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Colorado Buffaloes vs. Colorado State Rams Preview and Prediction


The Rocky Mountain Showdown dates back to 1893, though the Colorado-Colorado State series' future is only guaranteed to 2020.

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That's when the rivalry's contract expires, leaving precious few opportunities for either the Buffaloes or Rams to garner in-state bragging rights each year.

Letting this 122-year-old rivalry end would be a real shame. Not many football games feature a pair of live, horned and hoofed animals on the sideline: Colorado State's Cam the Ram and Colorado's Buffalo, Ralphie.

More importantly, of course, is what the rivalry means to the state.

“It's great you've got an in-state rivalry. I'd like to continue playing them,” first-year Colorado State head coach Mike Bobo said. “I know everywhere I go, everybody wants to ask about that game. That's the No. 1 sign it's a rival game.”

As offensive coordinator at Georgia, Bobo was part of a rivalry that, like the Rocky Mountain Showdown, is played at a neutral field. Jacksonville, Florida, is home to the annual Georgia-Florida matchup, while Colorado and Colorado State meet in Denver.

The neutral field typically makes for a unique atmosphere with a 50-50 split of Ram fans and Buff fans.

Colorado State vs. Colorado (in Denver)

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV: CBS Sports Network
Spread: Colorado -3

Three Things to Watch

1. Two of College Football's Best Wide Receivers

The Rocky Mountain Showdown features two of the nation's premier wide receivers.

Colorado State's Rashard Higgins led the nation in receiving yards and touchdowns in 2014. He missed the Rams' Week 2 overtime loss to a rugged Minnesota team. His presence almost certainly would have made a difference. Bobo is hopeful Higgins will be in the lineup Saturday, per Coloradoan's Kelly Lyell.

On the opposite side, the Buffs have Nelson Spruce. Spruce went off for seven receptions, 104 yards and two touchdowns in last year's matchup with the Rams.

“I think Rashard Higgins is an excellent player,” Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “He has speed, athleticism, height, catches all the balls. He's an excellent, excellent player and deserves all the accolades he's getting.

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“And Nelson Spruce is an excellent player who deserves all the accolades he's being getting,” he added. “It'll be fun to watch both of them.”

2. Run Ralphie Run

Colorado's passing attack behind third-year quarterback Sefo Liufau powered the Buff offense throughout MacIntyre's tenure. However, in a much-needed bounce-back win over Massachusetts last week, it was all about the run game.

Colorado rushed for a remarkable 390 yards, with Michael Adkins and Christian Powell both eclipsing the century mark, and four Buffs total rushing for touchdowns.

“People are going to try to pile up against and when they do that, I think we can throw the football well, too,” MacIntyre said.

3. Turnover Battle

MacIntyre said Colorado's win last week was only the 17th game in Buff history without a turnover or sack allowed. Colorado's ball control against UMass was in stark contrast to the 28-20 loss Week 1 at Hawaii. 

“Every time we got momentum going offensively, we shot ourselves in the foot,” MacIntyre said. “We just were able to keep our rhythm going. And when we do that, we're bigger, we're stronger, our backs are more powerful, we stay on blocks longer.”

Colorado State's been on the opposite end of that equation. The Rams' nine turnovers through two games are the most in college football. The question Saturday is can Colorado take advantage?

The Buffs have three interceptions on the season, which matches their total for the entire 2014 campaign.

Final Analysis

More than bragging rights are on the line for Colorado. After suffering a Week 1 defeat at Hawaii, the Buffs need to win out in the remaining non-conference slate to go into Pac-12 play with a shot at a bowl game. 

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Even at 3-1, winning four in the stacked Pac-12 South could prove challenging. Every opportunity is important, and Colorado will have one in which it's favored.

The Buffs seemingly turned a corner in Week 2, while the Rams come in physically banged up from a down-and-dirty contest with Minnesota.

This 87th installment of the Rocky Mountain Showdown should be a classic, however. Look for a Colorado squad that suffered repeated, single-digit heartbreaks in 2014 to finally come out on the right side of one of those close calls.

Prediction: Colorado 31, Colorado State 28

— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Kensing is publisher of Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.