ESPN invited a panel of six head football coaches from across several major conferences to break down the national championship game Monday night between Alabama and Georgia live in studio for the “Coaches Film Room.”
Only one hailed from the Group of Five: Colorado State’s Mike Bobo.
It was an enviable position for any coach regardless of conference affiliation, but especially for a program like CSU that rarely receives the ESPN spotlight in prime time, let alone during the title game.
Bobo’s expertise was warranted considering his history as a Georgia quarterback (1994-97) and assistant coach (1998-99 and 2001-14) before taking the head job in Fort Collins. Bobo was college teammates with now Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, and instrumental in the recruitment of several prominent Bulldog seniors in action on Monday, like tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Bobo also led CSU in a game against Alabama earlier this season — a 41-23 loss in Tuscaloosa.
Bobo was joined in studio by head coaches Kevin Sumlin (formerly Texas A&M), David Cutcliffe (Duke), Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern), Matt Luke (Ole Miss) and Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State). The audio production was not seamless with a split screen between the coach discussion and the game, but Bobo provided both lighthearted and critical analysis of the action. As captains from both teams met for the coin toss, Bobo cracked a joke about the defensive mindsets of each team that brought some laughs into the studio.
“You know both of them will defer,” Bobo said.
Bobo’s understanding of the Bulldogs’ offense was apparent from the start. On the opening play of Georgia’s second drive, Bobo called out the formation and predicted tight end Jeff Blazevich would motion across the set before the snap. When Blazevich did just as Bobo predicted, he said: “There he goes.” The play went for 14 yards through the air.
The first-half highlight was undoubtedly a 26-yard gain by Michel, dancing down the sideline on third-and-20, that set up the game’s lone touchdown before halftime with Georgia leading 13-0.
“(Michel’s) has got great ball skills,” Bobo said. “I had him his freshman year and we would put him in the slot and throw jail-bait screens to him out of the backfield. He was just a phenomenal, phenomenal athlete and he was a smart player. We invented some formations just to get him in the game and get him touches.”
When Alabama pulled off an incredible comeback to win 26-23 in overtime, Bobo found difficulty hiding his emotions. Not anger that the Tide pulled it off, but rather empathy for the Bulldogs he knows well that came up short.
“You’re happy for the guys that won and you feel sad for those other guys that laid it on the line,” Bobo said. “A lot of them guys I personally recruited. You see Nick Chubb right there crying in the end zone a minute ago, they had a shot. It kind of hurts you a little bit for them.”
CSU currently does not have the resources to play for a national title. But live on ESPN News the same night, Bobo wore a white windbreaker with a Rams logo proudly displayed on the chest for several hours.
A welcomed consolation.