The Mountain West has released the schedule for the upcoming fall football season and while the Rams missed out on hosting a couple of big games last year (most notably against rival Colorado), this year will be an equally fun test for Colorado State. Their schedule is highlighted by two non-conference games against some big time programs coming out of the Big Ten and SEC, meaning Steve Addazio and his squad will have a really good idea of what they’re working with heading into conference play. Without further ado, here’s a deeper dive into each of CSU’s match-ups in 2021:
Game 1: vs. South Dakota State (FCS), Sep. 4 (Sat)
Don’t let the fact that the South Dakota State Jackrabbits are an FCS team fool you, this is a solid program. At the same time, don’t get them confused with their rival North Dakota State Bison, who are an absolute powerhouse at the FCS level. This will be an interesting first test for the Rams who will hopefully be opening up their stadium to full capacity for the first time in almost two years.
Game 2: vs. Vanderbilt (SEC), Sep. 11 (Sat)
Hosting an SEC opponent is a big deal for the CSU football program. As an added bonus, actually winning the game shouldn’t be out of the question either. Despite Vanderbilt being part of the best football conference in the country, they really haven’t proven they belong in said conference. The Commodors went winless in their shortened 9 game schedule last year and only won 3 of their 12 games in 2019. Their program got a big jolt however when they hired Notre Dame Defensive Coordinator Clark Lea as its new head football coach this off-season. With a brand new coaching staff running a brand new system, this will be an exciting opportunity for the Rams to take advantage of a vulnerable Vanderbilt team coming to Fort Collins.
Game 3: @ Toledo (MAC), Sep. 18 (Sat)
Colorado State’s first road test will be a fun one, facing off against the Toledo Rockets (best mascot in the country?) out of the Mid-American Conference. These two teams actually met each other in 2019 in Fort Collins, with the Rockets besting the Rams 41-35 in a wire-to-wire thriller. Toledo has a veteran group of players coming back in 2021 due to the extra year of eligibility granted because of COVID. They were solid last year, going 4-2, and only losing those 2 games by a combined 6 points. This will be a tough test for CSU, not only because Toledo will be a challenge to play against, but because this will be the first time the Rams will have to play on the road, with fans rooting against them, in a very long time.
Game 4: @ Iowa (Big Ten), Sep. 25 (Sat)
I’d love to say it gets easier for the boys in Green and Gold, but it really, really doesn’t. Colorado State’s next game will be on the road in Iowa City against the Hawkeyes. I don’t know what else to say, other than if CSU figures out a way to win this game, it will immediately be one of the biggest wins in program history. Wishful thinking aside, this will more than likely be a learning experience for the Rams, who will have an extremely difficult time competing with one of the best football programs in the country.
Game 5: vs. San Jose State, Oct. 9 (Sat)
After their only bye week of the season, CSU begins their conference schedule at home against the reigning Mountain West champions. Wow, this program did a complete 180 didn’t it? After struggling for what’s seemed like a decade or more in the Mountain West, SJSU shocked everyone by winning the conference title last year. Was last year an anomaly, or the new normal for the Spartans? On the flip side, how hungry will the Rams be to prove they’re back to being one of the premier teams in the Mountain West? I’m thinking this game will be a lot closer than Spartan fans might think, as I have no doubt Steve Addazio will have his boys pumped up for this one. I’m predicting a Rams upset win.
Game 6: @ New Mexico, Oct. 16 (Sat)
This might be the first game on the schedule Colorado State can confidently say they should win. I don’t know if that’s a testament to how hard the opening schedule is for the Rams, or the lack of wins the Lobos have accumulated over the last few years. Either way, CSU should win this game. Then again, I expected the same result last year, only to be blindsided by a drubbing from New Mexico in Albequerque, losing 35-21. This will be a revenge game for the Rams and I can only hope we get a different result this year.
Game 7: @ Utah State, Oct. 23 (Sat)
Let’s try this one again, shall we? I’m referring to last years game getting cancelled due to Utah State players boycotting because of discriminatory words uttered by their president. In an already shortened season, Coach Addazio was pretty upset at not being able to play that game. Logan is a pretty tough place to play and I don’t expect that changing this year, but with a brand new coach and question marks all over the field for Utah State, I’m hoping the Rams can channel some of their bitterness from not playing last year into a solid road win.
Game 8: vs Boise State, Oct. 30 (Sat)
Here it is coach. This is the team you need to beat if you want to change the direction of the program. I know, I know, San Jose State won the MWC championship last year. I’m sorry Spartan fans, but Boise State is still the cream of the crop in the Mountain West until further notice. It’s not a secret that CSU has never beaten Boise St. Like ever. Like ever ever. That needs to change as soon as possible if Colorado State ever wants to be taken seriously as a football program. This is as good of year as any to do it. I have no doubt Andy Avalos will be a good head coach, but he has gigantic shoes to fill after Brian Harsin left Boise State for the head coaching gig at Auburn. CSU has played Boise State really competitively the last few years, and with the Broncos trying to implement a new head coach, playing in Fort Collins against the Rams won’t be a walk in the park for them. Don’t get me wrong, the Rams will most definitely be a heavy underdog, but I’m expecting a quality football game.
Game 9: @ Wyoming, Nov. 6 (Sat)
I love that CSU took care of business against Wyoming last year and took back the Bronze Boot, but this is a different year. I think Addazio realizes the importance of winning this game in a way that Mike Bobo never understood. Against the Cowboys, I don’t care about records going in, or quality of players/coaches. This rivalry game is about heart, and whoever wants it more is going to win. Playing in Laramie is tough, as you never know if the wind is going to take the passing game completely out of the plan. Luckily for the Rams, I think that’s exactly the type of environment Steve Addazio coached teams thrive in.
Game 10: vs Air Force, Nov. 13 (Sat)
Rivalry games back to back...November’s going to be fun! After what’s sure to be an emotionally draining game against Wyoming, immediately facing Air Force is sure to be a challenge. It’s always such a grind playing Air Force and their triple option offense. It’s a physical test unlike any other the Rams will face all year, other than maybe against the Iowa Hawkeyes. Once again, these are the types of games Bobo failed to win over and over again. CSU AD Joe Parker hired Coach Addazio specifically for this reason. Ram fans everywhere will be watching very closely how these two rivalry games pan out.
Game 11: @Hawaii, Nov. 20 (Sat)
After whats sure to be a few cold weather games in Wyoming and Colorado, heading to Hawaii will be a nice change of pace for the Rams. It seems like the Rainbow Warriors are always kind of a mystery. They’re not expected to be great this year, but if they get off to a hot start who knows. I’ll go out on a limb and say that CSU will revel in the warm weather and put on their best performance of the year to take care of Hawaii in convincing fashion.
Game 12: vs Nevada, Nov. 27 (Sat)
Fun fact: Nevada and Colorado State haven’t played each other since 2018. Since then, both programs have gone in opposite directions. CSU has been had to restart their program under a new coach, while Nevada have begun to hit their stride under head coach Jay Norvell. Nevada’s expected to be a good team once again this year and they’re sure to be a tough test for the Rams. They’ll get this last game at home so a win isn’t completely out of the question, but a win against the Wolfpack to finish the year would undoubtedly be an upset. Upsets galore!
Despite the tough schedule, I’m feeling optimistic about this Rams team. I’m confident Steve Addazio has them headed in the right direction and I’m hoping they can take that next step as a program sooner than expected. Because of my often hopeless optimism, I’ll predict a 7-5 record for CSU, finishing with an appearance in a ridiculously named bowl game. Let me know what you think of my prediction, and where you think the Rams will end up in the standings when all is said and done. Comment below!