Michael: Matchup with Crimson Tide offers unique chance to play without expectations

Justin Michael

The Rams are coming off their second blowout victory of the season, but Colorado State football is now slated with the daunting task of squaring off with the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala. 

Chandler Birrell jumps in air
Wide receiver Chandler Birrell jumps in the air as the team runs out of the tunnel prior to the game against ACU on Sept. 9, 2017. (Matt Begeman | Collegian)

An absolutely brutal road environment for some of the most competitive teams in the most consistently stout conference in football (SEC), the Crimson Tide are a team that can scare the daylight out of the nation’s finest programs.

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Heading into the matchup, CSU players and coaches are looking forward to the challenge of facing a Nick Saban-led squad, but understand the challenge that lies ahead. 

Having defeated 67 consecutive unranked opponents, Alabama is very much expected to run away with a game, especially against an opponent from the Mountain West.  Currently listed as 27-point underdogs, nobody actually expects the Rams to win this game.

That being said, Saturday’s game offers a unique opportunity for CSU football. The opportunity to leave it all on the field and not have any expectations heading into the game.

If the Rams lose to the Crimson Tide, then they were defeated by the nation’s best college football program. No harm, no foul. After all, some of the most successful coaches in football have been consistently bested by Saban and the Tide for the better part of the last decade.

If they compete in the game or by some miracle find a way to defeat the Crimson Tide though, then the game can be used as a building block for the rest of the season. When the Rams traveled to Tuscaloosa in September of 2013, nobody in the world gave them a chance to hang with Saban’s squad. When they entered the fourth quarter down only 11 points, the nation took notice.

Ultimately CSU lost the game 31-6, but simply competing with the Crimson Tide on their home turf was impressive. More than that, it was a chance for CSU football to prove that they have the talent to hang with any program and helped the team discover its identity for the rest of the season.

Saturday’s game offers a similar chance for the Rams to face one of the nation’s finest programs and prove that this team is for real. CSU has already been able to stand its ground against a pair of power five opponents, facing Oregon State and Colorado, but Alabama is a whole new ballgame.

With a defensive front-seven that looks like an NFL unit and an offense that returned nearly all of its playmakers from a year ago, the Crimson Tide will likely come out of the gate and prove that they are too much for Mike Bobo’s squad to handle. Saban’s squads are feared for good reason and this year’s team is particularly experienced. Realistically, educated football fans know what the Rams may be in for this weekend.

That being said, this team has displayed vast maturity and significant talent in the early stages of the season, so in no way do I expect the green and gold to simply lie down and take a beating. The 2017 CSU Rams have proved to be a mentally strong football team that can compete with anyone for four quarters. I do not expect Saturday to be any different. 

The game against the Crimson Tide is scheduled to kickoff at 5:00 p.m. MT and will be televised nationally on ESPN 2.

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Collegian sports director Justin Michael can be reached by email at jmichael@collegian.com or Twitter @JustinTMichael.