Tuesday, Nov. 3, 1998 | 10:34 a.m.
Remember all that talk back in September about Colorado State possibly being a darkhorse for the national championship?
Well, now the discussions around Fort Collins center around whether Sonny Lubick's Rams (7-3, 4-2), who were shocked by Rice, 35-23, over the weekend, will even make it to a bowl game this season.
The crumbling WAC has only two guaranteed bowl berths at this time --- either the Jeep Oahu or Aloha Bowl on Christmas Day in Honolulu and the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 19 at Sam Boyd Stadium.
With two teams --- Wyoming (7-1, 5-0) and Air Force (7-1, 5-1) --- ahead of it in the Mountain Division, there's a good chance Colorado State won't even make it to the Dec. 5 WAC title game at Sam Boyd Stadium.
"I would say (CSU's bowl hopes) look very slim at this point," Lubick admitted Monday during the weekly WAC conference call of coaches.
"Coaches always seem to be the last to know about these kinds of things. Two teams in the WAC are going for sure and one or two others maybe have a chance. I think that's where we stand ... we're one of the teams that maybe have a chance."
Still, it would figure the Rams would be attractive to some bowl if they can run the table and beat Wyoming Saturday night (ESPN 2) in Fort Collins and SMU in Dallas the following week.
A 9-3 Colorado State team would seem to be more attractive to the Las Vegas Bowl than a Wyoming or Air Force loser in the WAC title game.
Both of those schools already have been to Las Vegas once this season to play UNLV and would be making their second trip on Dec. 5. It would seem to be financial suicide for the Las Vegas Bowl to have one of those teams back for the third time in three months at Sam Boyd Stadium.
So, Colorado State, which still has a pretty glossy national reputation as WAC teams go, wouldn't be a bad runnerup for the Las Vegas Bowl.
The Rams probably wouldn't find themselves in this mess if they hadn't fumbled away their chances at a WAC Mountain Division title at Rice last Saturday.
The Owls (3-5, 3-2) took advantage of three early Colorado State fumbles deep in Rams territory to jump out to a 21-0 lead.
"We let them start at our 17-, 18- and 19-yard lines," Lubick said. "That's our problem. But give credit to Rice. Their quarterback (Chad Richardson) really executed well for them."
Richardson, a junior, rushed for 224 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries. The rushing total was the most by a quarterback in Rice history and fourth best overall. The Owls finished with 348 yards rushing and attempted just one pass.
Rice coach Ken Hatfield said Saturday's upset of Colorado State rated with last year's 27-14 win over BYU as the biggest in his five seasons in Houston.
"Beating Brigham Young here last year was pretty big because the year before they had beaten us 49-0," Hatfield said. "The year before they had won the conference and had one of the best teams in the history of the WAC. And to beat them here on ESPN was pretty big.
"This year, Colorado State was a big, big win because I think Colorado State was a lot more talented this year with returning people back than maybe Brigham Young was last year. (BYU) ended up being 4-4 in the conference. This Colorado State team is probably as talented as they've had. They have 15 fifth-year seniors. You don't have that very often."
The sleeper team for the WAC's Pacific Division title? Try UTEP.
The Miners (3-5, 3-2), who whipped Hawaii, 30-13, last Saturday in El Paso, are in a three-way tie for third in the Pacific Division with Utah and Fresno State, a game behind co-leaders BYU and San Diego State. And UTEP still controls its destiny with a game at Utah on Saturday followed by back-to-back games against BYU in El Paso and at San Diego State.
You have to go all the way back to 1988 when the Miners went 10-3 and tied for second in the WAC with a 6-2 record under Bob Stull for the last time UTEP had something to get excited about in November.
"It's a great time here," Miners coach Charlie Bailey said. "We're going into November with some games that are actually worth something. I'm excited for the players and the coaches because they've worked their tails off to get here."