Colorado (0-0) vs. Colorado State (0-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Sunday, September 1, 6 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium (76,125) - Denver, Colorado. Television: CBSSN. Home Record: Colorado 0-0, CSU 0-0. Away Record: Colorado 0-0, CSU 0-0. Neutral Record: Colorado 0-0, CSU 0-0. Conference Record: Colorado 0-0, CSU 0-0. Series Record: Colorado leads, 61-21-2.
GAME NOTES: The Rocky Mountain Showdown, featuring the Colorado State Rams and the Colorado Buffaloes, is once again set for Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium in Denver on Sunday.
The Rams are heading into their second season under head coach Jim McElwain, a former offensive coordinator at Alabama, and are hoping his expertise starts to kick in this year. The squad ranked 100th in the country in scoring (21.2 ppg) last season, and as a result won a total of just four games in 12 opportunities. While CSU was just 1-6 after seven contests, the squad did finish strong with three wins in five tries. As a result, the Rams were 3-5 against the rest of the Mountain West Conference.
For the Buffaloes, they begin the 2013 campaign with a fresh outlook, thanks to the arrival of new head coach Mike MacIntyre. The former San Jose State head man, MacIntyre was named the 25th head coach in Colorado history in December as he replaced Jon Embree, even though the latter still has three years remaining on his contract.
MacIntyre assumes control of a squad that won just a single game in 2012, a narrow 35-34 final over Washington State in the Pac-12 Conference opener in September. Just 1-11 overall and 1-8 in league play, the Buffs bowed in eight straight to close out last season, which means they enter play here with the sixth-longest skid among Football Bowl Subdivision programs.
The Rams won the annual meeting last season by a score of 22-17, but overall the series belongs to Colorado which is ahead by a 61-21-2 count.
The bad news for the Buffaloes right off the bat is the loss of Jordan Webb, potentially the starting quarterback for the squad who started the first nine outings of 2012 before suffering a dislocated ring finger on his throwing hand. Webb suffered a torn ACL in April which has taken him completely out of the picture for 2013 and has turned Connor Wood into the primary option, even though he started only once a year ago.
Having Nelson Spruce back at wide receiver should help in the growth of Wood, the wideout having caught a team-best 44 passes for 446 yards and three touchdowns last year. Tyler McCulloch (34 catches, 436 yards, two TDs) also returns to help move the ball further down the field.
After averaging only 110.3 ypg (109th nationally) in rushing last season, the Buffaloes need to find an answer to their woes in that department as well. Christian Powell led the way with 691 yards and seven TDs, making major waves as a freshman. The hope is that Powell will only get better.
Colorado's scoring defense was the worst in the FBS a year ago, having been thumped for a staggering 46.0 ppg. The run defense gave up 226.0 ypg and the pass defense was equally as culpable with 262.5 ypg. In terms of pass efficiency defense, no one was worse than the Buffs who finished with a rating of 173.62, mostly due to the fact that they didn't intercept a single pass over the final eight games.
Turnover margin was another problem area for Colorado of course, the team ranking 118th with minus-1.58 turnovers per contest. While it is hard to believe, the squad's turnover mark could take another hit this year with the loss of Will Pericak who was responsible for four forced fumbles in 2012.
Garrett Grayson and Conner Smith are both listed as returning starters at quarterback for the Rams, which can be seen as both a blessing and a curse. Sure, they each gained valuable experience in 2012, but at the same time the offense failed to show much in the way of consistency as it tried to function for both signal-callers.
In terms of receiving, the team has lost wideout Marquise Law, but retains Charles Lovett who caught a team-best 35 passes for 428 yards. Kivon Cartwright (26 rec., 310 yards, three TDs) will be pushed by Crockett Gillmore, a former all-conference player.
The running back position is filled with top-notch possibilities, from Chris Nwoke who led the team in rushing in 2011, to Donnell Alexander who grabbed the mantle last season. As long as the two are able to again co-exist and share the load, there will be plenty of opportunities for both of them to exploit defenses in 2013.
In addition to bringing back six starters from a year ago, the defense for the Rams now has the luxury of learning from one of the most notorious players in its history in Joey Porter who has returned to Fort Collins to take classes and serve as an assist coach.
There is much that both Porter and the young players can learn from each other, particularly linebacker Shaquil Barrett who earned honorable mention All-MWC accolades last season when he made 67 tackles while battling through injury. Fellow linebacker Cory James set a program freshman record and ranked second in the Mountain West with 7.5 sacks over the course of 12 games. Clearly, James has great potential and can only improve with the input of Porter.
Also returning for the Rams are Aaron Davis and Max Morgan, the top two tacklers from a year ago who posted 84 and 81 stops, respectively.
MacIntyre might be able to turn around the offense for the Buffs, but finding a fix for such an awful defense will probably take much more time, giving the advantage to Colorado State in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Colorado State 27, Colorado 23
08/28 10:39:46 ET