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An Eye On The Lobos: Colorado State Preview

NCAA Football: New Mexico at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Nine years ago Mike Locksley walked the sidelines as the New Mexico Head Coach. Steve Fairchild was Colorado State’s Head Coach at the time. The game was Senior Day for the Lobos on that November day, and they entered the game 0-10, while Colorado State was in the midst of a seven game losing streak. Kicker James Aho sent a 27-yard field goal through the uprights for the Lobos to knock off CSU by a 29-27 score, and what ended up being the first of two career wins for Locksley as UNM’s head man.

Fast forward to today, and the Rams are on their second different coach since sending Fairchild packing. The Lobos moved on from Locksley and, outside of the eight game interim stint by George Barlow, the Lobos are on the same coach they replaced him with in Bob Davie. Despite the change since that chilly evening in Albuquerque in November of 2009 one thing has remained constant; Colorado State’s dominance over New Mexico.

The Rams have won the last eight games against the Lobos, including a 27-24 victory in Albuquerque last season. The game wasn’t even that close, it only got close at the end when the Lobos scored a touchdown with 24 seconds to go. We talked about change, and even since that CSU win last year, a lot has changed on both sides entering this year’s tilt.

Colorado State had high hopes entering this season. The Rams were picked to finish third in the Mountain Division in the media preseason polls. After six contests and it has been anything but a season living up to expectations for the Rams and head coach Mike Bobo. Colorado State enters the game with a record of 2-4 overall, and 1-1 in the Mountain West. They are coming off a 42-30 win last week over San Jose State, in which they gave up a 28-0 halftime lead to trail 30-28 entering the fourth quarter, but outscored SJSU 14-0 in that final 15 minutes to win. The other win for Colorado State? A 34-27 win against hapless Arkansas. Their losses haven’t been close. In the four games they have ended up on the losing end, they have been outscored 171-76. It should be noted that two of those games were against nationally ranked teams in Colorado and Florida. The other two though were against Hawai’i and FCS Illinois State. Saturday might be a high scoring affair for both teams, though.

The Rams are giving up 470 yards per game, which ranks 113th out of 129 FBS teams, and 11th out of 12 MWC teams. The Lobos aren’t much better defensively on paper, giving up 447 yards a game, 10th out of 12 in the MWC, and 106th nationally. However, they gave up just 166 yards of offense against UNLV last week in a 50-14 win. The Lobos have the MWC’s third best offense in terms of total yards per game at 460, which is 34th in the country. Colorado State’s offense averages 410 yards a game, good enough for just sixth best in the conference, and 68th in the country.

Rams quarterback KJ Carta-Samuels might give the Lobos defense fits though, as he averages 270 passing yards a game, but has thrown for just 142 yards, and 162 yards in the last two games. He hasn’t been protected well this season, sacked 11 times in six games, and is turnover prone, he has turned it over at least once in every game this season, including six interceptions. He’ll be looking for Preston Williams to throw to, along with Olabisi Johnson. Williams has 43 catches this season for 578 yards and six touchdowns, while Johnson has 31 catches for 452 yards and four touchdowns. No one else has more than 13 catches on the season. CSU has struggled to run the ball this season, mostly because they have been behind early and often. Last week was the first time all season that they had a 100 yard rusher in a game. Izzy Matthews is the team’s leading rusher, but has struggled in many games this season.

The Lobos are coming off a great offensive performance in their win last week. Sheriron Jones got his second start and dazzled, throwing for 250 yards and four touchdowns. He also added 72 yards on nine rushes. In the last six quarters of play the Lobos have outscored their opponents 83-24, and Jones is playing out of his mind. He is responsible for eight touchdowns in those six quarters and 618 total yards of offense. If Jones continues this roll that he’s on, it’ll be tough to beat the Lobos.

From a prediction standpoint, the Lobos have struggled against passing teams this season. On paper CSU is a passing team, that is because they have trailed in every game this season. They look to go balance, but if they find a weakness they will attack it. If the Lobos defense can slow the Rams passing attack, and Sheriron Jones can continue his offensive output, then the Lobos should go to 2-0 in conference, and just two wins away from bowl eligibility halfway through the season. I like the Lobos in this one 38-28.