Zahlmann: The losing ways to rivals for CSU football ends this year

Luke Zahlmann

Four rivalries have existed for Colorado State football in the Mike Bobo era: Air Force, Boise State, Colorado and Wyoming. The Rams are just 2-10 in those games the past three seasons. This year, they will go 3-1.

A knock from many fans on the trio of 7-6 records accrued under the tutelage of Bobo has been his lack of success in the “big” games. Along with the 2-10 record in the Rams’ bigger games each year, they have also failed to win a single bowl game.

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boot sits on table
ROTC members protect the Bronze Boot at War Memorial Stadium in Wyoming in 2013.

While this season does not appear to change the curse in bowl games, the Rams are set up to win at least three of their four rivalry games, with the lone loss coming in the Rocky Mountain Showdown.

Despite the loss of offensive leader Phillip Lindsay, the Buffs will once again reign supreme in Denver as their recruiting within the Pac-12 will continue to excel over the squad from Fort Collins, dropping them to 0-4 under Bobo.

The other three games on the docket for the Rams that many consider their big games, will result in a perfect record this year.

As many pundits involved with the university as well as casual fans know, the Cowboys will be sending their best player to the 2018 NFL Draft, with a top-10 pick well within the realm of possibilities for gunslinger Josh Allen. That loss will result in a down year for the team across the border, despite the players they have returning. The Rams will take advantage of the letdown, securing their first Bronze Boot since their first year under Bobo.

A week before their Border War showdown at the home, the Rams will travel to Boise, Idaho, the home of the Broncos.

Dubbed the “Smurf Turf,” the Rams will finally extinguish their demons on the blue surface of Albertsons Stadium, winning their first matchup against the Mountain West-dominating Broncos in the Bobo era.

Having already faced SEC powerhouse Florida, as well as Arkansas and in-state rival Colorado, the Rams will be up to the task of defeating the Broncos and their veteran signal-caller, Brett Rypien.

In a year where the Rams struggled mightily to halt opposing offenses, they still managed to hold Rypien to 23-of-43 on passing attempts, a mark that paled in comparison to his career 63 percent clip. This year, they will utilize a game plan that will limit the big plays, along with their previous plan that had Rypien off-balance in the completion-percentage column to keep the Broncos offense at bay.   

The win will be considered an upset given the gravity the Broncos carry coming into the matchup, as well as returning the two thorns in the Rams’ side last year in Rypien and tail back Alexander Mattison, but the Rams will take lessons from last year’s loss, combined with an improved defense under new coordinator John Jancek and spoil the Broncos mid-October mood.

In their final game of the four-game rivalry schedule, as well as their regular season, the Rams will head down I-25 to Colorado Springs to take on the Air Force Falcons.

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A year after hosting the Falcons on campus, resulting in a late-game collapse after heading to halftime with the lead, the Rams will handle the Falcons’ triple-option threat with greater success, forcing the opposition to take their talents to the passing game.

The switch to a 4-3 defense under Jancek will play a pivotal role against the Falcons as an increased focus along the line will limit the effectiveness of the fullback dive that played such a pivotal role in last season’s matchup. The ineffectiveness of the dive will result in the option ranging outside, a task that veteran linebacker Josh Watson will be up to, as well as the Rams’ other defensive backfield mates.

The defense and offense will be performing near their ceiling as the year’s 12 games will have dwindled to one lone remaining game, resulting in the Rams capturing yet another highlight victory in a year that will most likely feature a trio of losses in a row to Power Five competition at the beginning of the year.

This season will carry with it a new sense of urgency given the underwhelming results of last season and three consecutive middling seasons for coach Bobo. The invigorated motivation for the Rams will carry them to multiple wins over their rivals in what will be another .500 year, but this time, with highlights to show for it.

Collegian sports reporter Luke Zahlmann can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @lukezahlmann.