Welcome to the debut of "Stuart’s TIPS". This season, I’ll breakdown each upcoming game into four categories:
T - Talent: Simply, which team has the better horses?
I - Intangibles: Momentum, home field, weather...these are 19- and 20-year olds, after all.
P - Preparation: Is either team coming off a short week? Injuries? Rivalry game next week?
S - Stats: If you are going to be a part of this site, you are going to get stats.
Breaking Down the Colorado/Colorado State Game
Not really much room for debate here. The Rams under Sonny Lubick faltered over the past few seasons. CSU hasn’t had a winning season since 2003, and the talent level has declined noticeably.
Steve Fairchild takes over for Lubick, and while there are quality players in Ft. Collins, they are of insufficient number for Fairchild to compete for a title in the Mountain West Conference race.
Names familiar to CU fans will lead the CSU offense, with senior tailback Kyle Bell and senior tight end Kory Sperry back to face the Buffs. Sperry, last season (as a senior), had eight catches for 108 yards and three touchdowns against Colorado (Sperry was injured the following week, and was granted a sixth year of eligibility). Bell racked up 135 yards and a touchdown in the 31-28 loss to the Buffs in 2007.
But that’s about it, folks. CSU will be starting career backup Billy Farris at quarterback, and, other than Sperry, Farris really has no one to throw to who should scare the Buffs.
Plus, the offensive line, while returning a number of starters, has surrendered an average of almost 40 sacks a season over the past two years. The CSU defense, for its part, gave up 207 yards/game rushing last season, and their cornerback situation is even worse than Colorado’s.
The Rams were thin in the secondary to begin with, and have lost players to injury and suspension this fall.
In short, there is no way the Buffs lose the talent battle.
The Rams only had 18,820 on hand at home in Sonny Lubick’s last game in 2007—and that was a victory over rival Wyoming. With a new coach comes new enthusiasm, and it has been reported that Colorado State sold out its student allotment of tickets for this year’s Rocky Mountain Showdown.
The Rams will play with emotion early, and, if they are successful, it could carry them through the remainder of the contest. Still, with Colorado’s overall edge in talent, and with the matchups on the field favoring the Buffs’ ability to move the ball on the Rams, as well as to stop the Rams’ attack, emotion should be mitigated by the second quarter.
Plus, I can’t help but be nagged by the memory that the Buffs, playing with "emotion" for their new coach, fell flat against Montana State in Dan Hawkins’ first game in Boulder.
No advantages or disadvantages here.
It is the season opener for both teams, and the game is at a neutral site (though it would be an upset if Colorado does not have more fans in the stands for this game). Both teams follow this game with a contest at home against a 1-AA Big Sky Conference team (CU v. Eastern Washington; CSU v. Sacramento State), so there is little reason for either team to be "looking ahead". Both teams should be rested and ready for this one.
Preparation edge for either in the season opener? None. This week, this category is a wash.
If you were a member of the Colorado coaching staff, you would have to think that having CSU as the opponent for the opener—other than having to play an in-state rival on a neutral field—would be about as good a Division 1-A match-up you could get without being criticized for dumbing down the schedule (see: most of the Big 12).
Worried about getting your rushing game going? How’s about taking on the 107th ranked rushing defense (in 2007—before CSU lost three defensive line starters to graduation)?
Want to give your wide receivers an ego boost to get the season started right? We’ll give you a defense with no returning starters in the secondary, and which has lost two cornerbacks (one to injury; the other to suspension) since fall camp opened.
Worried about your defense? Well, the Rams can only run the ball, and the strength of the CU defense is up the middle, with quality tackles and linebackers. Starter Billy Farris threw only 20 passes all last season, and there are no quality receivers on the roster other than Sperry. The Buffs should be able to load up against the run, forcing Farris to beat them through the air.
Will special teams make the difference, then? Only if you are a Buffs' fan.
Last season, the Rams gave up 23.5 yards per kick return (101st in the nation), and an amazing 12.3 yards per punt return (106th). (For comparison’s sake, CU gave up 19.3 yards per kickoff return—19th in the nation, and 6.8 yards per punt return—31st). Paging Josh Smith and Rodney Stewart ....
Everything on the stats sheet favors the Buffs. The talent on the field for Colorado will be superior. The only thing going for the Rams is the emotion of playing for their new coaching staff, combined with the excitement of playing your in-state rival on opening day on a neutral field.
The Buffs will have the last two emotional edges on their side as well, plus the quiet confidence of a team which believes in itself, and feels it is ready to resume its status as a national player.
The only way the Colorado loses this game is if the Buffs don’t come prepared to play ......
There is much more available at http://www.cuatthegame.com
CSU trivia CU fans need to know(What ignoble all-time NCAA record did CSU set in their 0-12 1981 season? What was Sonny Lubick’s final record against CU?);
Archive Game of the Week(CU v. CSU, 2004 - the Buffs make a goal line stand to preserve a 27-24 win); and
"This date in history: August 31st" Remember the introduction of the Oregon "Quack Attack" in 1985? Which teams played in the first-ever Big East game (8/31/91)? Or which teams played in the inaugural Big 12 game (8/31/96)?
For all this and more, log on to http://www.cuatthegame.com (and don’t forget to get on the email update list. It’s the only way to ensure you don’t miss a single post this season!)