Rejoice! Football is finally, officially, actually back. The Colorado Buffaloes enter the season aiming to get back on an upward track after a disappointing five-win 2017. The Buffs are eyeing a bowl game, at least, and for them to achieve that, they need to take care of business in non-conference. Their opening game is against Colorado State, and though some of us are excited for that rivalry to die, we can still appreciate the animosity while it’s still around. Here’s a preview of what we expect to see in the Buffs’ season-opener.
Question 1: What are you most excited for in the Rocky Mountain Showdown?
Sam Metivier: This game kicks off at 7:30 p.m., but kickoff my time is at 3:30 a.m. But I’m still gonna get up that early because I’m so damn excited for football to be back. I want to see Steven Montez drop 500 yards on that awful CSU pass defense. I want to see Israel Antwine body slam a poor running back on the opening play. I want to see the Buffs try to dropkick the Rams like they did in 2016. I’m also curious how our Twitter account looks if I’m not live-tweeting. Maybe I’ll take over anyway and talk trash before the sun rises.
Jack Barsch: I’m most excited for it to be over. I want to move on to Nebraska week and be done with this game. I want the season to start, but the emotional capital for the game is too damn high. Yes, it should be a win, as it has been in most years, but the Buffs have to win convincingly for fans to be satisfied. I don’t think CU is ready to beat anyone convincingly, at least not right away. This game just makes me feel anxious, not excited. So I want the game to relieve my stress.
Jeff Hauser: It’s the moment that we know football has returned. Yes, eight teams played last weekend— that doesn’t matter to anyone who knows “Power 5” teams don’t have a week 0 on their schedule. This year’s Rocky Mountain Showdown will be a good matchup with two team wanting to prove they’re contenders. Can Mike Bobo win more than seven games in a season? Can Mike MacIntyre show that 2016 was the start of what’s yet to come in Boulder? Sit back, relax and strap on your seatbelt— It’s going to be a wild ride. Bonus: I’m also excited that my son Joshua’s birthday fell on the Friday edition of the RMS two years ago and I will be able to share the tradition with him. He was the best excuse to miss a Rocky Mountain Showdown I’ve ever had.
Jack Stern: As cliche as it may sound, I’m ecstatic to sit down in the press box at Broncos Stadium at Mile High to cover my first game for Ralphie Report. Corniness aside, I’m excited to see the new look Buffaloes. They’ve lost eight starters on offense — including Phillip Lindsay who should count as two — and a bunch more on defense. While there’s arguably more raw talent on the roster this year than last year, there’s also way less experience which leaves their level of productivity as a big unknown. I’m curious to see how it all shakes out in game number one against their instate rivals.
Question 2: Is there anything about Colorado State’s game against Hawai’i that scares you or gives you hope?
Sam: The Buffs’ defense is inexperienced, but they look like old veterans compared to the Rams’ D. Hawai’i repeatedly torched them with read options and shovel pass screens, which showed that maybe CSU doesn’t have the most disciplined of defenses. Colorado won’t run those plays nearly as often as the Rainbow Warriors, but maybe that’s a sign the Buffs can’t run the ball at will if Montez has an off game passing. It’s also encouraging to see that K.J. Carta Samuels isn’t very good. Or at least he wasn’t very good until Hawai’i went into prevent defense when they had a 30-point lead in the third quarter.
Barsch: I’m terrified of CSU’s receivers. Olabisi Johnson, Warren Jackson, and Preston Williams are one of the best groups that CU will face all year. They are all athletic enough to torch CU, and tall enough to win jump balls. Buff DBs need to be on their toes the whole game, and D.J. Eliot better have developed a pass rush, because that makes everything a whole lot easier on 3rd downs.
Jeff: I agree with Barsch on this one. Johnson, Jackson and Williams are as talented of a unit that you’ll find in Colllge Football. Carta-Samuels will be looking to them early and often in this game to see how Dante Wigley and Trey Udoffia plays against the Rams receivers. The key will be CU’s pass rush not allowing Carta-Samuels to get comfortable by rattling him from the get-go.
Stern: There were things in that game that gave me hope, but also made me scared. The Rams defense looked absymal from the opening kickoff against a talented, but not great offense. While I think they play much better against the Buffs, I think Colorado will be able to put up points against them. Specifically, I expect new offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini to test CSU’s defense early with a ton of passes, and a quick paced, up-tempo offensive attack. On the flip side of the ball, the Buffs lack experience on the defensive line and the secondary. While they have some promising pieces at both spots, I can’t believe their run defense or cornerbacks will be much better until I see it. The Rams receivers could create an absolute nightmare for a inexperienced secondary that struggled badly at points last year — especially when second round pick Isaiah Oliver was out with a injury.
Question 3: What is the key matchup in this game?
Sam: Colorado’s cornerbacks vs. CSU’s receivers is most important, I think. I’m not quite sure what the matchups will be, but I’m guessing Trey Udoffia will be on Olabisi Johnson, Chris Miller on Preston Williams and Dante Wigley against Warren Jackson. Johnson, if you recall, had his hands full with/of Udoffia last year, and although the refs called Johnson for pass interference a couple times, he did bully that matchup for the most part. If Wigley goes against Jackson, he’s matched up against a 6’6 behemoth. Wigley is a long, physical corner, but he will surely be tested. Miller vs. Williams could be the matchup of the day. Williams, a former five-star, is a terrific athlete who had a great game against Hawai’i. Miller will be making his debut and his freakish athleticism give him tantalizing upside, but it’s curious what his learning curve will be. If Colorado is able to win or drawn even in this matchup, there’s nothing else Colorado State could edge them in. If the Buffs win this, they are guaranteed to win the game.
Jack: Colorado’s defensive line vs. CSU’s offensive line. I think CU’s offense vs. CSU’s defense is pretty much locked in. If they don’t score points, the Buffs will struggle to win 3 games this year. So I’m not worried about them. I am, however, worried and excited about the new front for the Buffs. Can Kwahn Drake and the new starters improve the production? Can CU stop the run? Can CU rush the passer? Can they do these things consistently? These are important questions that need to be answered, not just for the Rams, but also for the season as a whole.
Jeff: Colorado’s offense controlling the game through time of possession. Keeping CSU’s offense off the field is a huge win in this Rocky Mountain Showdown. Long, methodical drives that result in touchdowns for the Buffs will throw off any momentum the Rams hope to establish. Also, CU’s defense may need to come up with a turnover or two in the process.
Stern: Colorado State’s Secondary vs. Colorado’s receivers. As mentioned above, I expect Chiaverini to take a lot of shots down the field, and test this unit that looked like a high school team last week. It’s no secret that the Rams have the matchup advantage with their wideouts against Colorado’s secondary, and will be able to put points up on offense. However if their secondary struggles like they did last week — against a talented Buffs receiving core - it’ll be nearly impossible for them to keep pace, and Colorado could ultimately run away with the game.
Question 4: What will be the outcome?
Sam: Colorado 34, Colorado State 23.
Jack: CU 45, CSU 35.
Jeff: Colorado 40, Colorado State 28.
Stern: Colorado State 38, Colorado 34.