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Colorado State Football: An Early Preview of the Colorado Buffaloes

In an early summer preview of the upcoming college football season, here is a look at Colorado State’s season opener against in-state rival Colorado in the 86th edition of the Rocky Mountain Showdown.

Doug Pensinger

This is the first game of the season for two programs who are both in a rebuilding phase. Last year's meeting saw the Colorado Buffaloes defeat the Colorado State Rams 41-27 in a game that was much closer than the score shows. The game was a back and forth battle in which the Rams took a lead entering the fourth quarter. However, Colorado State couldn't hold on. Colorado took the lead early in the fourth and wouldn't let go, putting an exclamation point on their victory with 3:36 left on the clock when Seattle Seahawks second round pick Paul Richardson scored on a 75 yard touchdown pass, his second touchdown reception of the day of 75 yards or more.

The Series: CU 61-21-2

The Prize: The Centennial Cup and bragging rights for the year

The Location: Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium in Denver

Date, Time, TV: Friday, August 29th at 7 p.m. MT on Fox Sports 1

Colorado Buffaloes

Location: Boulder, Colorado

Stadium: Folsom Field

Mascot: The live mascot is Ralphie V, an American Bison. The other mascot is Chip the Buffalo.

Head Coach: Mike MacIntyre. 2014 will be MacIntyre's second season in Boulder, where he came from San Jose State after leading the Spartans to a 10-2 record in 2012, his third season at San Jose State. MacIntyre holds a 20-29 record in four seasons as a head coach. In his first year at Colorado, MacIntyre went 4-8 after taking over a program that won just one game the year before. MacIntyre rebuilt San Jose State's program, and now in his second season with the Buffaloes, he is looking to build upon the success of last year's team.

Conference/Division: PAC-12 South

2013 Record: 4-8 (1-8 in PAC-12). In 2013, the Buffaloes couldn't keep up with the speed of the Pac-12. In their second season after moving from the Big 12, they lost six conference games by 20 points or more. Their lone conference victory came at home against Cal, winning by 17 points against the worst team in the Pac-12. The Buffaloes beat Colorado State in the season opener, with their other two victories coming against FCS schools Central Arkansas and Charleston Southern.

5 Key Players:

1. Sefo Liufau, So. Quarterback: In last year's matchup between the two teams, Connor Wood was at quarterback for Colorado. After a slow start to the season, Coach MacIntyre pulled Liufau's redshirt and the true freshman started the final seven games of the season. In eight total games last season, Liufau threw for 1779 yards, 12 touchdowns with 8 interceptions, while completing 59.4 percent of his passes. Liufau posted strong outings in the last three games of the season, leading the Buffaloes to a win over Cal, kept the game close against Southern California, and lost by a touchdown in the season finale against Utah. Going into camp as QB1 for the Buffaloes, the former 3 star quarterback is looking to improve on his solid first year of college football.  

2. Addison Gillam, So. Inside Linebacker: Gillam was the leading tackler for Colorado last season. As a true freshman, Gillam recorded 71 solo tackles, 107 total tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks and an interception. The inside linebacker tackles anyone he can get his hands on, and for that reason he was named to Phil Steele's and USA Today's First Team Freshman All-American, and Phil Steele's Third Team All Pac-12. This summer, Phil Steele ranked Gillam to the Preseason All Pac-12 Second Team. Watch for Gillam to continue his dominance in 2014 while leading the Buffaloes defense.

3. Daniel Munyer, Sr. Guard: Munyer enters his senior season as a captain for the Buffaloes. With his 6'2", 300 pound frame, he has the size and experience to anchor the offensive line. Munyer started last season at guard for Colorado, but it is rumored the senior could move over to tackle to better protect the young quarterback. Munyer entered last fall recovering from a leg injury he suffered in spring ball. The injury slowed him down for the start of the season, however, he recovered and proved to be one of the better lineman in the Pac-12. This season, Munyer will be healthy entering fall camp, so he will be firing on all cylinders when it comes time for the season opener against the Rams.

4. Greg Henderson, Sr. Cornerback: Last season Henderson proved himself as the best defensive back for the Buffaloes. He recorded 46 solo tackles, 58 total tackles and 3 tackles for loss. Henderson also proved to be a problem for opposing quarterbacks as he recorded 10 pass deflections and 4 interceptions, one for a touchdown. Phil Steele has placed him on his Preseason All Pac-12 Fourth Team. Henderson is a playmaker with the ability to make game changing plays.

5. Bryce Bobo, Fr. Wide Receiver: Bobo is entering his first year of action for the Buffaloes this upcoming fall after red-shirting in 2013. Losing top wide out Paul Richardson from a year ago, Colorado was entering spring ball looking for a new number one guy. After the game, it was clear that they found him. Bobo led all Buffalo pass catchers with 132 yards on 5 receptions in Colorado's spring game in April. Bobo is no Richardson, and it's not fair to Bobo to make the comparison, but the freshman will be a key guy for Liufau this upcoming season.

Team Overview: The Colorado Buffaloes are a team looking to change the direction of their program. Once a powerhouse in the 90s, the Buffaloes are far from that now. With any new coach, it is important to recruit guys that fit your system. With the emergence of Coach MacIntyre's guys, things are on the rise for Colorado. The problem for Colorado is that his guys are still young, as he will receive his first full class of recruits this fall. With the lack of experience for many key contributors, the Buffaloes should struggle at times this fall.

Liufau has a good duo of pass catcher to choose from with Bobo and senior wide receiver Nelson Spruce, but after those two guys, it will be interesting to see who steps up. The offensive line has good experience, and that will be key for breaking in a young quarterback. The defensive side of the ball has a good mix of young guys and older guys, and in order to be successful, the younger guys will need to mature quickly. Other than experience, the team also lacks speed. With a schedule of teams that feature a high tempo offense and fast play-makers, it will be difficult for the Buffaloes to keep up.

Early Prediction: Rivalry games are hard to predict. In my experience watching this series over the past 15 seasons, most of the games have been very close. With both defenses matching up pretty evenly, it will come down to whose offense has more firepower. Each team is losing their top play-maker, Kapri Bibbs for the Rams and Richardson for the Buffaloes, so it will be important to see who each team leans on. In my opinion, this game comes down to quarterback play. In a match-up between sophomore Liufau and senior Garrett Grayson for Colorado State, I think that the experience of Grayson will power the Rams to a victory of the Buffaloes. Coming off of the best season passing in Colorado State history, Grayson will lead the Rams, continuing their momentum gained from last season's success.

Colorado State 35, Colorado 24.