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Colorado State Season Preview

CSU’s Breakout Year?

NCAA Football: Arizona Bowl-Nevada vs Colorado State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

After coming off a disappointing loss in the 2016 Idaho Potato Bowl the CSU Rams are looking to change the fortunes that they have had over the past few seasons and rise above the middle of the pack and take home that elusive Mountain West championship. With the construction of a new stadium and the return of many experienced talented players the expectations for this year’s Rams squad is are at an all-time high.

After finishing last season a disappointing 7-6, (5-3 in the Mountain West) the Rams will be looking for significant improvement this year, with the ultimate goal of claiming a Mountain West Championship, and winning a bowl game.

Mike Bobo has created a new standard of excellence in Fort Collins, the only problem with raising expectations however, is now he and Rams have to meet them. Mediocre is no longer acceptable.

The Offense:

Reasons for Optimism: It would have been difficult to ignore the performance of Nick Stevens down the stretch of 2016. Towards the end of that year Stevens was arguably one of the hottest quarterbacks in all of college football, and he has seemingly carried that over into Fall Camp. If Stevens plays can continue his impressive play this season, the Rams offense will likely be a nightmare for opposing defenses. Throw in the improved play of wide receiver Michael Gallup has shown this offseason, and he and Stevens may become one of the more deadly duos in the Mountain West.

Causes for Concern: He who giveth, also taketh away. For all the good Nick Stevens did last season there were equal amounts of bad. Inconsistent quarterback play has plagued CSU over the past few seasons, if it rears its ugly head again the only fall back plan is sophomore Colin Hill.

Key Stat: 35.31 is the score that the CSU offense was given coming into the 2017 season. This is the second highest ranking in the Mountain West behind Wyoming, and is well above the league average of 29.05.

Wild Card: The wild card in the CSU offense will be senior running back Dalyn Dawkins. Dawkins is a player with incredible technical skill and athleticism that gives him the ability to be one of the top running backs in the conference this season. Much like Stevens and the rest of the CSU squad inconsistency is a common trait seen in Dawkins, if he plays to his ability the Rams will have a field day moving the ball up field, but if Dawkins falls into the cycle of inconsistency it could be a long year for the Rams on the ground.

The Defense:

Reasons for Optimism: CSU’s defense has grown and matured since last season and with the addition of new talent the Rams defense can take a massive step forward this year. With experience comes talent and the Rams had a very young defense last season that is now older and more capable of making the correct plays and stops.

Causes for Concern: CSU’s defense was arguably the weakest part of their team last season. The Rams defense ranked 55 at the end of the 2016 season. That although not the lowest in the conference leaves much to be desired especially for a team looking to run away with the conference title. Much like the offense the defense can be up and down, and often lead to the team trailing or losing games during the course of the 2016 season.

Key Stat: 30.4. The number of points that the CSU defense allowed in the 2016 season. This needs to be lowered if the Rams want to compete against the higher powered offenses in conference and out of it.

Wild Card: Jamal Hicks. The sophomore had a good year in 2016 becoming the first CSU defensive player to record an interception as a true freshman since 2012. Hicks started nine games in the 2016 season and will look to carry on his good start with the Rams during the 2017 season after developing his game for a year and working hard during the off season.

Schedule Analysis:

August 26- Oregon State

September 1- Colorado

September 9- Abeline Christian

September 16- @ Alabama

September 30- @ Hawaii

October 7- @ Utah State

October 14- Nevada

October 20- @ New Mexico

October 28- Air Force

November 4- @ Wyoming

November 11- Boise State

November 18- San Jose State

Thoughts: The Rams open up their season against Oregon State, a power five team that has not performed well the past few seasons, despite that Oregon State will still be a tough opponent for the Rams and will be looking to spoil the Rams opener in their new stadium. After the Rams will travel down to Denver to play in state rival CU Boulder in the Rocky Mountain Showdown. The Rams were blown out in last year’s game and will be looking for revenge this season, however that will not come easily. CU is coming off one of the best years in program history and is still a very strong opponent. The Rams return to Fort Collins to play arguably their easiest game this year against Abeline Christian a team that went 2-9 last season. The final game of out of conference play will take place at Alabama which will be the tallest of orders the Rams will have to fill if they want to beat the Crimson Tide at their own stadium. If the Rams play well they could be going into conference play this year at 3-1 or 1-3 if their play is lacking against either team. A likely bet will be on a loss to Colorado and Alabama putting them at 2-2 starting conference play.

Mountain West play will open up against Hawaii a team that plays in the weaker of the two conferences, but will not be a cake walk for the Rams. After Hawaii the Rams will travel to Utah State a team that the Rams handled well last year and was near the bottom of the pack in the Mountain Division. The Rams will return home to play Nevada before going back on the road to play New Mexico who CSU beat last season to send off Hughes Stadium. CSU will then play in state rival Air Force who is always a tough team when the Rams play them. After that the Rams will play last year’s Mountain West champions Wyoming in the border war, Wyoming handled the Rams in Fort Collins and have star quarterback Josh Allen returning. The Rams then close off the year with two home games against Boise State and San Jose State. The Rams will be hoping to finish this year at the top of the conference their tough games will come against Boise and Wyoming, but assuming they split in those games and dodging San Diego State will allow them to finish 7-1 in conference play.

Best Case Scenario: The Rams play fully to their ability and go 10-2 overall and 8-0 through conference play losing to Colorado and Alabama. The Rams will take home the Mountain West Championship and win their bowl game.

Worst Case Scenario: The Rams play inconsistent football and lose a lot of games to teams they’re better than and we see a year similar to 2016 where the best thing that will come is a win in a bowl game.

What Will Likely Happen: The Rams will play good football finish 9-3 at the top of the Mountain Division then play San Diego State for the Mountain West title, and win their bowl game.