There is no Nebraska fight song pumping through the stadium this week as the Colorado football team prepares for its season finale. The scout team isn't wearing mock Nebraska uniforms and helmets, and there won't be any fiery speeches from former Buffs or CU coaches about what the opportunity to play the Cornhuskers meant in their day.
The day after Thanksgiving won't provide the annual opportunity for CU players to unleash years of angst and hatred directed at their nemesis and rival. Colorado has no end-of-the-season rivalry game to look forward to any more.
It's the one major downside of moving to the Pac-12 Conference, and you will have to pardon the Buffs, especially the older players, for missing the Cornhuskers just a bit this week.
“There is something there with the rivalry with Nebraska,” quarterback Tyler Hansen said. “You can't explain it. It's crazy, but I think if you give it time maybe this will evolve into something else. You never know.”
In the past, even when the Buffs were in the midst of a miserable campaign such as this 2-10 season, having a chance to beat Nebraska at the end kept them engaged and intense. You could always count on at least one meaningful game in November.
The same fire just isn't there for the first meeting with Utah in 49 years no matter how much the schools and the Pac-12 might want a rivalry to develop between these programs. Maybe it happens eventually, but right now, it's just another game for the Buffs.
The Buffs were often looking up in the standings and the rankings at Nebraska every year. At least that much hasn't changed with this week's opponent. While the Buffs play out the string Friday at Rice-Eccles Stadium, Utah faces a must-win situation to keep its hopes of winning the south division alive and playing for the inaugural Pac-12 championship.
True story: A week ago when a buffalo head was found outside a Boulder residence, one CU athletic department official said, “If we were smart, we'd run down there and stick of few red Utah Utes arrows in it.”
Turns out the owner of the decapitated head had brought it back from a ranch in, you guessed it, Nebraska.
CU coach Jon Embree said he and Utah coach Kyle Whittingham discussed the game when they traveled to New York in July as part of the Pac-12 media day. Both coaches noted how it seemed like so many were trying to force the “rivalry” tag on the game because of the point in the season when it will be played each year.
Utah has traditionally ended the regular season with the “Holy War” rivalry with Brigham Young. That game has been moved to earlier in the season now that the two schools are no longer in the same conference. CU and Nebraska are no longer playing each other at all.
“Whether or not they see us as their rival and us vice versa, you know, as I said a few weeks ago, that stuff kind of works itself out,” Embree said. “If it is going to be Utah, it will happen. If it's not to be Utah and it's someone else, it will happen.
“I think that all remains to be seen.”
CU defensive tackle Will Pericak scoffed at the idea that stamping a silly moniker – Rumble in the Rockies – on this week's game with Utah and handing out a trophy to the winner would somehow make it more meaningful for the players and coaches involved.
“I don't play for trophies,” he said. “I play to play football and to win.”
Pericak grew up in Boulder and attended Boulder High School. He experienced many years of the CU-Nebraska rivalry before ever deciding to join the fray by playing for CU. Pericak even managed to get a dig in at the Buffs old rival Tuesday.
“I don't miss Big Red,” he said. “I'd rather go to Salt Lake City than Lincoln, Nebraska any day.”