CU v. Colorado State: “T.I.P.S.” for the Rocky Mountain Showdown

… Related … If you prefer your predictions verbally (and from more than one voice), “CU at the Game Podcast: “T.I.P.S.” for CU v. CSU, can be found at Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or pretty much wherever you download your favorites. Or, if you would prefer, you can find the podcast here.


The Rocky Mountain Showdown resumes Saturday night, with the Buffs playing Colorado State for the first time since 2019. After a 14-year hiatus, the series returns to the college campuses (or campi, for those of you with Latin in your background), with the Buffs traveling to play the Rams in Ft. Collins in 2024.

(At present, there are also contracts for home-and-home Rocky Mountain Showdown games to be played in 2029/2030, in 2033/2034, and in 2037/2038 … but who knows what the landscape of college football will look like by the time those games roll around).

Colorado has won the last five games in the series (all five played in Denver), and the Buffs own a commanding 67-22-2 overall lead in the series. The Rams did win the game the last time the teams met in Boulder, back in 2009, so the Rammies have that going for them … which is nice.

The 2023 version of the Rocky Mountain Showdown appears to be a lopsided affair in the making. The line opened at 17.0 points in favor of the Buffs, and quickly moved to 21.0, then to 23.5.

Can the underdog Rams come in highly motivated, and knock off  their “big brother” Buffs?

Will the CU players being looking past CSU, with games against Oregon and USC up next on the schedule?

Let’s find out …


This Week’s “T.I.P.S” for CU v. CSU – Saturday, 8:00 p.m., MT, ESPN – Big Noon Saturday No. 3/ESPN Game Day

T – Talent

This just in … The Rams are not very good, either on offense or on defense.

How bad is CSU’s talent?

In the preseason, when the ESPN Power Index didn’t have any idea what to make of Colorado and its refurbished lineup, the only game the Buffs were predicted to be the favorite … was for the Buffs’ game against the Rams.

Remember the wretched Colorado offense you were required to endure last year? The one which only scored 15.4 points per game? Well, even those sad sack Buffs were better than what Colorado State had to offer. The Rams in 2022 scored only 13.2 points per contest, never scoring over 20 points in a game all season.

So, the 24 points the Ram offense scored against Washington State in the 2023 opener means the offense has improved, right?

Well, not so much. When the game against the Cougars was still a game, it was all Wazzu. Washington State led 29-3 at the end of the third quarter in a 50-24 rout. Colorado State scored 21 points in garbage time in the fourth, including a 98-yard kickoff return and a one-play, 75-yard drive on a bomb from backup quarterback Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi to CSU’s second-best wide receiver, Justus Ross-Simmons.

Fowler-Nicolosi will get the start against Colorado, and that makes some sense if you look at the stats of the loss to Washington State. Fowler-Nicolosi went 13-for-20 for 210 yards and two touchdowns, while starter Clay Millen went 15-for-24 for a paltry 110 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.

“The time is right for Bray to get an opportunity,” CSU head coach Jay Norvell said. “He sparked us, drove for a couple scores. The bottom line is we’ve got to score points and be more effective, and we’ve got to be competitive and lead at that position.

“We’ve got a lot of confidence in Clay, but Brayden played for us last year as well.”

First-team All-Mountain West wide receiver Troy Horton is CSU’s deep threat, and he did have nine receptions for 81 yards against Washington State, but there is not enough of a supporting cast besides Horton and Ross-Simmons to put too much of a scare into the CU secondary.

Do the Rams have a rushing attack? North Dakota State transfer Kobe Johnson was supposed to be the answer, but Washington State held Johnson to 16 yards on seven carries. Overall, the Rams had a grand total of 37 yards rushing in Game One.

Will the CSU offense open up this week? Head coach Jay Norvell seemed to hint as much in his press conference last week.  “I want to take responsibility for what happened this weekend,” Norvell said of the Washington State loss. “We called the game a certain way. We had some real issues a year ago where we made a lot of negative things happen, and we really wanted to go into this season not beating ourselves, and I probably have to take the brunt of that responsibility.

“In doing that, we kind of played a little close to the vest.”

No sense playing not to make mistakes when you are already getting blown out … further indication that CSU will pull out all of the stops to try and be successful on offense Saturday night.

The CSU defense, while giving up 50 points to Washington State, is not entirely without talent. The fourth quarter six-touchdown score-fest between the two teams in Week One notwithstanding, the Ram defense did its part, giving up 29 points while being left on the field for 67 plays during the first three quarters. There are two first-team All-Mountain West defenders, defensive lineman Mohammed Kamara and linebacker Jack Howell, who led the team in tackles against Washington State, with 16. After that … there are some holes in the Ram defense which can be exploited by the CU offense.

The question to be answered Saturday night: Is there enough talent on the CSU defense to keep the CU offense in check?

A possible answer: For a quarter or so, perhaps … but it would be a real surprise if the Buff offense struggled the entire game.


I – Intangibles

Rivalry? What Rivalry? … At the Buffs4Life golf tournament on Monday, we handed out CU at the Game swag to the participants. I tried to impress upon those unfamiliar with the website that CU at the Game is updated daily. As evidence as to why these Buffs fans should be checking in with the website regularly, I mentioned the story which came out on Monday that CSU would be starting their backup quarterback.

With only one or two exceptions, the reactions when I mentioned CSU were along the lines of, “I haven’t really thought much about CSU”.

So, while the Rocky Mountain Showdown is the Super Bowl for CSU and its fans, the game is being largely met with indifference by Buff fans. The real rivalry game for the Buff Nation was played last weekend, and CU won. This weekend? CSU is just a bump in the road on the way to Eugene.

There is some danger that the Buff players will be looking past the Rams, and will not be fully prepared. There is also the danger that the CSU coaching staff will start the game with an onside kick, then pull out every trick play and formation in the playbook in an attempt to throw off the Buffs and gain some momentum in the game.

All true, but also likely irrelevant.

The Colorado football program has been a speedbump for many of the teams in the Pac-12 over the past decade. The overmatched Buffs may well have been motivated to pull off huge upsets in those games, hoping that the favored opponent would not take the contest seriously, leaving themselves open for a potential loss.

Exhibit “A” for the defense … CU has really wanted to beat the likes of USC and Oregon since joining the conference. The results? The Buffs have one win over Oregon since joining the Pac-12, and remain winless all-time against USC.

… And most of those games were blowouts …

… As predicted …


P – Preparation/Schedule

I had to laugh.

When the non-conference schedules were announced earlier this year, I checked out how CU’s opponents were set up for games both before and after playing the Buffs.

I noted that TCU would be playing Nicholls State at home in Game Two … so no reason for the Horned Frogs to be looking past the Buffs.

I noted that Nebraska had to open with a Big Ten opponent Minnesota … but on a Thursday night, giving the Cornhuskers two extra days of practice before coming to Boulder.

I noted that Colorado State … what? Wait a second.

Yup. The schedule revealed that Colorado State had a bye week before playing Colorado.

It was not a joke. It was not a misprint. Colorado State had set up its schedule so that it would have an extra week to prepare for its game against Colorado.

Never mind that the Ram players, starting this Saturday, will now have 11 straight games without a break … CSU is all in on making a name for itself by beating CU.

The thing is, with a few exceptions, the Rocky Mountain Showdown has been played as the first game of the season, giving CSU all of Fall Camp to prepare for its Super Bowl game against the Buffs.

And that hasn’t worked out all that well for the Rams, with CU finishing with a 13-6 record in games played at Mile High stadium.

So it’s doubtful that the extra time off for the Rams will make all that much difference.

Leaving nothing to chance … 

Since the first day of Fall Camp in August, the Buffs have been practicing in the mornings, starting at 7:00 a.m. with meetings. Colorado State also practiced in the mornings during Camp.

But now … Practice times for the past two weeks began at 8 p.m., not 8:30 a.m. It’s a practice Norvell and his staff started using to prepare for games in Hawaii and he feels it fits for the upcoming opponent, Colorado.

“We’ve really done it in Hawaii when we go play over there. It’s been beneficial,” Norvell said. “I just felt like it was a good way for us to break up the routine and change it up for our guys. Sometimes you get in a rut when you do things the same all the time. It gives us a break in our schedule now in September and then we’ll get one in November as well when we play at Hawaii.”

Have got to give it to the CSU brain trust for trying to find any advantage they can.

Not sure the Buffs are too worried, however.

When asked about playing a night game after two morning games, Buff wide receiver Xavier Weaver had this to say: “You’re just playing football,” he said. “It might just be a little darker.”


S – Statistics 

Last year, this section was labeled the “car accident section” – You know you should look away, but you just can’t. After the first two games of the 2023 season, the Buffs have gotten at least one half of the stats ledger improved. The defense? Still some work to do …

Stats to make you smile … 

  • For CU on offense … The Buffs are 14th in the nation in total offense (509.5 yards/game) … 2nd in the nation in passing offense (453 yards/game) … and … tied for 27th in scoring offense (40.5 points/game)
  • For CU on defense …The Buffs are 21st in the nation in interceptions (with 3) … and … 6th in the nation in turnovers gained (with 6)
  • For Colorado State on offense … The Rams are tied for last in the nation in rushing offense (37 yards/game) … 89th in the nation in total offense (357 yards/game) … and 95th in third down conversion percentage (.357 – 5-for-14) …
  • For Colorado State on defense … The Rams are 130th in the nation in scoring defense (50 points/game) … 130th in total defense (556 yards/game) … and dead last in the nation in passing yards allowed (466 yards/game)

Stats to make you cringe … 

  • For CU on offense … The Buffs are 124th in the nation of rushing offense (56.5 yards/game) … and are dead last – 132nd in the nation – in sacks allowed (6.0/game)
  • For CU on defense … The Buffs are 113th in the nation in total defense (441 yards/game) … tied for 96th in the nation in scoring defense (28 points/game) … and … 127th in the nation in rushing defense (242 yards/game)
  • For Colorado State on defense … Really, nothing … There is only a one game sample, but when you give up 50 points and 556 yards to Washington State, there aren’t too many positive numbers on your side of the ledger.

Stat to watch (i.e, the stat which will play a role in deciding the game)Rushing Yards … The only way Colorado State will have a chance at upsetting Colorado is if the Rams do what the Cornhuskers could not: control the game and limit the total number of possessions by running the football. Nebraska was making inroads in the first half last weekend, controlling the ball for 18 minutes of the first half clock, and keeping the game scoreless until the final five minutes before turnovers changed the complexion of the game. Colorado State enters the game with the same idea for its offense … even though the Rams are dead last in the nation in rushing (37 yards in the opener).

On the other side of the ball, the Buffs will also be looking to establish some semblance of a rushing attack. Colorado is averaging only 56.5 yards rushing per game (124th in the country). Now, giving up a dozen sacks in two games counts heavily against this total, but getting Dylan Edwards & Co. into some positive situations, and giving Oregon something to think about in its preparations to face the Buffs, should be a priority this weekend. The Buffs are heavily favored largely due to their skill position players. It would be nice to see the Buffs demonstrate that they have more than a passing game to threaten opposing defenses.


Prediction … 

At his weekly press conference on Tuesday, Coach Prime indicated he didn’t yet have a message (like last week’s “It’s Personal”) for the team, but “Dominance” might be the actual theme, expressed or not.

“We want to exceed expectations”, Coach Prime said. “If the expectation is to win, let’s exceed that. Whatever the expectation is, let’s exceed that, individually and combined as a team. We’re winning, but we’re not playing our best football … We can’t wait to build off of that. We want to show you a game where we put it together offensively, defensively and on special teams. We want to show our fan base that game.”

If the Buffs put together that game against Colorado State, the Rams won’t stand a chance.

Two games into the Coach Prime era, there are no indications that this team is taking anything for granted, and that they are continuing to play with focus and determination.

The line is huge, but who cares? When was the last time it mattered in the world of Colorado football how badly they beat up on the opposition? Just give me a Colorado victory with little stress and no injuries, and I will be fine with a back door cover by the Rams.

For now, though, you have to go with your Buffs to easily handle the Rams, and cover the 23.5-point spread.

Prediction … No. 18 Colorado 42, Colorado State 17

2023 Predictions: Straight up: 1-1; Against the Spread: 2-0

  • Prediction: No. 17 TCU 33, Colorado 21 … Actual: Colorado 45, No. 17 TCU 42
  • Prediction: No. 22 Colorado 34, Nebraska 21 … Actual: No. 22 Colorado 36, Nebraska 14

  • 2022 Predictions … (Straight up: 10-2; Against the Spread: 9-3) …
  • 2021 Predictions … (Straight up: 9-3; Against the Spread: 7-5) … 


7 Replies to ““T.I.P.S.” for CU v. CSU”

  1. Isn’t it lovely that we’re now worrying about blemishes instead of the massive hemorrhaging of year’s past? Certainly, we need to address the run game and the sacks, but it feels a lot better doing that sitting at 2 and 0. I’m less worried about the defensive stats, since we know TCU has been loaded on the offensive side. Let’s shut down Rammies early and often and those stats are going to start looking a lot better.

    CU 52 Rammies 10

  2. Its the complete definition of a trap game.
    After 2 dramatic victories with all the national attention
    swelled heads? over confidence?
    constant demeaning of the opponent
    An opponent in a rivalry who will be fired up to the max?
    You know Norvell is going to have different looks and most likely a number of trick plays. He will be pulling out all the stops……blitzing to the max trying to get Shedeur down.
    I am not predicting an upset by any means but it could start out slow just like corn feed game with just a bit of fear factor

  3. “First-team All-Mountain West wide receiver Troy Horton is CSU’s deep threat, and he did have nine receptions for 81 yards against Washington State, but there is not enough of a supporting cast besides Horton and Ross-Simmons to put too much of a scare into the CU secondary.”

    Who do we think will be covering Horton?

    CSU’s scores were late in the game after WSU had 29 points, a break down in WSU’s special teams for a return, and CSU first offensive TD was a long 75 yards play with 11 minutes left in the game. Broken coverage by a backup?

    Really how good would CSU’s back up’s QB’s numbers be if he played at the beginning against WSU’s starters?

    WSU played a great game last week against a ranked team (Wisc) and won, so they are better than an average team, they kept CSU’s offense to 3 points for about the first 49 minutes, the Buffs can do the same.

    I hope the Buffs can avoid the mistakes that WSU backups made in the 4th quarter, but those are only stats, developing backups with meaning full snaps is more important than worrying about a couple of garbage scores by a team you’re blowing out.

    That’s the only reason I’m giving CSU any real points.

    Buffs 56 – Rams 17

    If the Buffs starter come out playing for their backups to get into the game by playing a clean game, knowing the faster they build a lead the more reps their teammates can get; that would be a true teammate, get your brothers playing time by handling your business first.

    I really hope that the coaching are preaching not only for a complete clean game, but a game where a lot of other players get their opportunity. Come on Starters, do it for your backups! Get them in the game and earn yourselves some rest.

  4. I have no fear this is a trap game. Sanders and his coaching staff won’t allow it. Too professional. The message of the week is Michael Irvin’s: Do your job…..beat the man across from you. Do that and we win the game going away. I always root for CSU when they aren’t playing us. I wish them luck the rest of the season. But we just need to get out and lean on them. I wonder if Lewis will try and work on the running game?

  5. Norvell, his daddy was a great player for the Badgers back in the day. Living close to Camp Randall as a kid, snuck into practices and games.

    Anyway, this is a great time to be alive AND be a Buff fan.
    My expectation is that they whip the Rams (be careful here please no looking ahead), but I am certainly looking ahead. Got too.

    Can the Buffs even compete with them, meaning Ducks, Trojans et al. Not so sure.

    Hey all the talk about how well the oline has played! 12 sacks in two games and a no holes running attack. Concerning.

    Had all these linebackers in camp. JuJu comes in and is a starter in two weeks.

    Just my 34 cents.

    Go Buffs.

    Note: Prime, as they sang in the song by Heart “HE’S A MAGIC MAN, MAMA!)
    Note 2: So being long retired, (meaning since I had a real job, 25 years ago) this whole Buff fantasy coming to life has me reading all sorts of social media Buff comments and articles. I like it.
    Note 3: I did notice the letters and wording are much smaller than they were years ago.
    Note 4: My golf game is not good (but still probably better than AZ’s)…Weak but accurate

    Note 4313: Score

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