Last week: CSU beat UNM 35-25 in Albuquerque
This week: CSU at TCU Saturday in Fort Worth 5 p.m. MT
Next Week: CSU vs. SDSU at Hughes Stadium 1 p.m. MT
While there are still two Mountain West Conference games to play after this weekend, there is one phrase that has heard a lot during the football team's preparation this week, "It's for the ring."
This match-up is the closest the Mountain West will get to a conference championship game. It pins the top two teams in the conference against each other, with the victor driving a gold tank toward the championship while the loser rides a dirt bike behind them.
"It's for the championship, it's for the ring," said junior cornerback Robert Herbert. "We know we got UNLV, we're not underestimating them; we're not underestimating San Diego State. But we know if we don't win this game we we're not going to get the ring. I'm not taking this game as just another game."
TCU, ranked No. 18 in the nation, leads the conference with an 8-1 overall record and are 6-0 against Mountain West foes.
"They are right where they deserve to be," said head coach Sonny Lubick. "They are the best team in the league right now."
Meanwhile CSU has come back from an inconsistent start to be 5-3 overall and 4-1 in conference play. It may seem like the Horned Frogs have an insurmountable lead, but they don't.
The MWC's first tiebreaker when first place teams are tied is head-to-head. So, should the Rams win, they'll have to beat San Diego State (3-6) and UNLV (2-6) to win the championship.
The Rams are not looking ahead to those games though. TCU welcomes the Rams with what appears to be a balanced offensive attack. They can't hide the fact that they're offense hasn't been as good ever since a change in quarterback.
Junior quarterback Jeff Ballard took over when senior Tye Gunn went down with an injury. Ballard poses more of a running threat than Gunn, and TCU has worked their offense around Ballard's ability.
Excluding the Air Force game in which TCU passed for 326 yards, the Horned Frogs offense has been run dominant in Ballard's four other starts. In those four contests TCU has averaged 223 yards rushing to just 158.75 yards passing.
TCU began to run the option with Ballard and a combination of speedy tailbacks, true freshman Aaron Brown and junior Robert Merrill.
The Rams have been anything but stellar against the run this year, ranking last in the MWC and 103rd in the nation.
The Rams have quite a bit of confidence against the run right now after stuffing New Mexico's All-Conference back, DonTrell Moore, in the second half a week ago. Plus, there's a possibility the Rams will get back senior defensive lineman Delroy Parke this week.
"Everybody has weapons, but I look at it like we have weapons too," Herbert said. "They've got a couple guys that are 21 (years old) just like I'm 21. I just don't want anyone to get scared by their speed. We can take these guys."
When looking at TCU's stats it's hard to figure out why they're so successful, they're in the middle of the conference in nearly every category, except turnover margin.
The Horned Frogs have a turnover margin of plus 16, which is first in the nation. TCU has recovered 11 fumbles and picked off the opposing quarterback 19 times.
They have an aggressive defense that will attack the ball but is prone to giving up big plays. It all starts up front, where they're first in the conference in sacks with 27 and second in rushing yards allowed per game with 133.
"TCU does have a great defensive line," said junior defensive lineman Clint Oldenburg. "What we do is what matters. If we go out and execute the way we need to, it doesn't matter what they do."
No matter the opposing teams talent level, the Rams have been able to move the ball on every conference team. The Rams average 420.6 total yards per game this year against MWC foes, and with the Ram passing game continually improving, CSU may be able to move the ball against TCU.
The CSU players know what's ahead of them, and after the last few seasons they're not ready to give up a shot at the MWC championship.
The game won't be on television, but it will be broadcast live on the Colorado State Sports Network, which includes the flagship station KCOL 600 AM in Fort Collins, as well as KNUS 710 AM in Denver.