Rivalries are funny things. They can't be manufactured or created, and in the new era of conference changes in college football, they don't necessarily last. When Utah State (2-1) squares off against Colorado State (1-2) Saturday in Fort Collins, it may be the reviving of an old rivalry.
Colorado State may not be the first team that comes to mind for a Utah State rival, but the two schools do share a lot of history. Despite having only met once since 1997, the Rams and Aggies are meeting for the 69th time, making it the third-most played opponent in USU history, trailing just Utah and BYU.
Last year, the two schools met in an instant classic with Utah State falling 35-34 in double overtime. This year the game gets a little extra juice from the coaches, as Colorado State offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin will lead the Rams against his former team.
Baldwin spent the previous three seasons as the OC of Utah State before moving to Fort Collins in the off-season. As an Aggie coach, one of Baldwin's best traits was changing schemes based on strengths of personnel, which makes preparing for his offense with his new team a difficult proposition for Utah State coach Gary Andersen.
"If you look back at 2009, Dave did a great job of taking the offense and making it a spread offense because that's the players we had that year. He did the same thing in 2010 with three of our best players out," said Andersen. "In 2011, I thought he did a good job again of realizing who we were, with a freshman quarterback and two great running backs."
Baldwin and the Rams' offense are still looking for their offensive identity this year. After a nice season-opening 22-17 victory over rival Colorado, it has been a downhill slide. In week two the Rams managed just a single touchdown in a 22-7 loss to FCS North Dakota State and last week managed only 89 rushing yards in a 40-20 loss at San Jose State.
Overall the Rams are 113th in the nation in scoring at just 16.3 points per game and are one of only 12 teams in the nation not to average at least 100 rushing yards per outing. Facing a Utah State team that has been stout against the run, the Rams will have their hands full getting the ground game going this week.
"I told our guys, 'If we run the ball one time, we're stupid," Colorado State coach Jim McElwain said. "So we're going to throw it every down because (Utah State) can stop the run."
The Aggie defense, piloted by Andersen and new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, has been the story of the season for Utah State. The Aggies have faced two of the top running backs in the country in Utah's John White and Wisconsin's Montee Ball already this season, but are still near the top in the nation allowing just 2.7 yards per carry.
"It's all about the kids in the end," Andersen said. "They're physical and they aren't backing down from anybody. You've got to have that on defense if you're going to be any good. They look forward to competing."
Colorado State and Utah State will continue to be an annual matchup in the future as Utah State joins the Rams in the Mountain West Conference next season. This is the first of two straight games against future conference foes for Utah State. The Aggies return home next Saturday for homecoming against UNLV.
Aggies on the air
Utah State (2-1)
at Colorado State (1-2)
Saturday, 5 p.m.
Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium (32,500)
TV: KMYU (Comcast 22, Dish/DirecTV 12, Over-the-Air 2.2)
Radio: Aggies Sports Network
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