If we look past the ridiculously long name of the The Cinch Jeans Rocky Mountain Showdown Presented by Dr Pepper With Ultimate Electronics and the fact a few crafty Colorado State students got a few "early" tickets there is a football game going on. Starting the first year of a ten year extension of the rivalry the Rams and Buffs will go head to head at Invesco Field at Mile High kicking off at noon. Last year the Rams surprised most people with a 23-17 win at Folsom Field, the Rams first win there since 1986. Expect another heated game with big hits after last years affair. The CSU fans rushing Folsom didn't sit well with the Buffs so they will be coming out with some fire. At 59-20 the Colorado Buffalos have dominated the series over time, however in the last decade the series was split 6-4 in favor of the Buffs.
For this game you can look to the keys of the game being the CSU quarterback Pete Thomas and Tyler Hansen for CU. Hansen has started 13 games in his career but has never played in the rivalry or been the opening day starter. He seems to be a better option then Cody Hawkins for the Buffalo as he brings the scramble into play and can create on the run. The stats last year between the two were near identical though, but Hansen did face the tougher teams deep in their Big 12 schedule. The Rams have attempted to match Hansen's speed with small quick defensive ends in Broderick Sergeant and Davis Burl. Expect the Buffs to pressure Pete Thomas and throw different looks at him to see if they can rattle him in front of the big crowd. This will be the most intriguing thing for me as a fan, to see how well the true freshman tests out in his first collegiate game with 70,000 fans watching.
Colorado Buffalo will win if...
They can stop Raymond Carter and the Rams running attack. The Rams will try and establish the run and help Pete Thomas out by opening up the field and spreading out the Buffs. If the Buffs can win the field position battle it will help immensely also.
Colorado State Rams will win if...
They stop the Buffalo on third down, last year they were dead last in FBS in 3rd down percentage. Keeping the defense fresh and Pete Thomas on the field will be a good thing for the Rams. Getting the offensive line in sync and moving the ball on the ground along with giving Pete Thomas time to make a throw will keep the Rams on top.
The game could go either way with lots of questions marks on both sides. Both teams are coming of disappointing 3-9 years and were picked to finish near the bottom of their conferences. Winning down in Denver could jump start either team into surprising the critics and getting the season started on the right foot. I wouldn't expect a barn burner so every possession will count and field position will be important. I am calling a 17-14 win for one of the teams from Colorado.