The Falcons will face off against the Colorado State Rams on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday at Falcon Stadium at noon. The Rams come into the game with a 1-3 record, having beaten Wyoming at home and losing to Boise State and Fresno State on the road.
The Falcons are coming off a shutout victory over New Mexico, 28-0, a victory marred by poor ball protection in the third quarter, but bolstered by a defense making good plays at the right time, and a dominating running attack.
Colorado State is coming off of a bye week forced by Covid issues on the UNLV football team.
The Rams started out the year against Fresno State and utilizing Todd Centeio at quarterback, trying to establish a running game style favored by Coach Addazio, and Centeio did a nice job running the ball, but was ineffective in the pass game, and Addazio turned to Patrick O’Brien and has utilized him at quarterback ever since. Jake Haener and the Bulldogs were able to rack up almost 350 yards and three touchdowns through the air.
In the second game, the Rams were able to force two turnovers early in the game that they turned into touchdowns, jumping out to a 14-0 lead that they never relinquished. O’Brien was very effective in the game feeding passes to his two favorite receivers, Dante Wright and Trey McBride.
In their third game against Boise State, the Rams were victims of the Avery Williams show, who blocked a punt for a touchdown and returned two punts for touchdowns. The Rams passing game was ineffective and was unable to convert many 3rd and 4th down opportunities.
Factors to Watch
The Falcon Running Game
It always comes down to this in Falcon games. When the offensive line is intact and the Falcons hold on to the ball, they have a chance to win every game. Brad Roberts has earned his way up to the top of the depth chart at fullback. He became the featured back last week with the absence of Kaden Remsberg and Timothy Jackson and he delivered the goods. The commentators for the game noticed how Roberts always cradled the ball with both hands and was patient waiting for the hole to open, and with the Falcon offensive line operating at full strength, there will usually be a hole to slip through. It looks as though Remsberg will return this week, and he and the rest of the Falcon runners need to learn from that and HOLD ON TO THE BALL.
This past week the Falcon offensive line was named to the honor roll for the Joe Moore Award given to the best offensive lines in college football. You can follow the Falcon line stats with Football Insiders at this website. Currently the O line is ranked number 1 in standard down line yards, number 2 in line yards, number 3 in opportunity rate, and number 5 in stuff rate.
The Ram Passing Game
The Rams passing game has been inconsistent so far this year. The Falcon pass defense has been inconsistent this year. We all know that Wright and McBride are talented, big time receivers. I would expect some pain to be inflicted on the secondary, but am hopeful that some critical stops can be made. The Rams this year have only a 21% conversion rate on third down, and a 29% conversion rate on fourth down. The Falcons have been able to generate some pressure but not a lot of sacks, but the pressure has helped hold opponents’ conversion rate to 38% on third downs and 20% on fourth downs. Every stop can give the Falcon offense another possession to wear down the defense. Some of the younger Falcons were able to step up in the New Mexico game and add some pressure. Jonathan Youngblood had a couple QB hurries and Jayd Thiergood had one hurry. Brandon Gooding added a sack. The Rams have given up 10 sacks on the year, so there is some vulnerability.
The Rams game against Boise exposed a weakness in special teams. The Falcons don’t have a dynamic return specialist like Avery Williams, but they have found a way to block kicks every year. Last week, Michael Purcell was credited with a block when he got some fingers on a field goal attempt. The Rams have had two punts and a field goal blocked, so the elements are there for more.
On the other side of the coin, Ryan Stonehouse is one of the top punters in the nation, and could create a problem with field position for the Falcons.
As I write, the line has shrunk from -7 for the Falcons to -5.5 and the over/under is 55.5 points. With the running game executing at high efficiency, I think the Falcons can cover that spread and win by a score of 35-28, so I also would take the over.