To answer that question, we first have to answer another question: What is the criteria that makes two teams rivals?
"Usually it's proximity and the other is tradition," said Head Coach Gary Barnett. "Over time it has been a heated game or it has been a game to win the championship."
Well, the schools are only 56.3 miles away from each other so you have the proximity thing going.
The CU / CSU game has had its moments of being a heated game; twice to be exact, and I am not including the heat created from tear gas.
Since the series was resumed after a 25-year dormancy in 1983, CU has won 11 times compared to CSU's three victories, but there have only been probably two close games. In 1988, CU pulled one out in Ft. Collins 27-23 and in 2000, the Rams beat CU with a couple of big plays to their tight end 28-24. Besides that, scores like 41-14, 42-14, 48-34, and 31-3 dominate the series.
I would call that luke warm at best. But Colorado has faced CSU 73 total times in history, the most games played against one school. So there you have the tradition.
Coach Barnett's last point is moot because the Buffs and Rams have never played in any type of championship game and the "Rocky Mountain Showdown" does not count.
Although several fans on Denver talk shows today said the fact CU scheduled last years game with Fresno State was to have a game under their belts before they played CSU. Since the Buffs lost that game and that loss basically cost them a chance to play in the National Championship game, they tried to reason that CSU cost the Buffs a title.
Nice try boys.
So what about the players, what do they think?
QB Craig Ochs said "I personally look at it as a rivalry. This is a team that has gotten us two out of the past three years and it is a great in-state rivalry and one that people around the state look forward to each year."
Freshman DB J.J. Billingsley from Aurora, Co. agreed with Ochs."I have been watching the game for how ever long the rivalry started, basically since I was born."
And former CU RB and current coach Eric Bieniemy added "It is a rivalry, but I wished we could of played at Mile High." "I think it is great for the state of Colorado; you have half the stadium filled with green and gold and the other half with black and gold. It's a great rivalry and setting."
The 75,000 plus fans at last years game would probably agree.
But of all the players I spoke with, I think Sr. LB Joey Johnson but it best.
"They don't like us and we don't like them."
Now those are fighting words that make a rivalry great.