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AFA flying high? Believe it 

End Zone

As any college football season begins, it's worth looking at the first week's point spreads to see how different teams stack up — or not. With that in mind, and knowing this week's duty would be to predict how Colorado's college teams will fare in 2010, I began the week by checking the initial odds out of Las Vegas.

One game stood out, actually screamed out, amid all the rest. As of Monday morning, Colorado State was rated as a consensus 13-point favorite over Colorado in their annual opener Saturday at Denver's Invesco Field.

By afternoon, that line had settled at 12 points, until somebody realized an online mistake. Colorado was favored by 12 points, not CSU.

Odds aside, let's put it this way: If Colorado State wins easily, CU head coach Dan Hawkins might be fired by Monday. With season-ticket sales lagging and Hawkins already in jeopardy, another pathetic loss to CSU might be the capper. And part of that is because nobody outside of Fort Collins is expecting the Rams to make much noise this season, either.

Want more? CSU, clearly looking ahead to 2011 and beyond, will face Colorado with a pure freshman at quarterback. Pete Thomas might be promising, and he did graduate early from high school so he could come to CSU for spring drills, but his last game was at Valhalla High School in El Cajon, Calif.

In this state, Air Force stands alone, even without knowing how the oddsmakers feel. That's because the Falcons open Saturday against Northwestern (La.) State, this year's designated blowout, and Vegas doesn't put odds on games involving the division formerly known as I-AA. But the following two weeks will tell us all we need to know as Air Force hosts Brigham Young on Sept. 11 before going to Oklahoma on Sept. 18.

With playmakers like quarterback Tim Jefferson, tailback Asher Clark, fullback Jared Tew and a top-notch secondary led by cornerbacks Reggie Rembert and Anthony Wright, the Falcons are in good position despite a rugged schedule.

We don't have room for detailed analysis, but here are the capsule projections:

• Colorado State (5-7). Nobody foresaw the Rams' slide last autumn from 7-6 to 3-9. They should be better, but not much. Still don't understand those odds against CU, unless CSU's defense turns out to be much better than expected. Short of Thomas becoming an instant star, this will be a building year.

• Colorado (6-7). Look closely, and you'll see that CU's schedule has a handful of winnable games (Hawaii, Baylor, Texas Tech, Iowa State, Kansas State, Kansas), not even counting CSU. Bringing in some promising receivers for passer Tyler Hansen helps balance the offense, and the defense should be noticeably improved. Enough to go 6-6 and then lose a bowl. Unless the Buffs lose Saturday, of course. Then all bets are off.

• Air Force (11-2). You're reading it here first: AFA will knock off BYU, lose to Oklahoma and TCU, then run the table and win back the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy along the way, followed by another bowl victory. It'll take big years from the five players mentioned above, plus a fast-jelling offensive line. But head coach Troy Calhoun has been pointing all along toward 2010, slowly building depth throughout the roster. It's possible Air Force still is a year away from this kind of breakthrough, but my guess is that it happens now.

routon@csindy.com

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