Christoff inherited a 3-4 defense. Montana State began moving into that system — which features three down linemen and four linebackers — three seasons ago, then went to the three-man front full-time in 2005. Division I-AA programs are only allowed 65 scholarships, and Christoff said they went to the scheme because their best players fit that look.
"Sometimes you get into a situation where you're heavy in one position and light in another, depth-wise," Christoff said. "And that's kind of what happened to us, so we made the transition and have been recruiting into that system ever since."
Currently Montana State is the only team in the Big Sky Conference that plays exclusively with a 3-4 base defense. Christoff said it can be an advantage.
"Anytime you're doing something that's non-traditional and it's something new that an offense has to prepare for, it makes it harder because …there's more of a learning curve in a week's time for a team that isn't used to seeing those fronts," he said.
They also play in a 3-3-5 package sometimes. Christoff said Tyrone Henderson, the former Buff who was dismissed from the CU team in August and transferred to Montana State, will see action Saturday when they play with five defensive backs.
He said game planning Colorado is a challenge because of the new coaching staff in Boulder.
"What you're going to see from a personnel standpoint – we're trying to go off (CU) game film of last year," he said. "And then from the standpoint of schematics, we're just trying to prepare our players for everything, and we're going to have to sort it out on defense.
"With a new staff, you're not real sure what their personality's going to be."
However, Christoff said one thing's for certain: The Bobcat players are looking forward to the game. Christoff said he had not read stories that appeared in Colorado newspapers this week, where MSU head coach Bob Kramer said while the payday is good for the athletic department, he wasn't in favor of playing Division I-A opponents, basically because they were demoralizing. (Montana State is 0-5 vs. IA opponents under Kramer).
Montana State typically plays in front of 15,000 to 17,000 fans on game days, Christoff said. This weekend, they'll be playing in front of roughly 45,000.
"From a player's standpoint, they love to play Division IA games," he said. "It's their opportunity to play on as big a stage as they're going to play on. They get the opportunity to test themselves against what they see on TV on Saturdays as the best of the best."
For Christoff, returning to Boulder will be a bit of a homecoming in another way, too. Rob's father, A.J. Christoff, was the defensive coordinator at CU under Neuheisel. Rob's mother, Susan, still lives in Boulder. When A.J. Christoff took a job at USC following the 1998 season when Neuheisel left, the Christoffs decided to keep their home in Boulder. She lives in Palo Alto, where A.J. Christoff now coaches at Stanford, during football season, and mostly in Boulder the rest of the year, Rob Christoff said.