This is the game no CU fan wants to attend. I mean really, deep down, what CU fan wants to jump headlong into this no-win proposition. Lose, and you have the hicks from Ft Fun hyucking all year about beating you (it is their Superbowl afterall). Win, and no one notices. Sure, maybe a Chris Fowler or a Neil Woelk will mention this game as an early season test sometime in late October to make a broader point about the direction of the team, but is anyone going to look back to this contest as anything other than just another game once Big XII season comes knocking? This games just serves as a very public version of corporate welfare.
If this wasn't in Invesco, would it warrant the level of attention it gets? If it were played week 3, would everyone freak out about it? This is one of the problems I have with the RMS. Outside of instances where both teams are legit good (the '02 game is a good example), this game, and the pregame hype, is mostly an annoying distraction from the looming season. It's week one, and outside of seasons where CU is in the national title hunt (remember those days?) it's practical impact should be relatively relatively light. Unfortunately, we're talking about 20yr old kids here, and the emotional impact is often much higher.
(You know what else has a lot of emotional impact? Being kicked in the face by Lawrence Vickers. I miss him so much...)
Because of the importance placed on this game by the media, and how butt-hurt CSU fans get over the "rivalry," a win or a loss often charts the course for the rest of the September schedule. I still say that if the defense hadn't been such a train-wreck in the first half last year, and CU went on to win the game, that the Toledo disaster never happens. Who knows, without that win last year CSU might've gone winless (They really were that bad... not saying we were much better, tho). So, from an "impending doom if you don't get your act together" standpoint, I guess this game is important.
(Oh look, another picture of LV dominating the sheep. Do not stand between that man and the endzone.)
My default position regarding CU football during the Dan Hawkins era is always pessimistic. Why that is could cover 30,000 plus words, but, to make a long story short, it's a defensive mechanism. (I'd rather be surprised in victory than shocked in defeat.) So, all summer I have dreaded this game and the start of the season that it represents. However, slowly but surely, I have begun to hold a quiet confidence about the outcome of this game.
Everything seems to be going right. Cross your fingers and hold your breath, but there have been no major injuries. That little issue of the slow walkons running wide-out routes on a Big XII team has magically disappeared (has any position gone from a such glaring weakness to a potential strength in less time than the '10 WR corps. From my estimation it took 4 days). The O-Line has some NFL potential, the D-Backs are some of the best in the nation, and the young LB corps is hungry. Even special teams could end up being a strength this year with the upgrades at punter and returner. And Tyler Hansen was (finally) given the keys to the car, rather than be relegated to the bike-share program. What in the wide world of sports has happened to this team? From June 14 (the day we officially began the move to the 12-Pac) to today there has been nothing but slightly positive stuff happening to the Buffs. It pains me to say this out-loud, but I think we just could might possibly be good this year. Is this too good to be true? A little yes and a little no.
The Buffs absolutely have a chance to turn this game into a blowout. Year-in, year-out we bring more talent (even in '06 and '09) to the table, and this year is no different. Take emotion out of it, and I see no reason why the 12-point spreads being bandied about in gambling circles wouldn't be accurate. However, again, this is it for CSU. Outside of the first 5 minutes of the TCU game and possibly the entirety of the Wyoming game, these are the only 60 minutes of football any CSU fan really cares about; and more to the point, the players know and respect this. They always come out playing above their talent level, and they always will. It's just a fact.
The problem is, I don't know how much it will help them this year. While I do shrug off the "true freshman" factor at starting QB (the DB train-wreck from last year was exposed by an inexperienced CSU QB afterall), the questions at tailback, O-Line, and D-back are too glaring to dismiss (especially the cornerback issues). Coach Fairchild is a damn good sand-bagger, but this team doesn't strike me as any-where near the caliber of last years (and that's saying something... they were 3-9 as well).
(Time to go to work Toney)
In the end, this heightened level of emotion will matter little. Toney Clemons may be the best wide receiver CU has had since Michael Westbrook, Travon Patterson will shore up the abysmal punt return team from last year, Jimmy Smith and Jalil Brown are two of the best corners in the nation, and the O-Line will be better than last year (it certainly can't be much worse). Barring an Aric Goodman implosion costing buckets of points (possible), CU wins this game rather easily. I'd take the points and the over, CU 38 - CSU 17.