In a few short days Colorado State will be kicking off the season against the hated Colorado Buffaloes. This game will also begin the "Farewell Hughes" season as the Rams will be heading to a new on campus stadium in 2017. Since the Rams last took the field there has been a lot of change. The biggest is Hollywood Higgins and Joe Hansley have departed and are now in the NFL. There is still ton of talent on this team but in order to take the next step they have to conquer their biggest opponent THEMSELVES!
Last season the Rams were inconsistent at best. While they made a bowl game the team themselves got in their own way. After a gimme win against Savannah State, the Rams dropped the next two games in which they had a lead or were tied in the 4th quarter. The ultimate downfall of those two games were turnovers. The Rams turned the ball over four times against Minnesota which resulted in a 23-20 overtime loss and twice against Colorado. In the Colorado game which CSU dominated there were three missed field goals and a pick 6. Even though there was some bad, the good was also there.
After a 41-17 loss to San Diego State in which coach Mike Bobo called out his team, the Rams finished the regular season with four straight wins. Getting back to basics and running the ball, along with controlling the clock. However they didn't win the "conference" bowl game against Nevada after bad clock management. That brings us to this season, a season of goodbyes and uncertainties. This is the last season at Hughes Stadium, but it could be (although a longshot) a goodbye to the Mountain West.
Offense: The offense will return a lot of talent from last years team but lost a couple key pieces in the receiving corp. As mentioned earlier Joe Hansley, and Rashard Higgins have moved on to the NFL. The receivers have always been deep so now it will be good to see what guys like Eloy Masters, Xavier Williams, and Sammie Long can do. The biggest question is the Quarterback position. Nick Stevens is in competition with Georgia graduate transfer Faton Bauta. Both quarterbacks bring different things to the team, Stevens is a pure passer while Bauta is a duel threat. Stevens needs to cut down on the bad decisions if he's going to keep the job. The running back position will be the feature position for the Rams. Dalyn Dawkins and Izzy Matthews are both explosive backs that will keep the pressure off the quarterbacks. The offensive line is very experienced with Fred Zerblis, Zach Golditch, Nick Calender, and Jake Bennett all returning from last years team. This should be an explosive team no matter who is quarterback.
Defense: The defense has lost more than the offense. Losing eight starters off a defense that played well at times but was often inconsistent. Jordan Vaden moved over from the offensive side to play corner. Kevin Davis will help a young inexperienced and learn a completely new system. The Rams will be moving to a 3-4 attacking defense. So a new scheme along with new pieces will prove to be a challenge for the Rams.
Outlook: The offense will be explosive and often be tough to stop. The defense will struggle but grow throughout the season. The team will put together another good season to make a fourth consecutive bowl game. The bowl game will depend on the record. I'm predicting the Rams will be either 8-4 or 9-3, finishing 2nd in the Mountain division. They'll need to have a solid season to impress the Big 12 Conference. This will be a challenging season starting this Friday against the Colorado Buffaloes and it's important to get things off right.