The BYU-Colorado State rivalry isn't what it used to be.
Not this year, anyway.
With a combined overall record of 2-6, the pair of once-proud programs have fallen on hard times. Their meeting this season isn't even considered the Mountain West Conference's marquee matchup of the week.
In fact, when the Cougars and Rams meet Saturday (8 p.m., Ch. 5) at Hughes Stadium, it will be the first time in five years that this game won't be televised by ESPN.
BYU is coming off back-to-back losing seasons and CSU turned in a mediocre 7-6 mark a year ago. This season, both the Cougars and Rams head into their MWC opener with uncharacteristic 1-3 marks. BYU beat Notre Dame but lost to Stanford, No. 1 Southern California and No. 23 Boise State. CSU lost to Colorado, USC and No. 18 Minnesota before registering its first win last week against I-AA Montana State.
"We played a better ballgame last week than we had in the past few games. I know Montana State wasn't as powerful as our previous three opponents, but I believe they are a nice, solid football team," said Ram coach Sonny Lubick. "We played fairly well most of the time, but we still had lapses of inconsistency, which has plagued us and plagues a lot of teams at this time of year. It's time we correct those inconsistencies and play a little better from this point on."
Tough opponents is part of the reason why both teams have struggled.
"We've had similar non-conference schedules that have been very challenging," said BYU coach Gary Crowton. "Hopefully, it's prepared both of us for conference play."
Despite the two teams' lack of success, both Crowton and Lubick say they respect the tradition and legacy of this week's opponent.
"Colorado State has been so good through the years," Crowton said. "I know Utah's playing very well, but I still think Colorado State is always the team because they've done it year in, year out. They are a team that carries themselves so well, and they respond very well to adversity. Coach Lubick has a way of getting them going every time."
"BYU is still the class program of this conference," Lubick said. "Like almost every team in America, they go through their ups and downs, and they will be back."
Lubick remembers when, as an assistant coach at CSU in the 1980s, the Cougars routinely pounded the Rams. "The games were over well before halftime," he said. "If it was 34-7, we were happy to be that close."
When Lubick took the helm at CSU 11 years ago, though, the Rams' fortunes began to turn. The program has won at least seven games per season for a school-record 10 years in a row. Lubick has also guided CSU to three 10-win seasons, a feat that had never been accomplished in Fort Collins before.
Since the MWC was established in 1999, Colorado State has won or shared three championships, one better than BYU and Utah, which have claimed two titles apiece. The Rams have won more games (47) than any other team since the league's inception.
It was no coincidence that the MWC's inaugural game featured CSU against BYU.
Things are different now.
Through the years, Lubick built his teams around a strong defense. This season, CSU's young defense ranks No. 93 nationally in total defense and No. 112 in run defense. Offensively, the Rams have had trouble scoring points and protecting quarterback Justin Holland, who was sacked three times last week against Montana State. Holland has good passing skills, but he has thrown nine interceptions in 2004.
Still, as Crowton said, Lubick has a way of rallying his troops in the face of adversity. He'll try to get his team to rebound Saturday against BYU.
Colorado State's consistency and success under coach Sonny Lubick make this season's 1-3 start a rarity for the Rams. Below is a look at the Rams' success under Lubick:
Career record: 113-66
Record at CSU: 92-47
Conference titles: Six
Record vs. BYU: 4-4
Of note: Since 1997, Colorado State has the 15th-most victories (62) in college football . . . Since 1994, the Rams have won at least seven games for 10 straight seasons . . . Under Lubick, the Rams have four 10-win seasons (1994, 1997, 2000, 2002) . . . The Rams have won or shared three Mountain West titles since the conference formed in 1999 . . . The Rams have won more games (47) than any other MWC team since the league began.
BYU (1-3, 0-0) at Colorado State (1-3, 0-0)
Saturday, 8 p.m.
TV: KSL Ch. 5
Radio: KSL 1160 AM