The last time we saw the Colorado State Rams they were busy plastering UTEP 59-42 on Sept. 28, ending their non-conference schedule on a decidedly high note. But at 2-3, it's easy to imagine where the team could have been if they'd started off stronger. Lackluster efforts against Colorado and Tulsa could easily have been victories for Jim McElwain's squad, who played perhaps their best game of the season in a 31-6 loss at Alabama.
That game showed the defensive potential for the Rams, while the explosion against the Miners showed just how dangerous the offense can be when it's hitting on all cylinders. They'll need both if they want to qualify for a bowl in McElwain's second season.
The Rams host San Jose State in their must-win MWC opener, but before we look ahead to the Spartans, here are the players who distinguished themselves in the out-of-conference slate.
Offensive MVP: Kapri Bibbs
Bibbs has been as good many dreamed he might be when he first landed on Colorado State's radar in 2010. The long and winding road to Fort Collins complete, he's been electric on the field, rushing for 360 yards and six touchdowns on 53 carries, good for an average of 6.8 yards per carry. Why he hasn't been given 20 carries a game is beyond understanding. Sure, Chris Nwoke and Donnell Alexander have each flashed at times, but BIbbs has been a consistent playmaker from Week 1. If the Rams want to make a move in a suddenly wide-open Mountain Division, they'd do well to ride Bibbs as a feature back.
Defensive MVP: Shaquille Barrett
This one's a no-brainer. Barrett's been an absolute terror, leading the nation in tackles for loss at 12.5 and ranking fourth with 6.5 sacks. His blocked field goal against Cal Poly seized the momentum just when the Mustangs appeared to be on the road to a comeback. Ditto his sacks against UTEP that resulted in a safety just when the Miners had drawn even at 28. Barrett's a quiet, lead-by-example type, but don't let his understated nature mislead you -- Barrett is a legitimate All-American candidate.
Most Valuable Newcomer: Rashard Higgins
Ok, technically this should go to Bibbs too, but that wouldn't be interesting. So instead we'll give this award to "Hollywood." Appropriate, eh? Higgins, a true freshman from Mesquite, Texas, has smoked the opposition all year long. Whether or not he holds on to the ball when it's thrown his way is another thing altogether, but he held on to enough to make him the Rams' leading receiver with 22 catches for 327 yards and three touchdowns. He still needs to work on those hands, but five games into his college career, he's shown more than enough to get Colorado State fans excited.