Date/Time: Sunday, Sept. 1, 6 p.m. EST / 4 p.m. MST (Parking lot opens at 12:00 PM)
Location: Sports Authority Field at Mile High; Denver
TV: CBS Sports Network
Radio: ESPN 105.5/102.3
Online: CBSsports.com Game Tracker
Weather: 84° F, isolated thunderstorms with a 30% chance of rain. Wind: 10 mph out of the South/South East
Odds: Colorado (61-21-2) is favored by 1½ points over Colorado State (21-61-2).
First Meeting: 1893 - Winner receives the Centennial Cup
Last Year: CSU beat the Buffs 22 - 17
Before the Rocky Mountain Showdown last year new Athletic director Jack Graham came out with President Tony Frank and declared that Colorado State would beat Colorado and start the bold new era he had been proclaiming since he had replaced Paul Kowalczyk. It was Jim McElwain's first game as a head coach as he had replaced former CSU quarterback and now Virginia Cavaliers offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild. Jon Embree was returning as coach of the CU Buffs with a team that was favored to beat the Rams in Denver.
This year McElwain is the veteran, having won his debut against the Buffs and taking CSU to a four-win season after three years of 3 - 9. Jon Embree is currently the tight ends coach for the Cleveland Browns and the CU Buffs have former San Jose State head coach Mike MacIntrye coaching in his first RMSD, who says that the Rams hold the advantage in this year's showdown.
The Buffs will start fourth-year junior Connor Wood at quarterback because last year's starter Jordan Webb was arrested on May 12th for second-degree assault. Backing Wood up is true Freshman Sefo Liufau, who beat out junior college transfer Jordan Gehrke and sophomore Steve Dorman to get the job. CU also has an impressive list of freshmen, who could step in and produce. There is also an upper classman getting a chance for the Buffs: Senior Scott Fernandez will start at tight end, due to the injury to Kyle Slavin. Senior Nate Bosnu is someone to watch at defensive tackle along with senior co-captain Derrick Webb at linebacker. Nelsone Spruce, a third-year sophomore, will start at wide receiver and handle punt returns.
The Rams came into camp with a clear leader at quarterback, with 6'2", 220 pound Garret Grayson commanding most of the attention. Now it seems that a true freshman, Nick Stevens, has put himself into the three-way race for Rams starting quarterback. At 6'3", 190 pound the Murietta, Calif., native compiled a 27-1 record in high school and threw for 2,316 and 24 TD's while running for 661 yards and 11 touchdowns in his senior season. McElwain has been very impressed by Stevens but also by the resurgence of Conner Smith, who filled in when Grayson went down last year. The native of Richmond, Texas, is 6'5", 220 pounds and has worked his way back up the depth chart to compete for the starting job.
Any uncertainty at quarterback that was felt last year due to the transfer of Pete Thomas is non-existent this year. Senior RB Chris Nwoke, sophomore Kapri Bibbs and sophomore Donnell Alexander will be carrying the ball for the Rams while 6-6 senior TE Crocket Gillmore, 6'4" junior Kivon Cartwright and a group of freshman receivers, such as 6-2 Rashard Higgins and 6-3 Jordan Vaden, are looking to give whichever Ram quarterback is named the starter, bigger and faster targets than they had last year. The Rams also return a solid o-line to this year's game anchored by 6'4", 300 pound senior offensive lineman Weston Richburg and 6'5", 310 pound left tackle junior Ty Sambrailo.
With the graduation of punter Pete Kontodiakos (averaged 46.5 per kick), CSU will have to see if redshirt freshman Hayden Hunt can fill the void. Hunt has averaged 44.7 on 11 punts in preseason games, but has yet to kick in an official game situation. Returning is former walk-on place kicker Jared Roberts, who cemented his place on the team at last year's RMSD when he hit all three of his field goal attempts against the Buffs. Junior kick returner Thomas Coffman (Averaged 24.6 yards per return last year) and sophomore punt returner Joe Hansley (12.5 YPR) will handle the return duties, but look for Jasen Oden and Donnell Alexander to step in at times as well.
On defense the Rams return CB Shaq Bell and LB Shaquil Barrett along with sophomores LB Cory James (last year's sack leader), DB Kevin Pierre-Louis and leading tacklers junior LB Aaron Davis and junior LB Max Morgan. The Ram's defense has experience and depth and is looking to improve on last year's strong performance.
In the top 126 FBS rankings, the Colorado Buffaloes are ranked 86th, while the CSU Rams are ranked 93rd. Despite the fact that CSU beat the Buffs last year and had a 4-8 record, while the Buffs posted a 1-11 season including a loss to Sacramento State in Boulder, the Buffs are 1.5 point favorites in this game. The Buffs only win in 2012 was in Pullman, Washington, where they beat Washington State by 1 point: 35 - 34. The Fresno Bulldogs also took the Buffs down 69 - 14 in Fresno, which was only one point less than Oregon's 70 - 14 win against a tired Buffalo defense.
Pick, CSU 27, CU 13: The Rams have had a great offseason and a year to work together. The Buffs have had off-season trouble and are starting a new QB with a new coaching staff.