Zahlmann: The lights will never be brighter than Friday night for Bobo

Luke Zahlmann

With another loss by a lopsided margin, the tenure of Coach Mike Bobo will be largely impacted by Colorado State’s upcoming iteration of the Border War Oct. 26.

A buyout of $8 million, if he is relieved of his duties before January 2019, ensures that Bobo will not be fired directly after the team’s rivalry game, regardless of impact. Another loss though ensures that Bobo will not be given another contract by the University.

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Throughout his tenure, Bobo has yet to beat Boise State University and the University of Colorado. A 1-2 record against both the University of Wyoming and Air Force Academy brings the coach’s record against rivals to 2-12, pending the result of the latest Cowboys’ and Falcons’ matchups.

In total, the former University of Georgia offensive coordinator is 24-23.

As the highest paid coach in the conference, with middling success throughout his tenure, Bobo has yet to see growth.

Last year’s team, the best of the four rosters that Bobo has coached, went 7-6. A senior-laden squad, the team failed to eclipse their previous highs of seven wins, once again losing their bowl game.

The season as a whole was a summation of Bobo’s career in Fort Collins.

After beginning the year 6-2, the Rams went on to lose their next three games, all to conference rivals. To begin the drought, the team was run off the field by the Falcons, losing the late-October matchup in which they were favored at home coming in.

In the second leg of the streak, the Cowboys went on to defeat the Rams in a snow-ridden contest across the border, a game in which the visitors should have won. Not only did the Rams hold the Cowboys under 300 yards, but they also succeeded in stopping NFL Draft darling Josh Allen, holding the signal caller to 138 yards through the air.

CSU and UW line up during the second half of the 109th annual Border War in Laramie. Both teams endured wind, rain, sleet and snow throughout the game with Wyoming coming out on top for a 16-13 win over Colorado. (Davis Bonner | Collegian)

In the concluding match of the trio, the Rams suffered one of the more embarrassing loses in recent history.

Leading 21-3 after the opening quarter, the Broncos were destined to be upset. Bobo’s specialty, the offensive side of the ball, was flawless. On their opening three drives, the team drove down the field, scoring a touchdown on each instance.

The early start proved anomalous as the Rams went on to allow 56 points in the remaining three quarters, including the game-clinching touchdown in overtime. 

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The loss, paired with an already dismayed resume forced Bobo to fire Defensive Coordinator Marty English. Replacing him was John Jancek, a former coach alongside Bobo at Georgia. That hire proved to be wayward as well.

The stretch that eliminated the Rams’ momentum last year stretched into this season, paired with graduations of key players like Nick Stevens and Michael Gallup. The sum has been a defense that allows 37.75 points per game and an offense that has failed to get out of their own way.

A perceived specialty of Bobo, the offense has scored 25 points per game, inflating their total through multiple scores with the game out of reach. The tallies included their most recent bout with the Broncos in which they scored 21 points after the game was already a rout. 

Now, with the Rams set to host the Cowboys in a must-win situation given their bowl aspirations, Bobo’s seat is the hottest it has been.

With a loss, Bobo would not be fired, nor is their certainty he would be gone once his buyout falls to $5.5 million in 2019. The real consequence of a fruitless hosting of the Cowboys once again is anything after the contract expires or is bought out.

At this stage, the future of Bobo’s coaching career is weary. Not only for the Rams but as a whole.

Bobo was handed a team full of recruits from former Coach Jim McElwain’s era and proceeded to get worse. The recruiting classes have gotten worse as well, signaling the program is in no position to turn it around soon.

According to a report from the Coloradoan, the Rams have a mere three verbal commits for their 2019 class. Not only is that towards the bottom of the conference, but signals a shift in how the program is viewed.

This season, the Rams have been embarrassed multiple times on national television including their lopsided loss to the University of Florida on the SEC Network, as well as their most recent blowout at the hands of the Broncos on ESPN2. 

The recruiting base that viewed those games is unlikely to shift their view of the program. 

Outside of a resounding victory on CBS Sports Network against the Cowboys, the program is unlikely to counter their previous appearances on air.

Driving a program on the upswing, with double-digit victories under McElwain, into the ground and losing multiple games by double digits is not a resume builder. Multiple loses the rest of the year is likely to end Bobo’s career prospects at the helm of a Group-of-Five or Power-Five program of relevance. 

The Cowboys game is the biggest of Bobo’s career in northern Colorado. 

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