NOTE: Steve Addazio was announced as the next Colorado State head coach shortly after this article was published.
The Curious Case of the Fort Collins Flatliners
Colorado State Football is, quite honestly, an enigma. The Rams possess seemingly every possible advantage that a team could ask for in the Mountain West. Those advantages include both monetary (CSU is a top-three revenue generator in the conference, and has a beautiful new stadium) and non-monetary boosts (Colorado is second only to California for in-state talent produced among Mountain West Conference states, and CSU recruits Texas more easily than other conference foes) that programs such as Wyoming and Hawaii can’t replicate.
Yet, despite all this, the Rams are chronic underperformers. Aside from a very brief pinnacle in Jim McElwain’s last year in Fort Collins, the Rams have stood as the gold standard of mediocrity in the conference since firing Sonny Lubick at the end of the 2007 season. Since cutting ties Lubick, the Rams have gone 66-85 (.437) and appeared in just six bowl games (losing four of them).
2019 was no exception to this trend, as the Rams finished a woeful 4-8 (including 3-5 in the MW) and never made any noise in the conference. Mike Bobo was finally let go, and whomever the CSU athletic department picks to replace him will likely try to build excitement by harping on those same advantages I listed above. Theoretically, Colorado State is a great job. In reality, we haven’t seen that potential amount to much.
We shouldn’t let this analysis get too negative. It is, after all, the holiday season and I am in such a cheerful spirit that I am not even going to mention that Colorado State hasn’t beaten any of its rivals since 2015. Seriously though, given the inherent limitations of Wyoming and Air Force in recruiting and fanbase size, this decade-long slump by the Rams must seem especially frustrating.
Here at Mountain West Connection, we are ready to place our full faith and confidence in the new ball coach at CSU, whoever that may be. We would, however, like to suggest that the CSU AD and football team wisely heed the advice of the Non-Conference Schedule Czar.
A New Approach to Not Losing
The advice is simple, Colorado State needs WINS. The Rams have won the Mountain Division exactly zero times since the conference split into divisions before the 2013 season. They share that indignity with New Mexico; while Boise State, Utah State, Wyoming, and Air Force have all won what has been the far more competitive division. In fact, since 2013 the Rams have only finished second in the division once, and under Mike Bobo backslid to near cellar-dweller status (thankfully for Rams fans, New Mexico still exists).
In order to gather up some of these WINS, the Schedule Czar is going to have to go full Marie Kondo on CSU’s future schedules. While I cannot technically remove games that have already been agreed to, I would strongly recommend begging and pleading Texas and Michigan to find new bodybag games in future years.
Colorado State has followed a fairly steady approach to non-con scheduling over the past few years: alternate sites with Colorado, rough up a FCS program, try to find a Home/Home arrangement with a lower-level P5 team, and find a G5 team that wants to either visit Fort Collins or schedule another H/H arrangement. Looking ahead, CSU is sporadically scheduling those games against Colorado, and we can assume they will fill in 2025 with at least an FCS game. I am also very proud of the Rams for finding P5 teams that will be tough, but beatable (Texas Tech and Arizona).
2025 is no time for heroic efforts, though. Given the recent history of Rams football, we will likely be watching either the first or second season of whoever replaces the guy that replaces Bobo. Let’s cut him some slack and get him started off on the right foot.
2025 (The Year of Four Non-Con Wins)
Already penciled in are Texas Tech (in Fort Collins) and Vanderbilt (in Nashville). This is workable. While the Red Raiders are hard to forecast even ten minutes ahead of time, we can reasonably assume they’ll come into Fort Collins trying to win a shootout under new coach Kliff Kingsbury (fresh off a rehab OC stint at Oklahoma after a rough tenure in the NFL). Vanderbilt will likely be frisky at home, but that game is as winnable as an SEC roadie gets (ignoring, of course, 2019 Arkansas).
Let’s just go ahead and grab an FCS opponent here. Since the Rams will have played both Northern Colorado and Dixie State in recent years, we are looking for someone else that fits the “close, but not good” category. Weber State is definitely out as they can’t stop making the FCS playoffs, so we are going to let Colorado State pick between Idaho State and Southern Utah. Let’s assume they go with Idaho State.
With the final spot for 2025, we are going to avoid Colorado. Sorry in advance to all those offended, but Colorado State should absolutely steer clear of this game until it has built up the program a little more. The Buffs have won eight of the last ten, and the margins in those wins have been, um...comfortable more often than not.
Let’s go ahead and schedule a WIN while keeping our prospects open for future years. We don’t want to commit to a home and home with anyone here, especially if we are forced to play a road game against a lousy G5 opponent that could hurt CSU’s resume once we’ve got them up and running as a New Year’s Six candidate. It’s not flashy, but a win against New Mexico State will get the Rams one step closer to a bowl game in ENTER NEW COACH NAME HERE’s first (or second, depending on how this Bobo replacement fares) season.
Rams Flock Together
Colorado State faithful should be optimistic, though. As perhaps one of only two or three MWC schools that got real consideration from the Big XII Conference during the non-expansion expansion talks a few years back, the Rams are just one good hire away from righting the ship.
Try to keep a stiff upper lip, Rams fans. Surely one of these years the pieces will come together and CSU will take its rightful place as an exitential threat to Boise State. Until then, keep an eye out for potential wins and returning to the glory that is the New Mexico Bowl.