The season started with high hopes as Colorado State came out of the 2012 season with three wins in five games and finally broke the 3-9 curse with a coveted fourth win in the season finale; but that hope would quickly turn to despair as the Rams dropped a big game against rival Colorado in embarrassing fashion. The Rams struggled to produce on offense, and allowed easy touchdowns off blown coverages and a fumble returned for a touchdown.
The following week, they traveled to Tulsa, Oklahoma to take on a Golden Hurricanes squad that was manhandled by Bowling Green a week before. Once again, the Rams had problems moving the ball with Garret Grayson throwing for a pedestrian 108 yards on 29 attempts. Despite the woes of the offense, Colorado State entered the fourth quarter with a 13 point lead. Poor play calling and even poorer execution left the defense on the field for seven minutes during the final frame and the Rams left with a loss on a last second field goal.
Week three brought formidable FCS opponent Cal Poly to Fort Collins for the first home game of the year. The Rams did what they needed to do and beat the Mustangs handily behind a strong performance from running backs Chris Nwoke and Kapri Bibbs. The offense finally started to show the spark fans were looking for all season.
Then the Rams travelled to Tuscaloosa to take on the back-to-back national champion Crimson Tide. It was somewhat of a homecoming for Jim McElwain as he was the offensive coordinator of the 2011 championship team. There was a lot of debate regarding the merit of throwing a vulnerable Rams squad against such an overpowering opponent, but it proved to be much more of a game than many thought with the defense stonewalling the Alabama defense for much of the game, before eventually losing 31-6. Although they could not earn the monumental upset, the confidence built from hanging with the best team in the country would pay dividends the coming week.
It was cloudy how the team would respond to the loss against Alabama. Would they have a renewed sense of confidence and get after a weak UTEP team? Or would they suffer from the emotional drain of the 'Bama game and underperform like Rams teams of the past? It was quickly apparent which would be the case. Other than allowing the Miners to score on their opening drive, the Rams absolutely dominate the first half to the tune of a 28-7 lead. But in the first play of the second half, UTEP quarterback Jameill Showers found receiver Jordan Leslie down the field for an easy touchdown. Bernard Blake, arguably Colorado State's best secondary player, went down on the play for several minutes and required a medicart to be taken off the field. After that the Rams look deflated, the offense did not move the ball and the defense gave up two more easy touchdowns to let the Miners tie it at 28.
Now, the Colorado State teams we are used to seeing would have easily folded in and let that game slip away; but in large part to the fire of undergrad assistant and former pro bowler Joey Porter, the defense stepped up and forced a safety waking the Rams from their daze. They went on to score 24 unanswered points to put the Miners away.
Offensive Player of the Non-Conference
Kapri Bibbs - What a relief it is to finally have Bibbs on the field for the Rams. Bibbs originally committed to the Rams as part of the 2011 class, but took the longest road possible after low ACT scores kept him from academically qualifying. There were a lot of questions whether he would live up to his high school potential, and he quickly put that to rest. Despite a fumble against Colorado that was picked up for a touchdown, he has been all positive in his first five games as a Ram.
He has 360 rushing yards and six touchdowns, which leads the Rams in both categories. He also contributes in the run game with his blocking and has four receptions with 34 yards. Every time he steps on the field he provides a spark for the offense and it will be interesting to see if he can keep it going through conference play.
Defensive Player of the Non-Conference
Shaq Barrett - Barrett has been an absolute monster this season. The addition of Joey Porter to the staff has really elevated his game. He added several pass rushing moves to his repertoire and it shows with his nation leading 6.5 sacks. Against Alabama he went toe to toe against some of the best offensive linemen in the country and held his own. If he continues this level of play the rest of the season, he may become the first Ram drafted since Shelley Smith in 2010.
Original Prediction 7-6 (3-5 MW)
To be fair...the Rams did give away the first two games I picked them to win in, but that's enough of that.
Revised Prediction 6-7 (4-4 MW)
The Rams have a perfect time for a bye with several players trying to get healthy and a chance to regroup before going into conference play. They will have two weeks to prepare for the homecoming game against San Jose State. I originally picked San Jose to win this game, but they have been decimated by injuries and are just not the same team without coach Mike MacIntyre at the helm. With the Rams coming off their best offensive performance in years and an extra week to prepare, they should be able to control David Fales enough to get the win. After that, it will be interesting to see if they can rally against Wyoming and take back the Bronze Boot for the first time in five years. If they can do that, it will really make the Mountain division interesting.
Quick Stats (Courtesy of cfbstats.com)
The Rams' 59 points against UTEP were the most in 19 years for CSU
The Rams are only 61 yards away from halving last season's offensive production
Shaq Barrett leads the entire nation in sacks (6.5), tackles for loss (12.5), and blocked kicks (2)
Rashard Higgins and Kivon Cartwright already have as many touchdowns (3) as any Rams' receiver last season
Kapri Bibbs has more touchdowns (6) through five games than any other Ram had total last season
Those six touchdowns are tied for six highest rushing touchdowns this season
Garrett Grayson is 26th in the country in passing yards
With his 156 yard performance against UTEP Higgins has the most receiving yards ever for a CSU freshman and most amongst freshman in college football this season
Aaron Davis is 22nd in the nation with 8.8 tackles a game
The Rams' offensive line is only allowing a sack per game, down from 2.5 a year ago
The defense has improved from 116 to 41 in third down conversions allowed