When Colorado State travels to Alabama this weekend, they will be squaring off with a team from the Southeastern Conference (SEC) for the first time since 2013, when they also traveled to Tuscaloosa, Ala. for a contest with the Crimson Tide.
The first of five consecutive seasons where CSU will face at least one team from the SEC, Saturday’s game with No. 1 Alabama will be a chance for the Rams to represent themselves on a national stage against one of the nation’s most dominant football teams.
Winners of 67 consecutive games against unranked opponents, Saturday’s matchup with the Crimson Tide will be the toughest task the Rams will face this season. It will also be a chance for the team to get national exposure and see how they fare when the lights are brightest.
Along with being an opportunity to showcase the program for fans from coast to coast, playing Alabama is a gigantic recruiting opportunity for head coach Mike Bobo and the Rams.
Having recruited the region heavily over the last three seasons, playing games in SEC country allows the Rams to put a face on a university that may otherwise remain foreign to one of the nation’s hottest recruiting beds.
“It was something we used in recruiting when we recruited the guys from southern states. That we would play the University of Alabama, that we would play the University of Florida (2019),” Bobo said.
“Quite frankly you talk to these kids and say, ‘Hey you want a chance to play Florida? You’ve got a chance to play them in two years. You’ve got a chance to play Alabama.’ Because every kid, let’s be honest, they dream of going to the University of Alabama, Florida, Georgia or USC. So we use that to our advantage in recruiting.”
Along with stamping the CSU brand in the heart of SEC territory, Bobo knows that playing schools from power five conferences is a huge financial boost for the Mountain West program. Bobo explained that schools like Alabama that get an extra $50 million from TV revenue alone have a huge advantage over smaller programs. Consequently, it only makes sense for the Rams to play schools that maximize CSU’s revenue intake.
Beyond the financial incentive, playing Alabama and other Power Five schools is the only way CSU will ever become a nationally relevant football program year in and year out. They took a massive step into the national spotlight by building a new multi-purpose stadium, but winning ball games and competing against the best is the key to making CSU a national household name.
“The opportunity that our kids have to walk into Bryant-Denny stadium and play the No. 1 team in the country is something they will remember for the rest of their lives,” Bobo said. “Colorado State beating Arizona in 1994, that’s a memory that will go down in the history for all the Colorado State fans and everyone that played in that game, because they had that moment.”
The third-year coach realizes that beating the top-ranked team would certainly be a tall task, but getting the opportunity to compete against the best is what every Group of Five team strives for.
“I do not know if we will have that moment, but what if you did? There are a lot of people that have that moment,” Bobo said. “Every week a Group of Five team plays a Power Five team and wins.”
In 2017, CSU is 1-1 against teams from the Power Five. Alabama will host CSU on Saturday, Sept. 16. The game is scheduled to kickoff at 5 p.m. MT and will be televised nationally on ESPN 2.
COLORADO STATE FUTURE NON-CONFERENCE FOOTBALL DATES
Sept. 1—vs. Colorado (in Denver)
Sept. 8 vs. Arkansas
Sept. 15—at Florida
Aug. 31—vs. Colorado (in Denver)
Sept. 14—at Arkansas
Sept. 12—at Oregon State
Sept. 26—at Vanderbilt
Sept. 25—at Toledo
Sept. 6—Texas Tech
Sept. 27—at Vanderbilt
Sept. 12—at Texas Tech
Collegian sports director Justin Michael can be reached by email at email@example.com or Twitter @JustinTMichael.