If CSU Rams want ESPN, Fox, CBS love, analyst says, beat CU Buffs first

BOULDER — The Rams couldn’t beat Washington State. But if they want a chance to join them, they’re going to have to follow the Cougars’ lead. Right here. Right now.

“(For CSU), it’s a very similar situation to Wazzu against Wisconsin last week,” Louis Riddick, ESPN’s color analyst for Saturday night’s Rocky Mountain Showdown, told The Denver Post earlier this week. “Washington State, they’re a team without a home. They’ll go from being a Power 5 (program) to maybe being a Mountain West school. It’s kind of the same with (Saturday) for (The Rams): You’re hunting for credibility. You’re hunting for respect.

“The only way to get it is to go against the perceived ‘big dogs’ and take them down and take them down in a dramatic fashion and take them down in a dramatic fashion with a lot of people watching. That’s what you have setting up here (with CU).”

Possibly. Wazzu took out then-No. 19 Wisconsin in Pullman last weekend, 31-22. For the Rams to improve their national profile among the bodies that more or less control college football right now, the television networks, CSU needs to prove that it’s got the star power to make for good TV.

And nothing would prove that more than, as a 23-point underdog, upsetting the No. 1 college football story/bandwagon/wave in the country right now in Buffs coach Deion Sanders.

“We (at ESPN) have thrown the entire (narrative for) this game behind CU, as everyone else has, and rightfully so,” Riddick continued. “So if you’re CSU, you’re sitting back going, ‘These people don’t even know who (the Rams) are, they don’t give a darn, they just want to see CU.’

“So for them, yeah, it would be huge to send that message to the rest of the Power 5 — or what will probably be Power 4 — conferences to say, ‘Look, see, we can suit up and even play at this level. We just need the same resources and the same kids that y’all have and look what we can do.’”

Stage? Yep. Dance partner? Yep. Celebrity vibe? Oh, yeah.

Giant-killing history? Um, not so much.

The Rams have faced a Power 5 Goliath on a handful of occasions over the last five years, but almost every time, said giant handed David’s hat right back to him. CSU is 1-9 in its last 10 tilts against Power 5 opposition and has dropped nine straight since besting Arkansas, 34-27, back on Sept. 8, 2018.

One of the reasons that BYU, Cincinnati, UCF and Houston got the call from the Big 12 that CSU so craved? Because whenever called to battle against a big boy in the Valley of Elah, they gave as good as they got. The Cougars since 2018 are 12-9 vs. Power 5 and Notre Dame opposition. The Bearcats are 8-5. The Knights are 5-5.

“(This stage), it’s a lot of fun,” Rams coach Jay Norvell noted earlier in the week. “When I (talked to) the kids today, I said, ‘You know, I just came from Reno, Nevada. We had a lot of casinos there. It’s like a big game of Texas hold-’em (poker) and all the chips are on the table and that makes it fun.’ It spices the game up. I mean, this is why I coach, this is why our kids go to school, is to play in games like this, to play in this kind of atmosphere.”

Despite the Showdown’s late kick time for most of the country, the Eastern two-thirds of the country will watch — few teams are drawing more eyeballs than the Buffs, who recorded the highest rating ever for a Fox Sports “Big Noon” kickoff in Week 1 and drew 8.73. million viewers for CU-Nebraska last Saturday, making it the second-most watched college football game of the weekend.

“I mean, the pressure of that (game) is just the enthusiasm (for) the opportunity, right?” athletic director Joe Parker told The Post. “And you want to stay focused on that moment because it’s 60 minutes of football. It’s an opportunity for our students to shine and show all the effort that they put into preparing.

“Yeah, it does give us a chance to honor the legacy of the students that have won this (Showdown) before. So that’s exciting. And it should be exciting for everyone.”

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