Preview of the Colorado State Rams 2012 Football Schedule

CSU Rams’ 2012 Football Schedule:

The Colorado State Rams have had a rough stretch over the past 3 season, winning a grand total of 9 games. In Steve Fairchild’s first year as coach of the Ram’s, he took them to the New Mexico bowl and a 40 – 35 win over the Fresno State Bulldogs. It has been feast or famine over the past four years and after 3 sub par seasons, Fairchild was axed in favor of a new direction with Coach Jim McElwain.

Since new athletic director Jack Graham, just like Steve Fairchild a former CSU Rams’ quarterback, replaced Paul Kowalczyk in December, things at CSU have changed dramatically. McElwain and Graham have brought a sense of renewal and hope to the Rams, arguably one of the the biggest academic programs left in the MW conference, but one that has athletically underachieved since the late 1990’s – early 2000’s when head coach Sonny Lubick took the Rams to seven bowl games.

McElwain has revamped the spring practices and has started to change players around by size.

Coach Mac had wondered about a lack of size and physicality in the team when he first met the players. This was quite evident in the recruiting class, which was posited at number 103 of 124, when the Rams looked for more size and drafted fewer skill players.

With the Rams entering the first round of the NCAA tournament in basketball, there is a sense of fear that the next coach might not be able to do what Tim Miles was able to in basketball, and that the CSU Ram’s football team might not live up to expectations.

The Rams’ Spring game is on April 21st at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium in Fort Collins, CO.

The Rams’ first opponent for the 2012 college football season will be the in–state rivals, the CU Buffaloes. That game will be played on Sunday, September 2nd at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, CO. The Buffs have the 62nd ranked Strength of Schedule according to Phile Steele’s College Football Preview and hold a 61 – 20 – 2 advantage in the Rocky Mountain Showdown, which was recently renewed until 2020. The Rams’ SOS is currently ranked 74th.

The following Saturday sees the Rams hosting a curious addition to the schedule. Other than the CU Buffs, the Rams play only MW or WAC teams, except on this one Saturday. The Rams will be hosting the North Dakota State Bison,

who have won 8 national titles (1965, 1968, 1969, 1983, 1985, 1986, 1988, 1990, and recently in 2012 vs Sam Houston State University). The Bison have beaten FBS teams before: Central Michigan 2007, University of Minnesota 2007 and the Kansas Jayhawks 2010. This team cannot be overlooked.

In he following two weeks, the Rams will play two WAC opponents, with whom they split the home and home series’ last year: the San Jose Spartans (SOS: 84th) on September 15th in San Jose and the Utah State Aggies (SOS: 100th) at Hughes stadium in the FoCo. The Rams had a chance to tie the Spartans on homecoming weekend and Steve Fairchild elected to run up the middle on 4th and 1, rather than kicking the game tying field goal. The Rams lost the game 38 – 31. Most Ram fans will remember the spectacular double overtime win in Logan 35 – 34 on the Aggie's failed two–point conversion.

On Saturday, September 29th the CSU Rams will travel south to Falcon Stadium to play at the Air Force Academy (SOS: 121st) in Colorado Springs, CO for the Ram – Falcon Trophy. This is always a tough game and one the Rams would love to win, especially after taking a beating at home by the Falcons 45 – 21. McElwain’s size factor and discipline will probably play a role in keeping the Falcons contained. The three games that mean the most to the Rams are CU, AFA and Wyoming and the Rams will need to play disciplined football to stay in all of the games in 2012.

The following two weeks will show the Rams playing two California based teams, one at home and one away. The first game on the slate is against the Fresno State Bulldogs (SOS 61st), a welcome addition to the MW from the WAC. This game will feature two new highly sought after head coaches on the sidelines at Hughes Stadium. The following week, the Rams hope to avenge a close home loss from last year at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. The Aztecs (SOS: 117th) were at Hughes in 2011 during a windstorm, in which winds hit over 80 Mph. The Rams need to take the opportunity to impress the recruit rich area of both Northern and Southern California during these two weeks. Then the Rams have the 20th of October open. Last year at this point, when the Rams got to this date in the schedule, people wondered if they could beat "open"…

The last five games of the season are quite significant, in that the Nevada Wolf Pack is not on the schedule. The Hawai’i Warriors (SOS: Tied with NC State and SJSU at 84th) come to Hughes Stadium on October 27th. It is too much to hope for that it will be cold on that date to give the Rams a cold weather advantage. Last year it was sunny and in the 70’s and the Warriors could feel right at home if the Rams don’t play better defense than they did last year. On November 3rd, the Rams will travel north to War Memorial Stadium in Laramie, WY to face the Wyoming Cowboys (SOS: 106th). The Border War between the Pokes and the Rams is also for the Bronze Boot, which began in 1899. The Rocky Mountain Showdown between CU and CSU began in 1893 and the only other older rivalry game than the Border War, in the MW, is the New Mexico vs. NMSU "Battle of Interstate 25" game for the Rio Grande Rivalry, which started in 1894.

The final three games to round out the schedule are home, away and home: UNLV at Hughes, the BSU Broncos at Bronco Stadium and the New Mexico Lobos at Hughes on November 24th. During the 8 game skid to end the season, the Rams lost 38 – 35 to the Rebels (SOS: 92nd) and handed them 1 of their 2 wins all season. Certainly that was a low point for the Rams, who look to provide a better showing in 2012.

Second place in 2011 and sure to be picked first in the pre-season of 2012, even without Kellen Morre, is Boise State. The BSU Broncos easily handled the Rams at home 63 – 13 in front of a sell out crowd at Hughes. The Rams have to come to grips with the fact that other teams have lower SOS due to the Rams just being on their schedules and that the Rams' winning percentage from the last season was less than stellar. Having said that, the Broncos SOS is ranked 6 spots behind the Rams at 80th. This is particularly interesting as the University of Idaho Vandals have an amazing rank of 37th, despite the fact that the Vandals play in the WAC, which is on life support at the moment. The Rams will have to play up to the competition and do something Fairchild’s team could not do: make the game contested and remain competitive.

The final game of the year, on November 24th (which has traditionally been reserved for the Wyoming rivalry) is with the New Mexico Lobos (SOS; 101st, behind NMSU at 93rd). The Rams squeaked by the Lobos last year with a 14 – 10 victory at New Mexico. With new coach Bob Davie, it will be another pair of new head coaches, although this is not Davie’s first rodeo.

Many Ram fans are perplexed at the addition of North Dakota State in place of UTEP (SOS: 50th). Last year, CSU played in El Paso and lost 31 – 17 to the Miners. If CSU would have scheduled the Miners, no doubt the SOS would have gone up, but maybe it is better to have an FCS opponent the week after a tough in­­–state rivalry game. Then again, scheduling Northern Colorado again would have been better for this purpose than an 8–time national champion and noted FBS team killer, like the Bison. It would be ok to lose against the Miners, if one must, but if the Rams lose to an FCS team… it could be disastrous for morale.

09/02/12 vs. Colorado Denver, Colo. TBA
09/08/12 vs. North Dakota State TV Fort Collins, Colo. TBA
09/15/12 at San Jose State San Jose, Calif. TBA
09/22/12 vs. Utah State Fort Collins, Colo. TBA
09/29/12 at Air Force Colo. Springs, Colo. TBA
10/06/12 vs. Fresno State Fort Collins, Colo. TBA
10/13/12 at San Diego State San Diego, Calif. TBA
10/27/12 vs. Hawai'i Fort Collins, Colo. TBA
11/03/12 at Wyoming Laramie, Wyo. TBA
11/10/12 vs. UNLV Fort Collins, Colo. TBA
11/17/12 at Boise State Boise, Idaho TBA
11/24/12 vs. New Mexico Fort Collins, Colo. TBA

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