Heading into their annual showdown on the gridiron on Nov. 22, 1958, Colorado and Colorado State both knew it would be their last meeting for a while.

By then, it had been 11 years since the two in-state rivals were in the same conference. After the 1947 season, CU left the Mountain States Conference to join the Big Six.

The rivalry no longer carried the importance it once did, and the Buffaloes didn't come close to filling Folsom Field when the Rams came to town.

It was time to move on, and after that 1958 meeting — a 15-14 CSU win — the two schools did just that. They wouldn't play again until 1983.

Over the last 35 years, the teams have routinely met on the football field, including every year since 1995. Their next showdown, scheduled for Aug. 31 at Broncos Stadium at Mile High, will be the 90th meeting between the two, and the annual series will continue through 2020.

Then, once again, it'll be time to move on, and that's good for both schools.

Just like 60 years ago, the rivalry isn't as important as it used to be, and it's been years since it was interesting enough to turn the attention of local sports fans away from the Denver Broncos' riveting fourth preseason game.


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The Rocky Mountain Showdown is one of just eight Football Bowl Subdivision nonconference games played in each of the last 21 years, and it isn't quite like the others. It's the only one of the group that's played at a neutral site and the only one that doesn't feature two Power 5 conference teams.

It's hard to imagine a college football season without Georgia vs. Georgia Tech, Florida vs. Florida State, Clemson vs. South Carolina or Notre Dame vs. USC.

Few outside of Colorado will blink when the Buffs and Rams don't play in 2021 or 2022, however, and there's not much of a rush to get anything scheduled after that.

For more than two years, CU athletic director Rick George and CSU athletic director Joe Parker have apparently had a handshake agreement for on-campus games in 2023 and 2024, but nobody has bothered to draw up a contract or make an announcement about those games.

"We'll announce that at some point," George said recently.

Even then, that's a two-year deal, and from there, George said, "We'll see where it goes."

CU contemplated taking a break with its basketball series against the Rams, too, before a home-and-home set for the next two years was recently announced. With RPI concerns and the inability to pack the arenas in Boulder or Fort Collins, a break in basketball at some point makes sense.

The reality is that neither team needs this game to be on the football schedule every year, either.

"I don't think it's as big a deal as people make it," George said of the rivalry with CSU.

George added that, of course, it's an important game that both teams want to win and he acknowledges that it's a fun game for fans along the Front Range.

However, having CSU on the schedule isn't necessarily beneficial for the Buffs, especially with a loaded slate in the coming years.

From 2021-28, the Buffs have 18 non-conference games scheduled (including the two yet-to-be-announced games with the Rams), and 13 are against Power 5 conference opponents.

That doesn't leave much room for the "cupcake" games that every Power 5 team, from Alabama to Wisconsin, includes each year to try to pad the win total. Throw an in-state rivalry into the mix and there's even less room for those games for the Buffs.

The only "rivalry" series that's somewhat similar to CU-CSU is Virginia Tech vs. East Carolina, which will be played 17 times in 19 years from 2007-25. Virginia Tech, however, still makes room for non-conference games against the likes of William & Mary, Furman, Liberty and Old Dominion.

CU needs to do the same in its quest to be an annual postseason participant, as Virginia Tech's Hokies have been.

For CSU, the in-state rivalry carries more weight, as a victory against the Buffs can increase its national profile. Yet, taking a break from the Buffs can help the Rams, too.

With a new on-campus stadium that opened a year ago, the Rams have an opportunity to grab some attention outside of the Centennial State with home-and-home sets against Vanderbilt, Washington State, Texas Tech and Arizona over the next decade. That exposure can be huge for CSU - especially if it wins some of those games.

In addition to opening up opportunities on the schedule, taking routine breaks might actually reinvigorate the in-state rivalry and bring added intrigue when they do meet.

Ideally, there won't be another 25-year hiatus with the Rocky Mountain Showdown, because the in-state rivalry has, at times, been quite entertaining.

With the ever-changing landscape of college football, however, it's no longer a game that needs to be annual affair.

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33