Colorado State: It's been a rocky start to a new era for Colorado State this season. Former Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo has stepped in to replace Jim McElwain who left CSU to take over at Florida. Bobo brings with him a hard-nose, run-first offense and inherits some pretty good talent that matches up with what he wants to do offensively.
The Rams' star is Rashard Higgins, a 6'2" wide receiver with a skill set that NFL scouts drool over. I could drown you with superlatives, but we'll just say that Higgins is on the watchlist for the Maxwell Award, the Walter Camp Award, and the Biletnikoff Award. Seems good.
Redshirt sophomore Nick Stevens has the pleasure of throwing to Higgins. The 6'3" pocket passer has struggled a bit since an offensive explosion against Savannah State. His 61.6% completion rating may be a bit misleading, as accuracy issues and interceptions have caused him to be benched for backup Coleman Key. Stevens remains the starter but Key seems to be breathing down his neck.
Fronted by a strong defensive line, Colorado State has looked good on defense this year, allowing an average of just 21 points per game. UTSA has done a decent job at converting on third down this season so they'll be facing a tough challenge against a CSU defense that has forced three-and-outs on 51% of opponents' possessions.
I got in touch with Mountain West Connection's resident-CSU guru Terrance Dickens to answer a few questions I had about the Rams heading into the game.
With running back Treyous Jarrells leaving the program and Dalyn Dawkins nursing a hamstring injury, what do you see Colorado State's backfield looking like against UTSA?
Jason Oden will likely get the bulk of the carries, as he did when Dawkins went down last week. Deron Thompson, one of our kick returners, will likely get some carries as well. Another name to look out for is Izzy Matthews who a is freshmen from California. Dont' be surprised if players like Joe Hansley and Dionte Gaines get some fly sweeps or quick tosses out of the backfield. I don't know if it will happen but both are really speedy receivers so that could help out the run game a little bit.
Sophomore quarterback Nick Steven has struggled a bit through the early going of the season. He's struggled with accuracy and turnovers, occasionally being turned to the bench in favor of Coleman Key. Do you have confidence in CSU's quarterback situation?
I do because Nick Stevens is still young. This offense can still be explosive however the mistakes need to stop. Garrett Grayson was the same way when he first started and he became a third round draft pick.The turnovers are troubling because sometimes I believe that he doesn't have the arm strength. Stevens needs to play turnover free football if he wants to keep his starting job. Coleman Key is a quality backup that can start so I wouldn't be surprised to see the two quarterback system tomorrow with it being the last game before conference play begins.
What is one area where you feel that Colorado State can really hurt UTSA's offense?
I would say the front 7. They are much improved last season, they pushed around Minnesota's big offensive line, along with Colorado's for most of the game. The secondary is good but they are really missing D'andre Elliott. Linebackers CJ James and Steven O'Michel will be the keys, both are great players who can make the open field tackles. Up front Terry Jackson Jr of the the Defensive tackles will need to clog the middle to prevent the roadrunner rushing attack from taking off. If the Rams could generate pressure and get off the field then it will be a long day for UTSA, but if they don't it could turn out to be a long tiring day for the Ram defense.
What's your score prediction and expectations for this week's game?
I think this game will be a shootout, both teams are due for explosive offensive outbursts. The Rams get back to being balanced and are finally able to finish drives. Colorado State 38 UTSA 31
UTSA: The Roadrunners seemed to hit rock bottom last week as they found a way to cough up seven turnovers against Oklahoma State. Quarterback Blake Bogenschutz was responsible for four of those as he threw two interceptions and coughed up two fumbles.
Walk-on quarterback Dalton Sturm continued to make a name for himself as he looked strong in relief of a struggling Bogenschutz. Fans speculated that Sturm may earn starting reps against Colorado State but the coaching staff swiftly silenced that talk by announcing Bogenschutz as the starter. I think it's the right move considering that Bogenschutz has played sound football for about 6 out of 9 quarters this season. I think he'll bounce back.
If UTSA is to have success against CSU, they'll need to establish the running game early against the Rams' tough defense. Running backs Jarveon Williams and Jalen Rhodes both looked great against Oklahoma State. Another week of solid performances from them could help put UTSA into a position to win.
Prediction: The young Roadrunners need this win so badly but I just don't think they have the firepower along the offensive and defensive lines to get it done. The Rams' linemen are big and nasty and will seek to wear down UTSA's starters to expose a lack of depth. I think the UTSA offense will show great improvement over the past two weeks but still fail to really break out like they might in conference play. Colorado State puts a stamp on this one with a long drive late in the game to pull away.