Alex Schultz

And The Winner Of The '13 Rocky Mountain Showdown Is...

Aug 19, 2013 3:54 PM EST

The Showdown For The Title Of “The Centennial State’s Second-Best College Football Team” is near.

Oh, ahem, I mean the Rocky Mountain Showdown is near.

Let’s face it, the annual rivalry game pitting Colorado and Colorado State in Denver hasn’t looked like a “showdown” in years; it’s looked more like a catfight between showgirls.

Indeed, it’s hard for a game to live up to its “showdown” status when the two teams in it are downright awful (CU and CSU had a combined 25-71 record during the last four seasons). And it’s even harder for two downright awful teams to draw any respectable amount of fans to watch them plod and slog and embarrass themselves for three hours (an average of 58,972 spectators have shown up to watch the last three games at the 76,125-seat Sports Authority Field at Mile High).

Two bad teams, more than 17,000 empty seats — not exactly “showdown” material. Nevertheless, the game must go on.

So Who Wins?

Let’s start with last year’s game, a contest that CU should’ve won. Even most CSU fans concede that.

But a lot of fans and media single out one play as a major turning point in the game.

It happened less than a minute before halftime. The Buffs led, 14-3, and had all the momentum. The Rams lined up to punt. Returner D.D. Goodson waited deep inside CU territory.

For some bizarre reason, Goodson attempted to field the punt. The sophomore muffed the ball and the Rams pounced on it. One play later, Garret Grayson connected with Dominiq Vinson for a 20-yard touchdown strike to chop CU’s lead to 14-9. CSU eventually won, 22-17.

“I felt a big shift when the punt was muffed and they scored,” Buffs wide receiver Gerald Thomas said after the game, which saw CU fumble the ball four times. “We were trying to keep each other up, but I guess with the fans and the scoreboard, I think it really affected us.”

Many CU fans directed their frustration at Goodson after the play and after the clock hit triple zeros in the fourth quarter, but their anger should’ve been heaped on a different source: the CU coaching staff. Goodson should’ve been told to stay away from the ball, and the Buffs offense should’ve taken a knee and headed to the locker room up 11 points.

A year later, Goodson is better and smarter, and so is the new CU coaching staff, headed by former San Jose State coach Mike MacIntyre. Former Buffs coach Jon Embree was fired after last season’s program-worst 1-11 debacle. MacIntyre didn’t retain any of Embree’s staff.

MacIntyre brings his no-huddle, pass-happy pistol offense to Boulder, and he appears to have some good weapons to make the system work.

Wide receiver Paul Richardson, by far the Buffs’ biggest playmaker, returns after missing all of last season with a knee injury. Goodson, a converted running back, shined during spring drills from the slot-receiver position. CU’s top pass-catchers from 2012, Nelson Spruce and Tyler McCulloch, are back.

Texas transfer Connor Wood appears to have matured and progressed and likely will be CU’s starting quarterback.

The bigger question mark is hovering over CU’s defense, which was exposed terribly in 2012. The Rams should be able to score points against the Buffs, but I think CU will be much improved on offense and score just a few more than its in-state rival.

For these reasons, I believe the Buffs will win the 85th Rocky Mountain Showdown on Sept. 1. A 28-24 score sounds about right.

All the while, another team from Colorado Springs will be watching.