Fresh off one of the more surprising turnaroundsof 2016, Colorado kicks off a new season Friday in its annual RockyMountain Showdown contest against Colorado State in Denver. The Rams, meanwhile,don’t look to be the 44-7 pushover they were a year ago in this matchup, havingopened their season with a 58-27 thumping of the Pac-12’s Oregon State in Fort Collins on Saturday.
The Buffaloes jumped from 4-9 in 2015 to 10-4 aseason ago, going 8-1 in conference play en route to the Pac-12 SouthDivision title. The season, dubbed by the program as “The Rise,” didn’t exactlyhave a storybook ending, though, as Colorado was crushed by Washington 41-10in the conference championship game and routed by Oklahoma State 38-8 in theAlamo Bowl. Entering 2017, the Buffaloes are predicted to finish fourth inSouth by conference media members, and coach Mike MacIntyre - winner of several2016 national coach-of-the-year honors - says it’s on his team to quiet the “one-season wonder” chatter. “We have a lot to prove,” MacIntyre said last monthduring his Pac-12 Media Days news conference. “We’re still a team that peopledon’t believe in, and we’d like for people to believe in us. The only way youdo that is put back-to-back (strong seasons) together, and that’s what we planon doing.”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network. LINE: Colorado-5.5
ABOUT COLORADO (2016: 10-4): Sophomore quarterback Steven Montez has the difficult task of replacing the school’s all-time passing yards leader, Sefo Liufau, after throwing for 1,017 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions in 10 games (three starts) last season. He’ll have plenty ofhelp with the Buffaloes returning their top four wide receivers, four starting offensive linemen and second-team All-Pac 12 tailback Phillip Lindsay,but there are questions on defense as Colorado must replace eight starters,including a trio of NFL draft picks in the secondary.
ABOUT COLORADO STATE (1-0): The Rams opened theirnew and sold-out on-campus stadium in style Saturday, outscoring the visitingBeavers 34-7 in the second half. Quarterback Nick Stevens threw for 334 yardsand three touchdowns, the ground game produced 191 yards and three TDs and thedefense forced five turnovers, which directly led to 27 of the Rams’ 57 points.Wide receiver Michael Gallup got a good start after his preseason All-MountainWest Conference First Team recognition, hauling in 11 passes for 134 yards topost his sixth straight 100-yard receiving performance dating to last season.
1. Colorado leads the series 64-22-2 and has wontwo straight meetings and seven of the last 10.
2. The Buffaloes’ top four returning receivers –seniors Shay Fields, Bryce Bobo and Devin Ross and junior Jay MacIntyre –combined for 189 receptions, 2,523 yards and 17 TDs a year ago.
3. Colorado State has topped 500 total yards and40 points in each of its last five games dating to last season.
PREDICTION: Colorado 34, Colorado State 32