Buffaloes at a glance
Record in 2016: 10-4, 8-1 in Pac-12
Returning Statistical leaders (2016 statistics)
Steven Montez, So.: 79-for-131, 1,017 yards, 9 TD, 4 INT
Phillip Lindsay, Sr.: 230 att., 1,189 yards, 16 TD
Kyle Evans, Jr.: 84 att., 346 yards, 3 TD
Steven Montez, So.: 51 att., 231 yards, 1 TD
Devin Ross, Sr.: 66 catches, 765 yards, 5 TD
Shay Fields, Sr.: 52 catches, 845 yards, 9 TD
Phillip Lindsay, Sr.: 47 catches, 390 yards, 1 TD
Afolabi Laguda, Sr.: 80 tackles (49 solo)
Rick Gamboa, Jr.: 79 tackles (42 solo)
Ryan Moeller, Sr.: 44 tackles (27 solo)
Where they rank
How the Buffs ranked nationally in 2016:
Scoring: 51st (31.1)
Rushing: 56th (182.6)
Passing: 47th (254.5)
Total: 47th (437.1)
3rd downs: 29th (44.4%)
Red zone: 29th (88.1%)
Scoring: 20th (21.7)
Rushing: 44th (148.9)
Passing: 20th (193.6)
Total: 19th (342.5)
3rd downs: 14th (32.7%)
Red zone: 12th (74.5%)
Penalties: 44th (5.43)
Turnover margin: 32nd (plus-0.43)
3 questions facing CU
1. Can the Buffs prove that last year wasn't a fluke?
After surprising the college football world with last year's Pac-12 South title — the result of the greatest single-season turnaround in Pac-12 history — the Buffs still haven't convinced everyone that they're back. They were picked fourth in the South and were left out of the preseason Top 25 rankings. Losing 10 starters and a dozen major contributors — plus several coaches — from that South title team has left many question marks. The Buffs have a lot to prove this year, especially on defense.
2. Is Steven Montez ready to be the man at QB?
In the three games he started last year as a freshman, Montez looked pretty good. He went 2-1 and nearly rallied the Buffs to a win at USC. Now, he steps into the lead role for the first time. Physically, he's got all the tools to be a star. But, how will he react when things don't go well? Or when the Buffs lose? Or when he doesn't play well and gets criticized by fans? He's never had to deal with that to this point. We won't know the answer to those questions during this game against the Rams, but he's got the opportunity to get off to a good start and build some confidence within himself and within the team.
3. How good is this defense?
The players, of course, have expressed extreme confidence all offseason that they can as good — if not better — than last year when they were one of the top 20 defenses in the country. Eight starters and 10 regular players from that group are gone, though, including seven who are currently on NFL rosters. There is some veteran talent coming back, but also several newcomers and players filling leadership roles for the first time. This is the first chance to prove if they are going to be good again.
Bottom line: There's always a lot on the line for CU when it plays CSU, especially for the opener. All offseason, the Buffs have said their goal is to get back to the Pac-12 title game and win it. This game doesn't impact that goal, in terms of the standings, but it will provide an indication as to whether this team is a legit contender or not.
Rams at a glance
Record: 1-0, defeated Oregon State, 58-27 last week
Record in 2016: 7-6, 5-3 in Mountain West
Returning statistical leaders (2016 statistics)
Nick Stevens, Sr.: 129-for-201, 1,936 yards, 19 TD, 5 INT
Dalyn Dawkins, Sr.: 161 att., 919 yards, 4 TD
Izzy Matthews, Jr.: 153 att., 734 yards, 13 TD
Marvin Kinsey, So.: 93 att., 546 yards, 7 TD
Michael Gallup, Sr.: 76 catches, 1,272 yards, 14 TD
Olabisi Johnson, Jr.: 28 catches, 613 yards, 4 TD
Dalyn Dawkins, Sr.: 20 catches, 162 yards, 1 TD
Josh Watson, Jr.: 90 tackles (40 solo)
Jake Schlager, Sr.: 72 tackles (49 solo)
Evan Colorito, Sr.: 63 tackles (41 solo)
Where they rank
How the Rams ranked nationally in 2016:
Scoring: 28th (35.3)
Rushing: 31st (217.8)
Passing: 55th (244.7)
Total: 30th (462.5)
3rd downs: 47th (42.4%)
Red zone: 5th (94.3%)
Scoring: 81st (30.4)
Rushing: 98th (214.0)
Passing: 32nd (205.2)
Total: 69th (419.2)
3rd downs: 123rd (49.0%)
Red zone: 125th (93.6%)
Penalties: 62nd (6.08)
Turnover margin: 73rd (minus-0.08)
3 questions facing CSU
1. Will they build off the momentum of last week?
CSU had a banner day last Saturday in thumping Oregon State 58-27 in the season opener and the first game in the Rams' new on-campus stadium. The offense was explosive, the defense caused five turnovers and special teams were solid. It was exactly what the Rams needed to start a season they believe can be a great one. But, how will they look against the Buffs, who figure to give a much tougher test than OSU?
2. Can the defense slow down the Buffs?
Last year, CU's offense dominated the Rams, rolling up 31 points before halftime. CSU was unable to slow down the pass or the run, as CU moved the ball at will. Last week, Oregon State racked up 333 yards in the first half before the Rams wore them out in the final two quarters and took advantage of turnovers. Against a more experienced CU offense, the Rams will have to play better than they did a week ago.
3. Will Nick Stevens remain poised?
The senior quarterback was impressive against Oregon State, looking nothing like the rattled player he was in last year's Showdown. The poise of Stevens carried CSU to its offensive explosion last week. The Rams will need to see that same type of effort out of him against the Buffs.
Bottom line: Especially after last week, there is a lot of excitement about this CSU team. The Rams are one of the favorites to win the Mountain West Conference, but they are thinking bigger than that. Beating CU could put the Rams into the conversation for a New Year's 6 bowl game at the end of the year.