Year four of the Mike McIntyre era at Colorado will start on Friday, about 40 miles from Boulder at the home of the Broncos, Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver. This may be the biggest game in McIntyre’s tenure at Colorado, a rivalry game against the pesky Colorado State Rams of the Mountain West Conference.
While most Colorado fans don’t want to acknowledge that this game is a rivalry game, players on both teams and the Colorado State fan base sure believe it is. There are multiple things the Buffaloes must show to walk away with a win in the 2016 season opener.
The biggest matchup to watch is going to be how the Colorado defensive line handles an experienced and talented CSU offensive line. In 2015, the Rams ran wild on the Buffaloes, racking up 218 yards on 48 carries. Reinstated nose tackle Josh Tupou is going to have to clog the middle, and force Colorado State to become one-dimensional. That will force CSU quarterback Nick Stevens to beat the Buffs with his arm, something he was unable to do last year when he threw two interceptions, including an interception returned for a touchdown by Kenneth Olugbode that gave CU the lead in the fourth quarter.
On the offensive side of the ball, getting Sefo Liufau comfortable early is the key. Colorado State lost their best pass rusher Joe Kawulok to graduation, so the Buffaloes should be able to get the passing game going. The Colorado offensive line will have to keep Liufau upright if they want to have sustained success through the air. Last year the Buffaloes only managed 128 yards on the ground, and they’ll look to build on that by rotating running backs early and often. Look for new co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini to push the pace, and try to test the depth of Colorado State by running the hurry up air raid offense he helped run at Texas Tech.
Colorado is the more talented team. They need to act like it. If the Buffaloes get up early, make the Rams play catch up, they’ll be in good shape and walk away with a victory. If they let Colorado State hang around, like in every rivalry game, it could come down to the final seconds. If that’s the case, Colorado could be traveling back down Highway 36 on Friday, licking their wounds with a loss. With that being said, Colorado wins, and wins by double digits. 31-17 Buffaloes.