Colorado State (0-2) has a big opportunity on Saturday.
After starting the year with a pair of losses to ranked opponents, the Rams are obviously not where they want to be.
Fortunately for Ram Nation, seasons aren’t defined in September. And while it would have been nice to add a power five win to the resume, especially over an in-state rival, CSU can’t fixate on what would have, could have and arguably should have been.
The Rams lost an important battle. There’s no doubt about it. But there’s still plenty on the line for CSU in 2023.
This squad is legitimately good enough to compete for a Mountain West Championship. At the very least, this is a team that should be in the postseason for the first time in six years.
Beginning with the Week 4 trip to Middle Tennessee State, the mindset has to be on some of the larger goals at hand.
With that in mind, here’s a few thoughts going into a pivotal Week 4 trip for the Green & Gold.
CSU went into Boulder and embraced everything the hostile environment had to offer. That’s a mindset the Rams must continue to have as we progress through the 2023 campaign.
CSU has a lot of winnable road games on the slate this fall, including Saturday’s trip to MTSU. And their home slate is arguably filled with the toughest remaining challenges — outside of the trip to Wyoming at least.
If they are going to be in the mix in the MW, the Rams must be road warriors in 2023 and play well when they’re away from Canvas Stadium.
Despite a disappointing finish in the end, Week 3 was a solid start. The key now is coming away with actual victories and just moral ones.
Normally I’d be more concerned about the possibility of coming out flat this weekend.
MTSU is a very respectable program but it’s not exactly a matchup that gets the juices flowing, particularly after playing in an insane environment on National TV last week.
Considering the Blue Raiders came into Fort Collins in 2022 and embarrassed the Rams in their own building though, one would think that CSU will have a little added motivation for this one.
The atmosphere won’t be anything like what the Rams experienced at Folsom Field. That was a raw energy that only comes out in a setting where there’s true hate on both sides. Not to mention after playing in front of more than 50,000 people, a crowd of roughly 15,000 is going to feel like a game in Albuquerque or San Jose.
As weird as it is to say this — and I recognize the roster is much different — it feels like a good thing for this group that they can look back on last year’s beatdown. It gives the guys incentive to go into the game with a chip on their shoulders. Based on what we saw in Boulder, that’s a good thing for this team.
MTSU had a pick-six on the first play from scrimmage in 2022. It was a disastrous start that compounded into a 27-0 halftime deficit.
CSU made the score respectable with three touchdowns from Tory Horton in the second half but the game pretty much felt over by the end of the first quarter.
If the Rams are going to go on the road and beat a well-coached team with an aggressive defensive line, getting off to a faster start really feels crucial this time around. MTSU loves to bring pressure and get after the quarterback. If you go down big again, you’re playing right into their strength as a team.
Clean It Up
While we can complain that some of the calls were ticky tacky and that there was a massive disparity in total flags last weekend, at the end of the day, the Rams have to reduce the amount of penalties they take.
CSU had multiple big plays negated by penalties against the Buffs and it proved to be a major factor in the final outcome. You don’t want that to become a consistent trend as we get closer to conference play.
This can be a turning point for CSU as a program.
If the Rams can get to .500 before going into the league slate, it really feels like this can be the beginning of something fun. CSU clearly has talent. And I believe in what this coaching staff is building.
This is a great test to see where the Rams are really at as a program.