As the college football season draws nearer, anticipation mounts around the country. Luckily for CSU, it doesn’t have to wait any longer.
Newcomers to the CSU football program have already reported and endured orientation, while the entire team wrapped up media day Wednesday and prepares for the beginning of workouts Thursday morning. With their first game just three weeks away, the Rams are one of the few teams allowed to begin practices this early. Many schools around the nation won’t begin workouts for more than a week.
“We’ll be completed with our two-a-day (practices) when most other schools start,” said CSU Head Coach Sonny Lubick.
But that’s fine by this group. With all the anticipation surrounding the team’s common sentiment of optimism, the players and coaches are ready to live up to the hype.
Starting Aug. 22 against Virginia in the Jim Thorpe Classic, CSU embarks on a daunting 13-game schedule that includes five teams that played in bowl games a year ago. Six of the Rams’ 2002 opponents were ranked at some point last season; four finished in top 25 polls. Seven teams finished last year with a winning record and four won 10 games or more.
“We’re ready to get this thing started,” said sophomore tight end Joel Dreessen during the media day activities. “We’ve got a 13-game schedule, we’ve got some quality opponents and we’re going to be on national TV. This is what we want so we can get the recognition we deserve. We just have to step up to the challenge.”
The biggest challenge figures to be CSU’s first four games of 2002. After opening up on national TV against the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Virginia Cavaliers, against whom CSU has never played, the Rams square off with Colorado in the annual Rocky Mountain Showdown at Invesco Field in Denver.
CSU then departs for one of three trips to California this year, this time to play UCLA. The following week the Rams will host their first game at Hughes Stadium against Louisville.
But the one that has everyone talking is CSU versus CU, which has turned into one of the premier college football games each season. Last year the Rams were embarrassed 41-14 by CU in front of 75,022 people. When the game comes around this year, the Rams will already have the Virginia experience under their belts, as opposed to last year when CU was the one who had already played a game before the Showdown took place.
With a starting quarterback already decided on, a highly touted running game, a stellar trio of returning linebackers and a special teams unit that Lubick said was named No. 1 in the nation by a national sports publication, CSU expects its match-up with the Buffs to be much different than last season.
“If you beat (CU), it puts you in the national spotlight,” said junior linebacker Drew Wood. “But we feel like we have the team that can beat them, and that’s what we’re planning on doing.”
Lubick is a bit more reluctant to boast about the quality of his team this year, but does admit it has tons of potential. He mentioned the tough schedule his players and staff face, and is eager to see how the team responds.
“Everybody thinks we’re going to be fairly good, so as coaches we kind of roll with the punches,” he said. “Maybe (media members) know something I don’t know, but I think we have a chance to be a real good football team also,”
People won’t have to wait much longer to find out.