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Although they rarely say so publicly, football teams often look at their schedules and circle games they expect to win.
CSU, for instance, would have looked at the University of Northern Colorado, San Jose State University and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas as those games.
Rarely do both teams in one game look at their opponent as somebody they expect to beat.
Yet that is the case Saturday when CSU takes on UNLV.
â€œTheyâ€™ve had a week off, and theyâ€™re at home,â€ coach Steve Fairchild said. â€œIf I was (UNLV coach) Bobby Hauck, Iâ€™d be disappointed if they werenâ€™t thinking they were going to win this game.â€
And while Fairchild was acknowledging that his team is vulnerable, Hauck was admitting that CSU probably sees his team as an easy mark.
â€œWeâ€™ve got to have some urgency about us this week in terms of going and getting a win this weekend,â€ Hauck said. â€œIn Fort Collins, if theyâ€™ve got their press conference going on right now, theyâ€™re probably saying the same thing. Theyâ€™ve got to take a look at us and feel like theyâ€™ve got a good chance to beat us.â€
Now with both teams feeling like this game is there for the taking, it sets up the prototypical must-win game.
Itâ€™s an overused clichÃ©, but fits perfectly this week.
CSU (3-4, 1-1 MW) is coming off three straight losses. A fourth would put the Rams in serious jeopardy of missing a bowl for the third straight season.
It would also put the coaching staff on a scalding hot seat after Athletic Director Paul Kowalczyk said before the season that he expected at least a bowl appearance.
To get the win, the Rams will have to regain the mojo that they had when they jumped out to a 3-1 start.
â€œI think we kind of lost our confidence there a little bit maybe after the San Jose State game and Boise State game,â€ quarterback Pete Thomas said. â€œBut I think weâ€™re regaining that confidence. We know we have to win this game, be 4-4 going into the bye week.â€
The problem that often comes up when teams label a game a â€˜must-winâ€™ is that if they donâ€™t get the victory, they feel that the season is lost. CSU called last weekâ€™s game â€˜must-winâ€™ and then lost. Now they have to balance playing with a sense of urgency, but not playing too uptight.
â€œThereâ€™s pressure, thereâ€™s no question,â€ Fairchild said. â€œBut you donâ€™t want to have a guy playing timid. Thatâ€™s whatâ€™s cool about football: thereâ€™s not a lot of games. Theyâ€™re all big.â€
And even though the Rams may have initially circled this game on the calendar as probably a win, they know that, with the way they are playing, nothing is a sure thing.
â€œThereâ€™s so much parity in college football now,â€ Thomas said. â€œI mean, they are 1-5, they lost to a I-AA team, but then they beat Hawaii by 25 points. No one can explain that. They obviously have talent, theyâ€™re just kind of like us: they havenâ€™t put a complete game together.â€
Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Lytle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- What: CSU vs. University of Nevada-Las Vegas
- When: Saturday, 4 p.m.
- TV: The Mtn.
- Live chat: www.collegian.com
- Twitter: Use hash tag #csu_vs_unlv