Zahlmann: The Rams’ football program doesn’t suck, our expectations do

Luke Zahlmann

Life is built on expectations. The lows in life are created by expecting too much, the highs are created when the original prediction is eclipsed.

Coming into the 2018 Colorado State football season, we had expectations.

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I expected an 8-4 season, a record that would outpace any of Coach Mike Bobo’s previous seasons at the helm.

I assumed that Bobo would be the same coach of old, with a rejuvenated defense under new defensive coordinator John Jancek. The offense would continue their high-flying ways with an aerial attack to be reckoned with, senior running back Izzy Matthews doing the dirty work on the ground.

In the Mountain West preseason poll, the Rams were expected to finish in the middle of the Mountain Division. Just behind the University of Wyoming, right above Utah State University.

The preconceived notion of the season ahead overestimated many things while neglecting to consider the problems that could arise throughout the year.

On August 13th, Bobo was admitted to a hospital for medical evaluation. Just under two weeks before the year would begin against the University of Hawaii, the Rams lost their leader. Even with his return, the team was different.

Assistant Head Coach Ronnie Letson was given the play-calling duties in Bobo’s stead. Expectations coming into the year were of a healthy coach, calling the plays as he has in the past, igniting an offense that was coming off their best year under him.

Instead, led by redshirt senior K.J. Carta-Samuels, the Rams sputtered to mediocrity on offense. With 152 total points through six games, an average of 25.3 per game, the offense fell back.

Redshirt junior Preston Williams and senior Olabisi Johnson were going to not only replace Michael Gallup but improve upon the Biletnikoff Award Finalist. The former has 578 yards and six touchdowns, the latter has tallied 452 yards and four touchdowns himself.

The predictions of the wide receiver core taking a step forward may have been underrating their prowess. They have performed at a level that has been rarely seen by a receiving duo at CSU.

They are thought of in a different light, an appreciative light. The expectations were moderate, with the results surpassing them, a welcome sight.

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The power of positive outlooks has driven several Rams’ fans and alumni to call for the job of Bobo. Director of Athletics Joe Parker has had his intelligence questioned as well, with the contract of Bobo and its $8 million buyout looming large.

When the contract was signed, the Rams were coming off multiple successful seasons under Bobo, bowl appearances serving as proof. The comeuppance was muted, with those around the program seeing Bobo as the adequate replacement for Jim McElwain who left the program for the University of Florida.

No Twitter rants from those outside the program, no boos raining down from the crowd.

Now 2-4 in his fourth season leading the team, the prior stated lack of apprehension in the direction of the program has lapsed.

The pitchforks are out, the jobs of several being called to end. Fans and former Rams, without any knowledge of the program’s inner workings, are playing the role of supervisor. Their opinions are fluctuating with each week, run purely from emotion and the week’s results.

Saddled in the middle of the conference after a pair of matchups against their Mountain West foes, preseason polls appear to have seen the program in the right light.

With a remaining schedule of Wyoming, Boise State University and the top-team in the Mountain Division, Utah State, the Rams are expected to falter. A bowl game has been dismissed by myself and several fans, with few holding their confidence.

This iteration of the Rams’ football program is not frowned upon because they are drastically underperforming. With their quarterback, leading receiver and large parts of their offensive line graduating, plus a coaching staff in flux, they were supposed to be mediocre. It was going to be a rebuilding year with lowly results, yet we saw them as more.

The players spouted confidence, the coaches echoed the same. The fans took their words to heart, allowing each postgame monologue with a reporter to heighten their expectations.

Now they are mediocre. Their preseason words reign hollow, the stands of die-hard fans are following suit. The underdog role coming into the year has lent itself to the new role of conference laughing stock.

Do not be mad at the program though, the coaches and players either. Parker is not the scapegoat. My expectations, your expectations, even expert predictions were all wrong. Being wrong hurts.

Next year, being realistic and lowering expectations will cure the ailment.

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