One card at a time, the perfect hand is falling into place for the CSU football team looking to run the table in the Mountain West.
The Rams turned what appeared to be a bust into bank last weekend with an iconic come-from-behind victory over Boston College on the road — the same field in Chestnut Hill where USC was stopped in its tracks.
Great first move.
Later that day, the Boise State freight train was derailed by an unexpected Air Force squad that decided it was time to snap a 10-game MW losing streak over the then-most powerful team in the conference — the same team that slammed CSU to its smurf turf three weeks ago.
Go ahead and add another.
On Wednesday, the ante was upped even more when news broke that Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton is likely to miss the rest of the season with a knee injury.
Jackpot. Put on your best poker face and go all in.
Following its win last Saturday, CSU was sitting pretty in terms of its chances within the Mountain Division of the conference. After the Broncos were manhandled and we found out Jay Ajayi isn’t a robot who can actually be tackled, even prettier. Now, with the key player of one of the few (probable) teams left that can deal the Rams a defeat watching from the sidelines?
CSU is looking as pretty as a cute blonde girl with a perfect smile.
All of this is, of course, if history doesn’t rear its ugly head and repeat itself. By that, I mean that if CSU doesn’t pull a CSU, those awfully big dreams of completing “The Climb” will actually become more than just some aspirant words to live by.
If Utah State is forced to operate without Keeton, CSU’s road game at Nevada next weekend is the only matchup left on the regular season schedule that’s up in the air. Sounds crazy, but the Rams could actually chalk up a 10 — or perhaps even an 11 — win campaign for their first time in over a decade.
But they can’t afford to overlook the little guys.
Ram fans are most likely to remember big wins over Wyoming or Washington State in the New Mexico Bowl from 2013. But it was the games that slipped away from CSU that kept us media members in the press box later than normal.
I remember the struggling secondary that allowed San Jose State to throw for 431 yards and walk out of Hughes with a win that was practically gift-wrapped with a “To: CSU” sticker placed on top with a bow.
Or the time CSU blew a 10-point lead over Tulsa entering the final quarter only to be sent home with a loss.
“That was really hard for me because I hate losing. I hate losing, period,” running back Jasen Oden told me on Tuesday when I brought to light the memory he probably would have rather not revisited.
He paused, took a deep breath and his mild smile turned into a straight face before he continued.
“I hate losing more than I like winning.”
Maybe things are different now as the Rams prepare for that same Tulsa opponent this weekend. Oden, who is now playing on the other side of the football, did go on to mention that the team plans on finishing without any more losses.
The conference standings only truly matter after that final weekend in late November. But right now, the Rams will be just fine if they execute half as well as they say they will.
But this year’s Air Force and last year’s Tulsa and San Jose State teams will remain a constant reminder not to overlook any opponent.
Collegian Sports Columnist Quentin Sickafoose can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @QSickafoose.