Colorado State (0-1) vs. No. 18 Colorado (2-0)
When/where: 8 p.m. Saturday/Folsom Field
TV/Radio: ESPN/850 AM
BetMGM Line: CU -23.5, 59.5 over/under
Weather: Mostly clear, with a low around 48
Prime Hype: With College GameDay in Boulder for the first time since 1996, and Big Noon Kickoff back for a second straight Saturday, the Buffs’ hype is at an all-time high. Deion Sanders is everywhere — on your social media feed, the subject of talk shows and starring in his own Aflac commercial alongside Nick Saban. It’s no hyperbole that CU is the biggest story in college football right now. The most-watched team in the nation will take over the late night audience Saturday. Will CSU be ready to perform under the bright lights, especially after coach Jay Norvell ignited trash talk between the programs by calling out Sanders for wearing sunglasses during interviews?
QB Disparity: While Shedeur Sanders has been the centerpiece of CU’s first couple wins over TCU and Nebraska, breaking school records and putting up Heisman Trophy tape along the way, the Rams are making a QB change one game into the season. Incumbent starter Clay Millen, who was sidelined late in CSU’s 50-24 loss to Washington State in Week 1, is out, and redshirt freshman Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi is in. Fowler-Nicolosi made one start last year, going 11-for-22 for 78 yards and two picks in the Rams’ win over Nevada. Meanwhile, CSU safeties Jack Howell and Henry Blackburn are tasked with keeping the lid on Sanders’ aerial attack.
Hunter & Co.: Travis Hunter has been CU’s two-way star, an as-advertised sensation who just a couple games into his Buffs career has already carved out a special place in Buffs fans’ hearts. Norvell and Co. will need an entirely separate gameplan just to contain No. 12, although it’s pretty simple for CSU’s offense: don’t throw his way. But Hunter is far from Sanders’ only weapon, as CU’s explosion against TCU emphasized. Xavier Weaver (16 catches for 288 yards), Jimmy Horn Jr. (19-181) and running back Dylan Edwards (8-143) are all dangerous in space, and will make it difficult for CSU’s defense to pay extra attention to Hunter.
Leaky O-Lines: While the Rams’ front was the worst in the nation last year, they looked improved against Wazzu, yielding only one sack. Meanwhile, CU’s front has been leaky, giving up 12 sacks for 97 yards so far. Some of those sacks have been a result of Sanders scrambling, but that is an area of concern for CU. Neither CU nor CSU’s run game has been impressive, either. Plus, the Buffs are dealing with an injury at center, as starting center Van Wells left last week’s game and was replaced by freshman Hank Zilinskas (Cherry Creek), the latter of whom may start on Saturday.
Rivalry History: CU owns a 67-22-2 advantage in the series, including 33-9-1 in Boulder. The Buffs have won five straight, including 52-31 in the last game on Aug. 30, 2019, at Empower Field, and are 8-2 in the last 10 matchups.
Kyle Newman, sportswriter: CU 49, CSU 10
Shedeur Sanders goes off for more than 400 yards passing, and the Rams offense isn’t able to protect the quarterback or run the ball. Another Rocky Mountain Beatdown.
Sean Keeler, sports columnist: CU 59, CSU 16
Before Jay Norvell lost his dang mind, he said something very, very astute about this matchup. Namely, that his Rams would need to score about 34 points to be in this Rocky Mountain Showdown. He’s right. And they won’t.
Matt Schubert, sports editor: CU 45, CSU 17
One team has a potential Heisman Trophy candidate taking snaps. The other is already calling on the backup. The Buffs can name their score in this one.
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