 million this year).

Next fall, when the Rocky Mountain Showdown moves to Ft. Collins, the Ram Nation will no doubt be excited about the visit to their new stadium by Big Brother. But perhaps it may not be as much about breaking what may well be a five-game losing streak to the hated Buffs, but because the Rams will be running out onto their home field with a new coach (and renewed hope for the future).

The 2019 season is an all-or-nothing campaign for Mike Bobo, who has never beaten his school’s main rival … and that reality alone is cause for concern for the Buff Nation.

This week’s “T.I.P.S.” for CU v. Colorado State … Friday, 8:10 p.m. MT, ESPN

T – Talent 

“If you build it, he will come” – Field of Dreams

“If you build it, they will come” – Colorado State athletic administration

At a cost of $245 million, (now named) Canvas Stadium was years in the planning, making its debut in September, 2017, with the Rams taking out Oregon State, 58-27.

When fund-raising began in 2013, and when ground-breaking took place in 2015, the new stadium was touted as a way for Colorado State to enter big-time college football.

So far … not so much.

Not only have the Rams not been tendered a Big 12 (or any other Power-Five conference) bid in the past six years, the CSU program is, arguably, trending in the wrong direction.

Canvas Stadium has a capacity of 41,000. The Rams averaged 32,062 per game in home attendance in 2017, then 29,504 last season.

That’s not going to excite the home offices of the Big 12.

In addition to a rise in attendance, the Ram Nation was looking for a rise in caliber of player coming to Ft. Collins to play in their on-campus jewel of a stadium. Instead of seeing a positive move in recruiting which is expected (demanded?) from a fan base when millions are put into facilities, CSU recruiting has been fair-to-middling (at best) in recruiting.

Here are Rivals Recruiting Class national rankings for Colorado State since 2013:

Class of ’13 … 82 (new stadium announced)

Class of ’14 … 76

Class of ’15 … 119 (transition Class between Jim McElwain and Mike Bobo)

Class of ’16 … 63

Class of ’17 … 83

Class of ’18 … 89

Class of ’19 … 87

Class of ’20 … outside the top 100

This fall, Colorado State returns only ten starters from last season (four on offense; six on defense).

Does Colorado State have talent on its roster?

Sure.

But is it enough talent to stay with the Buffs?

Junior quarterback Collin Hill certainly knows the offense, but with two ACL injuries, he has only been on the field for 15 games in his career at Ft. Collins (8 starts, including the final four games – all losses – to end the 2018 campaign). Hill’s primary weapons from last year (wide receivers Preston Williams and Olabisi Johnson, and running back Izzy Matthews) are gone.

So who’s left?

Wide receiver Warren Jackson is the main returning threat (32 catches for 405 yards, four touchdowns). Jackson will be aided by Auburn transfer Nate Craig-Myers … but apparently not until Mountain West Conference play begins. Craig-Myers played in three games for the Tigers last season, so must sit out the first few games of the 2019 season under NCAA transfer rules.

The leading returning rusher from last season is junior Marvin Kinsey, Jr. (63 carries for 256 yards, two touchdowns). Kinsey has played in 18 games in his CSU career, but the Rocky Mountain Showdown will represent his first start.

The offensive line is a hodgepodge of potential talent (which Buff fans can related to). Some details on the starters … Left tackle: first game; first start … Left guard: true freshman (from Germany, no less) … Center: 10th career game; first career start … Right guard: Wasn’t on post-spring depth chart … Right tackle: Did have 12 starts last year – at right guard.

Yikes!

As for the defense, coordinator John Jancek can only hope his second year is better than his first, when the Rams were 111th in total defense and 117th in scoring defense.

The defensive line returns mostly in tact, with three of four starters returning. The linebacker corps returns only one starter, while the back end has one good cornerback (Rashad Ajayi) and one good safety (Jamal Hicks).

A bad defense, with half of its starters returning … take from that what you will.

The best player on the roster may actually be punter Ryan Stonehouse … kinda reminiscent of the days when CU’s best player was kicker Mason Crosby.

On paper, the Buffs have superior personnel on both sides of the ball, and should post their fifth straight win in the series.

But, as we know, the games are not played on paper …

I – Intangibles

Mike Bobo is back for his fifth attempt at beating the Buffs.

It may be his last chance.

If CSU falls for the fifth straight time, and the Rams struggle to another losing season, Mike Bobo may not get the chance to beat the Buffs in Ft. Collins next September.

That reality alone should give Buff fans pause.

CU head coach Mel Tucker, for his part, isn’t concerned about starting the season against a rival which basically treats this game as its Super Bowl.

(From my July interview): “It takes what it takes to prepare a team to play a game, especially a first game. You mentioned Austin Peay (Georgia’s first game in 2018). We were just as prepared for that game as we were for the Florida/Georgia game. You have to be prepared for unscouted looks in those first games. You have to prepare your team for those situations, but every game is a big game. The opening game each season is much anticipated, and the first game of my tenure here, there is certainly going to be a great deal of anticipation.

But I really don’t think about it in those terms. The preparation, and what it takes to be at your best for that game, with the coaches and the players, there is a process that takes place throughout the entire out of season. There are steps that you have to take, to have your team in position where they can perform at a high level at an opening game, regardless of the opponent.”

As to “un-scouted looks” … “You’re not sure what you are going to get. You know what they have shown in the past, but you know what they have for you which is new, what they haven’t shown.”

In Mel we trust.

P – Preparation/Schedule 

For the second-to-the-last time ever (yea!), we are going to talk about how dumb it is to schedule Colorado State as the first game of the season.

It happens this year, and will happen again next year, as CU travels to Ft. Collins to open the 2020 season … but never again. CU athletic director Rick George has stated a willingness to continue the series with Colorado State, and the two teams are slated to meet in 2023/24 (and perhaps in 2029/30 and 2033/34, but no contracts have been signed for those dates). However, George has indicated that the games will not be played as the first games of the season (in fact, both the 2023 game [in Boulder] and the 2024 game [in Ft. Collins] will be CU’s third game of those campaigns).

Hallelujah!

Since the series between Colorado and Colorado State was resumed in 1983, the Buffs have lost to the Rams once – that’s once! – when the two teams didn’t play each other as the first game of the season (and that was the 2006 Dan Hawkins debacle opening, losing to Montana State in the opener before losing to CSU in Week Two).

Translation: When the Rams have a month to prepare for the Buffs – but only when they have a month to prepare – they have a fighting chance to win.

In 2019 (and again in 2020), the Rams have been given a month to prepare.

— One other scheduling note, since this is the 2019 opener for both teams … Next week: While Colorado faces Nebraska (in case you had forgotten), the Rams will take on the Fighting Leathernecks of Western Illinois (yes, they are actually the “Fighting” Leathernecks), an FCS team which finished with a 5-6 record in Missouri Valley Conference play in 2018.

In terms of focus on this game … advantage: Colorado State.

S – Statistics

Colorado has won four straight games in the Rocky Mountain Showdown.

With a commanding 66-22-2 advantage in the overall series, it comes as no surprise that there have been many winning streaks for the Buffs against the Rams since the first game was played between the two schools in 1893. The current four-game winning streak, however, is the first such run for the Buffs since CU won three straight between 2003-05 (with two of those games being played in Boulder).

Before that, to find a longer run than the current one, you have to go back to the eight-game winning streak the Buff Nation enjoyed in games played between 1987 and 1998.

In case you are wondering, the only Colorado State winning “streak” in the series since 1950 came in 1999 and 2000, when the Rams won back-to-back games. The longest Colorado winning streak in the series was 12 games, in contests played between 1934-47. The longest run of victories for CSU? Three games (accomplished twice: 1925-27; 1931-33).

Other stats worth noting:

— In 2006, the CU football program fell off a cliff (and has had to spend over a decade trying to climb back up). During that span, however, the Buffs have nonetheless gone 9-4 against the Rams;

— While CU may not start a true freshman against the Rams, the Buffs are nonetheless very, very young (or, at least, inexperienced). The Buffs on the roster have a total of 179 career starts. That number represents the fewest career starts to open a season in CU history (at least since 1971, and the advent of 11-game regular seasons).

Read that again … the 2019 CU roster has the fewest career starts of any Buff team in at least 48 years (a stat only Dave Plati could come up with!).

Deep breaths, everybody.

Prediction

Imagine … A season opener between a Pac-12 team and a Mountain West team, with both teams looking to put the 2018 season in the rear view mirror.

The Pac-12 team coming off of a 5-7 season with hope for a bowl-worthy season (or even more); the Mountain West team with hope for a winning record and a bowl bid of their own.

The Pac-12 team coming into the game as a double-digit favorite.

The result?

Hawai’i 45, Arizona 38.

A cautionary tale for the Buffs, to be sure.

Arizona went to the islands for a Week Zero game as an 11-point favorite, and came home with a black eye … and an 0-1 record.

Colorado enters the 2019 Rocky Mountain Showdown in Denver as a 13.0-point favorite over Colorado State.

The game will be played by two teams which are both at a crossroads.

– Colorado State needs the win if Mike Bobo his coaching staff are going to get past Labor Day with momentum for keeping their jobs.

– Colorado needs the win if the Mel Tucker era is going to get off to a positive start, and not have Buff fans fearing a Year One similar to those endured by Dan Hawkins (2-10 in 2006) or Jon Embree (3-10 in 2011).

It says here that the 2019 Rocky Mountain Showdown will not be as easy as the 2018 version. Last year, the Buffs scored on their first three possessions on their way to a 45-13 rout.

This year, the Rocky Mountain Showdown – the last to be played in Denver – will be hard-fought, but the Buffs will pull away in the second half.

Prediction … Colorado 38, Colorado State 20.

(FWIW … I went 11-1 in my predictions last year, only missing on the Oregon State debacle) … 

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18 Replies to “CU v. CSU – “T.I.P.S.” for the Rocky Mountain Showdown”

  1. Fun times. Scary times. Tucker seems to say all the right things, has the right pedigree, and inherited a team with some talent, but you never know … Dan Hawkins was coming off that amazing run at Boise and I thought that was the biggest home-run hire ever. Then the excitement of Embree-Bienemy, bringing back the glory Mac1 days. I don’t see those scenarios this time around, but just scary with the start of any new era! 41-24 Buffs.

  2. Simplifying things a bit:

    The Buffs defense has given up some big plays, and had a few good plays against the Buff’s offense in scrimmages, and I’m betting that CU’s defense is better than CSU’s at covering the Buffs receivers; so the Buffs receivers should handle CSU’s secondary, allowing the running game to develop too. They’re deep too, so CSU’s secondary will get worn out by the end.

    And the Buff’s secondary has been going up against a very talented group of receivers and (now) hopefully TEs so they should be ready for CSU, who lost receiving talent.

    Montez wants to have a great final season… so do those planning on leaving early to the NFL. And, the O-linemen, under the new staff have actually had the same five working together for 5 weeks of camp; a new concept compared to the old HC and O-line coach. And, they are 20-30 lbs of muscle bigger than before… according to sightings and reports.

    The lowest amount of starters in decades and yet I feel more confident than recent past with new coaches and freshmen, youth and inexperienced starting. BUT, this new coach has a veteran QB who is pretty good and Laviska and Co. to throw to, so good line play and CU surpasses all outsider’s expectations.

    CU 48-CSU 13… maybe 20 with late scores.

    Buff’s 2nd string and beyond get some playing time and Viska sits after the Buffs score 35 points.

  3. Yo Stuart,
    Nice post, as always. Very excited for the season to begin for real. Time to the talking to end and for the physical, “go until the echo of the whistle” relentlessness to begin.

    GO BUFFS!

    Mark

  4. Go Buffs…we will roll this week. Everyone healthy after Spring/Summer we cannot be in any better shape heading into the season. I have no doubts of the ability of the staff to get the players ready…last big question to be answered is Tuck’s in game coaching ability (something we have been sorely lacking for the past few years). Don’t think CSU will challenge him, but we will have a good answer by league play.

  5. Well if’s T.I.P.S. TIME the FOOTBALL SEASON has ARRIVED !!! THANK YOU STUART for ALL you provide for us everyday and the official notice that Game Week is HERE !

    I understand that games are not played on paper, or with coach or pundit evaluations ( We Buffs have over a decade of recent first hand experience with that process)

    For me this Game will show us what happens when a superior skill position offense meets a (?) Defense. And our yet to prove itself self Defense meets csu’S yet to prove itself Offense.

    No matter who scores first in this one. The final will be in the 48 -10 to 55 – 17 range BUFF’s WIN BIG !!!!! Speed and Physical Football WIN GAMES

  6. Wow what great golfing weather. Late summer in Buff Country is just great eh? The anticipation nerves are high. Very high………….. Not shroom high but it’s still early. HCMT states, anxiety before a game says you know your not ready. Pressure he says is normal. Just normal Now I know why I felt like I did before every MickyMac game even though some</u? would say:
    “Mickey will figure it out, The staff will figure it out, just a little more time, just another few years, almost there, Blah-Blah- ear-blah-blew-boom-blast-ache-loss-blah-of-blah-face right up to the very end until the Snow Buffalo picture in Mickey’s office miraculously came a live and trampled him so badly he just took his cash and left without a word never to be heard from again…………..The lord works in mysterious ways

    We hoped HWSRN was the answer………NOT…. Flim Flam #1……..Knew pretty early eh!

    We Loved Embree and his team going to do it……………………….”Buffalo weed dreams” DangMickey really was the “False Prophet” Worse than the flimflamman. Some knew early. Some rode into the valley all the way to the end and still had no clue he was gonna be gone NOW. Amazing! See he flimflammed CU, and fans way more than HWSRN…………….Oh well as they say…………Just money under the bridge

    So here I am all in with HCMT. No choice here. Is HCMT really the true hope of the Mighty Buffalo?
    Man he sounds like it. Does he have the staff? Sounds like it? Therefore …………….hell…………..off we go………………….

    2019 The Year of the Buffalo.

    2 days holy moly…………………………why did it come so fast………………..I need more time to get ready…………………….Buffs

  7. I think CSU really suffered last year with Bobo’s illness. I think if he is feeling better and able to be involved more I think they will do better this year. That said I think Tucker’s approach will lead to a methodical approach where the pure size and speed of CUs athletes eventually wear down CSU and pull ahead for a solid win. 34- 13 The young defense gives up a couple big plays that get points on the board.

  8. 41-13 at the half. Then Tucker will take the opportunity to test some of the young(er) depth, with the D giving up more points. However, the 3rd string receivers will still be outclassing the lambs and continue to keep it out of reach. Final: 55-34 CU

  9. The Rams appear to be weak everywhere but present the danger of having Bobo’s job on the line. The preseason talk for Buffs is positive but I feel the D is still an unknown. The differentiator should be the superior passing game of the Buffs. Though the tangibles should rule, I think the Buffs could be discombobulated at times. Having trouble envisioning this contest but will go with CU 35 CSU 24.

  10. I didn’t realize that stat about ” 2019 CU roster has the fewest career starts of any Buff team in at least 48 years.”. That’s crazy, especially considering how young the team was the first two years of MacIntyre’s reign. But that Rams offensive line…Ooof.

    I have a lot of coworkers that went to CSU. None of them are hopeful for either this game in particular–or the football team in general. Half of them seem to want CSU to get obliterated so that they can just fire Bobo and move on. None of them are going to go to the game.

    Hell, I was at a donut shop this morning and the owner said to be “this might be the year the Rams pull it off!”. I laughed and said “no way in hell, it’s gonna be a slaughter”. She laughed in agreement. The other two patrons in the shop laughed in agreement.

    My guess: this will be the worst showing by CSU fans in the history of the Rocky Mountain Showdown (or at least, of the games played at Mile High). The heavily slanted nature of the crowd itself will be a huge intangible boost for CU.

    Buffs roll. 41-17

  11. Great preview Stuart. Thorough and fair, as always. The only thing I don’t like about this game are the intangibles. The “un-scouted looks” and the breaking in of new coordinators. Everything else points to a Buff victory, and a big one at that.

    I think I can best sum it up in this one thought: How is csu going stop Laviska Shenault? They might really, really want to stop him, and they might try some new things, but when it comes down to it, can they?

    1. No. They cannot. I just hope the offense isn’t designed to run 50% of their plays through him like last year. CSU can’t stop him, but most of the pac 12 defenses can make life a lot harder on him.

      Go Buffs

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