Know Your Foe: Colorado State

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Considering the histories of the two schools at hand, it’s actually a bit of a surprise that they’ve only taken the field five times against one another, with two of those contests coming in league play when both schools were in the old WAC-16. As may be, though, this will not be the case going forward, as we are going to get to know the Rams very well (at least, while both schools are in the MWC which will be at least a year or two more). With that said, let’s get to the numbers…

CSU 2012 record: 1-1 (defeated Colorado, lost to North Dakota State)

Cumulative Record versus CSU: 2-3

Last meeting: 2011 – SJSU 38, CSU 31

Current Streak: SJSU W1

Best SJSU Streak: W1 (1961, current).

Worst SJSU Streak: L3 (1964, 1996-7)

Last year’s game in Fort Collins was a see-saw affair, with SJSU taking a 24-14 lead into halftime, but escaping with a 38-31 win on a 38-yard TD pass with 54 seconds left in the game from Matt Faulkner to Jabari Carr. It was a significant game for SJSU in that the Spartans had not had an OOC road win against a FBS-level team in a little over 9 years (defeating Illinois in Champaign in September of 2002).

This season started in outstanding fashion for the Rams, in winning the Centennial Cup back from Colorado on a rainy day in Denver, but evidently the hangover from that game was strong throughout the state, in that CSU followed up with a loss the next week in their home opener against North Dakota State, and Colorado followed up with a loss in their home opener to CSU-Sacramento. Needless to say, there’s some people scratching their heads at what has happened with college football in Colorado.

CSU’s coach is Jim McElwain, who has taken over a bit of a tire fire left behind by Steve Fairchild. He thought he was getting an outstanding pass rush, until CSU had to give three of his defensive biggest stars, Nordly Capi, Mike Orakpo, and Colton Paulhus, the boot out of school for involvement in an off-campus fight. Couple that with the loss of QB Pete Thomas in transfer to NC State, and McElwain has gone from a position of taking a program to the next level, to installing a bit of a rebuild. At the end of last season, a lot of people (myself included) thought that CSU would maybe rise to the second tier of the MWC (behind Boise), and possibly even have a puncher’s chance of knocking out the Broncos. That was then, and this is now – they have one win against arguably the worst AQ team in the land, and a loss to a FCS team (though admittedly the defending FCS champion).

When THEY have the ball: In two games thus far, the Rams have a total of 541 yards – which places them on average 115th in FBS. Their scoring offense of 29 total points puts them on average at 106th in FBS. The Rams are averaging 2.9 yards per carry with no TD’s, and are averaging 7.64 yards per pass attempt with 3 TD’s and 1 INT thus far on the young season. The favorite target thus far this season for QB Garrett Grayson has been Kivon Cartwright, with 7 receptions for 61 yards. Donnell Alexander has been handling the bulk of the rushing duties, with 125 yards this season on 20 carries. Look for the Rams to establish a ground game against SJSU that will allow them to spread the ball to many different receivers (Grayson’s hit 10 different receivers this year) and to keep SJSU’s aggressive pass rush in check.

When WE have the ball: CSU’s defense thus far has been perfectly serviceable, not spectacular. It is regrettable that they had the expulsions of the three players named earlier, in that those three could add some serious spice to a potentially very good defensive unit. They rank 32nd thus far in this young season, 49th against the run (at 117.5 YPG) and 35th against the pass (at 188 YPG), and have forced 0 interceptions and 3 fumbles recovered. Their defense thus far has recorded 6 sacks but only 9 tackles for loss. The Rams will need to get much better penetration against a veteran SJSU O-line, and achieve some amount of penetration and pressure on SJSU QB David Fales, or the CSU secondary will have a Very Long Day.

Overall Preview: On paper, SJSU should probably carry the day. Their offense is currently clicking (outside of dropped balls), and the defense has had two impressive showings against Stanford and UCD. The oddsmakers put SJSU as a 10.5 point favorite (this putting SJSU in the odd position of being a home favorite against an OOC FBS team, which hasn’t happened in a coon’s age), and I believe the Spartans will carry the day against a CSU team led by a sophomore QB and a line that gave up a whole bunch of sacks to NDSU.

Fearless Prediction: Unless the skies open up or something else weird happens, I’m thinking that SJSU takes this one 28-10.

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