CSU vs. WSU Gildan New Mexico Bowl Preview

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado State University Rams will play the Washington State University Cougars in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque, New Mexico on December 21st, 2013 at 12:00 MST on ESPN.

Gildan New Mexico Bowl Preview

Game: Colorado State University Rams (7-6, 5-3) vs. Washington State University Cougars (6-6, 4-5)

Where: University Stadium, Albuquerque New Mexico

Seating Capacity: between 38,634 and 39,224 (Sources differ)

Date/Time: Saturday, December 21st at 12:00 MST (2:00 EST)

TV: ESPN

Radio: ESPN 105.5/102.3 Denver, KREL-AM 1580 ESPN Colorado Springs, KSIR-AM 1010 in Fort Morgan, KRFD-FM 94.5 in Sterling and KNZZAM News Radio 1100 in Grand Junction.

On-Line: WatchESPN

Weather: 39° F, with a low of 24°. 30% chance of precipitation with wind 11 mph out of the Northwest

Odds: The WSU Cougars are opening as 2½-point favorites.

Series: This is the first ever meeting between these two teams.

Sagarin PREDICTOR Power Rankings: The Colorado State University Rams rank 85th: 64.66 / The Washington State University Cougars rank 31st: 79.04

Coaches: CSU Head Coach Jim McElwain, 2nd year (11 – 14, 8 – 8) / WSU Head Coach Mike Leach 2nd year at WSU (9 – 15, 5 – 13: 93 – 58 overall)

CSU and WSU have both improved pretty dramatically since a year ago. Each team has improved by three wins, CSU to 7 – 6 and WSU to 6 – 6. CSU has not been to a bowl since 2008 and WSU not since 2003. While CSU has been to a bowl more recently than WSU, no senior on the CSU roster has ever participated in one, up till now. Mike Leach guided his former team, the Texas Tech Red Raiders, 10 years in a row, each of his 10 seasons in Lubbock, to a post-season appearance. His 84 wins in are a school record at Texas Tech. Jim McElwain is in his second year as head coach of the CSU Rams. The Rams are ahead of where most predictions had them in Coach Mac’s second year squad.

Players to Watch WSU: Thorpe Award semifinalist Senior Safety Deone Bucannon (6 – 1, 215 Lbs.), who has five interceptions, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries, will look to shut down CSU’s passing attack. Junior QB Conner Halliday (6 – 4, 190 Lbs.) will lead the Cougars into Albuquerque with 412 completions (656 attempts – 62.8%) for 4187 yards. He has 28 TD’s on the year with 21 INT and 26 sacks. The WSU Cougars are 4th in the nation in passing yards (364.5 yards a game) but 123rd (58.7 yards a game) in rushing.

The teams leading rushers are Junior Marcus Mason (5 – 9, 188 Lbs.) with 83 rushes for 424 yards (5.1 yards per carry), 2 TD’s and Sophomore Teondray Caldwell (5 – 8, 198 Lbs.) with 47 runs for 257 yards (5.5 yards per carry) and 1 TD and Jeremiah Laufasa, who has 7 TD’s. Gabe Marks, Dom Williams and Vince Mayle lead the team in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. Andrew Furney has made 43/44 extra points for 97.7% and 15/19 field goals for 78.9%. His long is 52 yards and he has 88 points on the season. On the defensive side, DL Xavier Cooper has 4.5 sacks, LB Kache Palacio has 4.0 and Ioana Gauta has 3.0.

Players to watch CSU: CSU’s O-line is anchored by standout OC Weston Richburg and junior OL Ty Sambrailo. QB Garrett Grayson passed for 3,327 yards this season, a CSU single season record, and is currently 10th on CSU’s all time passing yards list with 4,815. His 30 TD passes ranks 9th all time at CSU and he holds the CSU single-game  offense record with 397 yards passing and 48 yards rushing against Boise State. CSU is 29th in scoring, with an average of 35.3 points per game. The real story this year has been CSU’s rushing (31st nationally, 202.7 yards per game) with Kapri Bibbs:

SO RB Kapri Bibbs has rushed for 1,572 yards, the most in #MWFB and eighth-most among all NCAA FBS running backs

With 1,572 rushing yards, Bibbs has the second-most single-season rushing yards at CSU & needs only 30 yards to secure the top spot

In a 2-game span (vs. Nev, at UNM), Bibbs ran the ball 68 times for 603 yds. (8.9 avg.) and scored 10 touchdowns

Bibbs leads the nation in rushing TDs (28) & total TDs (28). The 28 rushing TDs are the most by a CSU rusher in a single season & rank 5th career

Bibbs set a school record rushing for 312 yards on 30 carries vs. Nevada on Nov. 9; It was previously held by Tony Alford in 1989 (28-310)

Bibbs set a school record and tied a @mountainwest record scoring six rushing touchdowns at New Mexico on Nov. 16

Bibbs owns two of CSU’s three highest single-game rushing performances (312 vs. Nevada; 291 at New Mexico)

Bibbs broke off an 85-yd TD run vs. Nevada, the 3rd-longest scoring run in program history and longest play since ‘03 (BVP to Anderson - 86)

Bibbs became only the fourth player to score at least 3 TDs in five consecutive games, joining Barry Sanders, Paul Hewitt & Montee Ball

Tied Barry Sanders (Oklahoma State, 1988) regular single-season record, scoring at least three rushing touchdowns in seven games

Bibbs now owns the school single-season points record with 168 more than 4 FBS teams (Miami (OH), FIU, UMASS, & South Florida) (Stats from CSURams.com)

Receiving leaders have been Freshman WR Rashard Higgins, SR TE Crocket Gillmore, JR TE Kivon Cartwright, WR Charles Lovett. CSU ranks 39th nationally in passing yards with 258.5 yards per game. On Defense, the Rams are 79th overall, allowing an average of 28.6 points per game. A big reason for the turnaround on the defensive side of the ball from previous years has been Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year SR LB Shaquil Barrett. Barrett has 20.5 tackles for a loss, 12 sacks and three blocked kicks have helped keep the Rams in several games, where they were getting beaten badly in the passing game.

S Trent Matthews has four interceptions and LB Max Morgan (20 tackle single-game total against USU) hope to step up for the Rams against a powerful WSU passing attack. K Jared Roberts has made all 54 point-after attempts this year and made a career long 54-yard field goal against Air Force. He is 26/30 (.867 – only one miss is shorter than 50 yards) in field goals, 8th in the nation, and the most accurate ever at CSU.

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