Only 53 days remain until the Colorado St. Rams and Colorado Buffaloes battle it out in the 84th installment of the Rocky Mountain Showdown. The Rams will look to beat the Buffaloes back-to-back for the first time in 13 years. After a couple years of rather uneventful contests, last year's iteration had the drama of being the first game for Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain. The game featured some freakish weather and sloppy play, but the Rams were able to prevail 22-17 thanks in part to the leg of Jared Roberts who made three field goals, two of which came from 47-plus yards. With the victory, McElwain earned his first career win and was the first Colorado State coach to beat Colorado on his first attempt.
This year the Buffaloes look to copy what the Rams did last year with new coach, and fellow "Mac", Mike MacIntyre. MacIntyre comes from new Mountain West member, San Jose State, where he lead the Spartans to a 16 and 21 record in three years with two of those victories coming against Ram teams. Whether he will be able to replicate that success with a Colorado team that is crumbling from one of the worst years in its storied history remains to be seen, but it is safe to say this year's game will have several interesting story lines in play.
Head Coach: Mike MacIntyre (16-21, 0-0 with Colorado)2012 Record: (1-11, 1-8 in Pac-12)
2012 season in review: What is there more to say about Colorado's 2012 campaign other than atrocious? Before the season even started they lost star wide receiver Paul Richardson to a knee injury. In a must-win season for former coach Jon Embree, the Buffaloes lost to Colorado State to begin a long, dark fall towards the Pac-12 basement. They followed up their week one performance with a loss to Sacramento State at home before getting absolutely beat around at Fresno State, 69-14. The Buffs then began conference play with a victory over Pac-12 basement neighbor Washington State before losing their last eight games with an average margin of defeat of five touchdowns. If there is one silver lining to the season it would be that true freshmen combined to start 57 games for the Buffs, the most by any team in the country.
Returning Offensive Starters: 8
Returning Defensive Starters: 7
Key Returning Starters: Paul Richardson (WR), Chidera Uzo-Diribe (DE), Christian Powell (RB), Terrel Smith (SS),Greg Henderson (CB)
2013 Strengths: Contingent on if he can return to his pre-injury form, and if his quarterbacks can get the ball to him, Paul Richardson and the Buffalo receiving core should be a fairly deadly consortium. In addition to Richardson, the Buffs return their three top wide outs from last season: Nelson Spruce, Tyler McCulloch, and Gerald Thomas. In the backfield, Colorado has Christian Powell (691 yards and 7 touchdowns) and Donta Abron (251 yards) who offer a decent one-two punch in the run game.
On defense the strongest unit is the defensive backfield with returning starters Greg Henderson and Kenneth Crawley at the corners and safeties Terrel Smith and Parker Orms. In the front seven Colorado boasts best-name-in-football candidate, defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe, and senior linebacker Derrick Webb. This tandem lead the team in sacks and tackles, respectively last season and look to do so again in their senior seasons.
2013 Weaknesses: The problems for Colorado's offense starts with the quarterbacks. Three different quarterbacks played last year under Coach Embree, none of them particularly well, and that created a lot of questions going into the offseason. Jordan Webb started most of the games under center in the 2012 season, but he suffered a knee injury in spring practices and was arrested for second-degree assault in May.
Nick Hirschman who played intermittently throughout the season transferred to the University of Akron after he was not named the starter coming out of spring ball. That leaves Connor Wood, the University of Texas transfer, as the sole contender for the starting position. Wood looked serviceable in garbage time during last season, but it remains to be seen if he can start on the college stage.
On the defense side of the ball, the main problem for the unit is the lack of depth behind stars Uzo-Diribe and Derrick Webb. Colorado's defense did not manage to stop opposing offenses on the ground or through the air, ranking higher than 100 in both categories. The problems stopping the pass were more a result of poor performance on the defensive line than deficiencies in the secondary.
The Buffs only tallied 19 sacks last season, and seven of those came from Uzo-Diribe. The rest of the group needs to step up and help pressure the opposing quarterback to help the secondary. As for the linebackers? The only returning starter is Webb who lead the team in tackles, and after that there really isn't much to speak of. Young players will have to play effective snaps if the Buffaloes want to improve on last year's defense.
For more on the University of Colorado, visit The Ralphie Report and Pacific Takes.
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