Saturday, September 17, 2011

Rocky Mountain Showdown Features Battles Of Two Quarterbacks With High Expectations

Here in Denver, today is known as the Rocky Mountain Showdown.  It's the annual game between the University of Colorado Buffaloes and the Colorado State University Rams, and always a very hard-fought played game between in-state rivals.

While it's certainly a passionate game for the locals, it doesn't make much waves nationally.  Neither team has been successful in years, and both are struggling to satisfy their fan bases.  In Colorado, it's far more common to find local sports bars catering to fans of other teams, such as Michigan, Nebraska, and Texas, than it is to find a bar full of CSU or CU fans rooting for their teams.

Recent Troubles For Both Programs

The Rams have won two of the last five contests, but let's remember that the Buffs were under the coaching leadership of Dan Hawkins (19-39 in his five years) and were vastly underperforming.  The Rams have been under the coaching of Steve Fairchild since  2008, and have also been struggling (15-24).

It's plainly obvious that football in the state of Colorado has been pretty pitiful, but are better times ahead? One would hope so, but new Colorado head coach Jon Embree, has his work cut out for him.  The Buffaloes have moved to the Pac-12 this year, and have been touted as having the most difficult schedule in the BCS this year.  A win against CSU would pacify the CU alumni for a while while Embree tries to get the program back on its feet.

As for CSU, Steve Fairchild hasn't returned the program to the winning traditions that former legendary coach, Sonny Lubick, had established.  Fairchild's last two seasons have been both 3-9 (total of 2-14 in the Mountain West) and some say that he is already on the hot seat.  The 2011 season features matchups against TCU and Boise State, and the Rams are very unlikely to be contending for the Mountain West title again.  However, if Fairchild can manage to defeat main rivals CU, Air Force, and Wyoming, he should get another year.

Quarterback Play Key To Game

Today's game features a pair of quarterbacks who came to their respective schools with very high expectations:

CU's Tyler Hansen
Photo: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

  • CU's Tyler Hansen (senior) should have had a great deal more experience heading into this game.  One of the worst cases of nepotism that had been seen in some time resulted in Hansen getting spotty time on the field for his first three years at CU.  Former coach Hawkins' son, Cody Hawkins, started for the vast majority of his playing career despite Hansen's superior play and greater potential.  Hansen was a prized recruit out of California, but he never got a fair shot while Hawkins Sr. was in charge.  Now, in a new West coast offense, he's finally the full-time guy and, so far, is a bright spot for the Buffs.
CSU's Pete Thomas
Photo: Samantha Baker/Collegian
  • CSU's Pete Thomas (sophomore) was also highly regarded coming out of high school in California.  However, Thomas has not had to deal with a QB controversy, and has started every game since he's been there.  That has resulted in him becoming the youngest QB in CSU history to pass for a career 3,000 yards this year.  With former QB Fairchild as his coach, a lot is expected from Thomas. 
    • Side note: Thomas has an off-season QB coach: George Whitfield; the same coach who revamped Pittsburgh Steelers QB, Ben Roethlisberger, when he was on his suspension last year
These Rocky Mountain Showdown games are typically barn burners, with plenty of offense.  I expect nothing different this year.

My prediction:
CSU: 44 CU: 35

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