Fresh off a win over longtime rival Nebraska last weekend, the coach of No. 18 Colorado leads the Buffaloes (2-0) into another one Saturday night at sold out Folsom Field against in-state adversary Colorado State (0-1).
Sanders isn’t interested in history lessons or added hype. He quickly pointed out that when he played for the Atlanta Falcons during his Hall of Fame career, they had the New Orleans Saints as a prime rival. And when he played for the Dallas Cowboys, well, they had the entire league.
“This isn’t my first rodeo when it comes to that,” Sanders said. “It’s always some type of adversity that you have against someone in close proximity of you.”
Colorado State coach Jay Norvell added some spice to the rivalry on his show Wednesday night by making a reference to Sanders’ tendency to wear a hat along with sunglasses at news conferences. Norvell said: “When I talked to grownups, I take my hat and my glasses off. That’s what my mother taught me.”
Norvell also mentioned his players had a “chip on their shoulder” after conducting interviews in advance of the game. The Rams are a 23 1/2-point underdog, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
“They (Colorado) are not going to like us no matter what we say or do,” Norvell said on his show from a restaurant in Fort Collins, Colorado. “So, let’s go up there and play.”
Sanders has respect for the program at Colorado State, a team coming off a bye after a 50-24 loss to another Pac-12 school, Washington State, in the season opener.
That’s because his son, Shilo, a grad transfer defensive back for the Buffaloes, almost went to Colorado State. He took a recruiting trip to Fort Collins and brought along his little brother, Shedeur.
But Shilo Sanders went to South Carolina, before joining Shedeur and Deion at Jackson State. The Sanders family then all united in Boulder, where they’ve helped transform a program that was 1-11 last season.
With Deion Sanders leading the way, the Buffaloes have turned into the talk of college football. So much so that both ESPN’s “College GameDay” and Fox’s “Big Noon Kickoff” will be in town Saturday for the Rocky Mountain Showdown.
“We want to exceed expectations,” said Sanders, whose team followed a 45-42 win at TCU with a 36-14 victory over the Cornhuskers in front of a sellout crowd at Folsom Field. “If the expectation is to win, we may understand that — so let’s exceed that. Whatever the expectation is, let’s exceed that individually and combined as a team. We’re winning but we’re not playing our best football. That’s a tremendous sign and we can’t wait to build off that.”
Norvell made sure his team was well-versed on the rivalry. He reminded them it began in 1893, just so they know “they’re getting ready to be a part of something bigger than themselves,” he said. Norvell also noted the last time the game was held in Boulder — Sept. 6, 2009 — the Rams won, 23-17. And he referenced a stat where the last six times one of the teams was ranked in the rivalry, the ranked team lost.
The presence of the shows for ESPN and Fox only enhances the rivalry.
“This might be the most eyes that have ever been on this game,” Norvell said. “That’s a tremendous opportunity for us and our kids.”
Norvell appreciates how quickly Sanders has reshaped the Buffaloes into a team climbing the poll. Norvell, who’s in his second season at Colorado State, also pointed out the significance of a matchup that features two Black head coaches.
“It holds a lot of weight,” Norvell said. “I’m really proud to be a part of that.”
Same with Sanders.
“It’s just tremendous getting this opportunity and allowing the nation to see that we are more than capable of doing a sufficient and a great job,” Sanders said. “I’m happy that he pointed that out. I have the utmost respect for him, truly.”
The Rams are making a change at quarterback and going with Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi, the redshirt freshman from Aledo, Texas. He filled in when Clay Millen got banged up against Washington State and threw two touchdown passes. That included a 75-yard strike to Justus Ross-Simmons.
Entering this week, Shedeur Sanders leads the FBS by averaging 451.5 yards passing per game. He’s completed 77.5% of his passes and thrown six touchdowns with no interceptions.
“An excellent quarterback and playing at a high level,” Norvell said.
Sanders isn’t the only coach in the state who’s transforming his roster, with Norvell welcoming 56 newcomers to the 2023 team. They have 25 players through the transfer portal or junior college.
The Rams boast 29 players from Colorado while the Buffaloes have a dozen. The roster for Colorado features 21 from Florida, 18 from California and 15 from Texas.
The Rams have dropped 23 straight games to teams in the AP Top 25, according to Pac-12 research. Their last win was on Aug. 31, 2002, over No. 7 Colorado in Denver.