DENVER - SEPTEMBER 04: Quarterback Pete Thomas #4 of the Colorado State Rams bobbles the ball and recovered his own fumble against the Colorado Buffaloes during the the Rocky Mountain Showdown at INVESCO Field at Mile High on September 4 2010 in Denver Colorado. Colorado was awarded the Centenial Trophy after they defeated Colorado State 24-3. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
In 2002, the Colorado St. Rams had just wrapped up its third conference title in four years. They were the most successful and consistent program the conference had produced in its young history. Utah, though, was a struggling program. The Utes had finished that 2002 season with a losing record and had fired head coach Ron McBride.
It's hard to imagine back in that December so much could change so quickly for these two programs. Since that season, the Rams are 36-56 and the Utes 75-20. Colorado State's struggles almost perfectly link up to Utah's recent success. In fact, that 2003 season was really the turning point for both programs. The Utes went 10-2 and the Rams were 7-6. Not an awful record - but the six losses were the most Sonny Lubick had seen since his first year in Fort Collins.
It never got better and after 15 years, Lubick retired, leaving the struggling program in Steve Fairchild's hands.
Initially, it looked like Fairchild was the right hire. Colorado State had its best season since winning the conference in 2002 and won its first bowl game in seven years. The thought was that he brought a new type of energy to a program that was obviously lacking it. This seemed even more evident after the Rams started last season 3-0. That success, though, was hard to sustain and Colorado State ended 2009 losing nine straight.
2010 has been a bit better. They're already one win away from matching last year's abysmal record. They have also shown some progress the last few weeks. Even then, though, this is a program that is very far from the level we saw during the Lubick glory days.
Because of that, it's hard to imagine any scenario where the Utes lose Saturday. Colorado State is still not a very good team. Last week's dominant win over UNLV aside, they have struggled. More importantly, they have struggled on the road. There they are 0-3 and have been outscored a combined 131-43. That doesn't bode well against a team that has slaughtered its last five opponents.
Of course, not every game plays out as the statistics dictate. Weather very well could play a factor in Saturday's game. As of this post, there is a 60% chance of rain and that will certainly change the dynamics of the contest. It won't be enough for the Rams to win, but I believe it could be enough to keep the score rather respectable.
If that's the case, this might be another sloppy performance for the Utes. Not exactly the perfect situation heading into the toughest stretch of the schedule. We probably all want Utah to be hitting on all cylinders prior to their big game against the Air Force Falcons in Colorado Springs. If the rain is bad, and all indications point to a pretty good downpour, Utah could have issues covering the spread this week - which would be the first time all season they failed to do so in a game.
Then again, weather conditions can be overplayed. I remember in 2004 watching soaked as the Utes rolled UNLV 63-28. It's also been suggested the defense is negatively impacted more than the offense by rain and snow. If that's the case, Utah could still roll up a lot of points and impress those voters.
If not, well a win will suffice.
Utah wins if...They show up, don't turn the ball over and play an effective enough game. No excuses - this is a game they should win easily.
Colorado State wins if.,.Fairchild somehow manages to suit up the early '00 Rams.
What will happen...I think Jordan Wynn is going to come out fired up after last week's so-so performance. I'm counting on him not throwing an interception and we see one of the best offensive performances from the Utes this season. Defensively, they'll be the same as the Utes romp to a 58-10 win - rain be damned!
What are your predictions?