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Utah State Opponent Preview: Colorado State

An in depth look at the first of two straight Aggie home games

NCAA Football: Utah State at Wyoming Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

This is a series of in depth looks at the opponents the Utah State football team will be facing this season. The series will use Athlon Sports Top 130 pre-season rankings to consider where opponents are at on a national level and each week will preview a different opponent.

Week 7: vs Colorado State (October 22nd)

Record in 2020: 1-3

Record in 2019: 4-8 (3-5)

Record vs USU: 39-35-2

Athlon Ranking: 103rd

Key Losses: Patrick O’brien (QB), Nate Craig-Myers (WR), Quinn Brinnon (DB)

Key Players Back: Trey McBride (TE), Dante Write (WR), A’Jon Vivens (HB), Marcus McElroy Jr. (HB), Todd Centeio (QB), Dequan Jackson (LB), Cam’Ron Carter (LB), Mohamed Kamara (LB) Marshaun Cameron (DB), Logan Stewart (DB), Henry Blackburn (DB), Tywan Francis (DB) Scott Patchan (DL)

Offense Preview

The loss of experience that Patrick O’brien brought is going to be interesting to replace. The Rams could go with Todd Centeio, who played in relief of O’brien last year and passed for 207 yards and one touchdown, completing 14 of his 36 passes (38.89%) and throwing an interception. The Rams could also go with Matt Valecee who comes in from Boston College or even young blood that shows promising talent. The return of leading catchers Trey McBride and Dante Write is important and they should make big plays for Colorado State this season. In addition, the Rams also bring back leading rusher Marcus McElroy Jr. so whoever starts at quarterback will have experienced talent around him.

Last season, the Rams ranked 113th in total offense (323.5 yards per game), 91st in passing offense (199.5 yards per game), 105th in rushing offense (124yards per game), 127th in third down conversions (13 conversions, 59 attempts; 22%), 125th in red zone offense (8 scores, 13 attempts; 61.5%), and 4th in turnovers lost (one fumble, three interceptions; four turnovers total).

Okay so looking at the statistics, Colorado State has a lot to figure out offensively going into this season. They have the experience at certain positions such as receivers and running back but the quarterback is the big question so the question of how much the offense can improve this season is hard to read. The rushing numbers, and especially the third down conversions, need to go up if the Rams want to compete.

Defensive Preview

The Rams bring back experienced players such as leading tackler Dequan Jackson (40 total tackles, one quarterback hit, one forced fumble), Cam’Ron Carter (32 total tackles, one quarterback hit, one fumble recovery), Cameron Marshaun (29 total tackles, one interception, one pass breakup, one forced fumble), Henry Blackburn (23 total tackles, one pass breakup), Scott Patchan (22 total tackles, three quarterback hits), Mohamed Kamara (21 total tackles, one quarterback hit), and Tywan Francis (18 total tackles, one pass breakup, one quarterback hit, one fumble recovery.

Last season, Colorado State ranked 34th in total defense (358.8 yards per game), 89th in passing defense (205.2 yards per game), 12th in rushing defense (108.5 yards per game), tied for 62nd in third down conversion defense (27 conversions, 67 attempts; 40.3%), 127th in red zone defense (16 attempts, 16 scores; 100%), and tied for 114th in forced turnovers (four fumble recoveries, one interception; five total).

Defensively, there is room for improvement in third down defense, red zone defense, passing defense, and turnovers. However, Colorado State ranked 34th in total defense and 12 in rushing defense so that is certainly a bright spot. Something to consider is that Colorado State played less games than many other teams but they are numbers that show Colorado State could actually be quite decent on defense this year as they bring back key contributors.

Consensus

Overall, Colorado State has struggled ever since the 2017 season when they came very close to winning the mountain division and lost to Marshall in the New Mexico Bowl. The Rams haven’t been able to get more than four wins since that 2017 but Steve Addazio will be looking to bring big improvements.

Not a lot is known about Colorado State, but it’s going to start with the offense as they ranked near the bottom in the nation in major offensive categories. There needs to be consistency and stability at quarterback and consistency on defense in order for Colorado State to improve this season.

There is potential for Colorado State to surprise against teams such as San Jose State, Wyoming, Air Force, and Hawaii. The Utah State game is a toss up right now but Utah State is going to be at home, which could be the factor that Utah State needs to win this game. It will be a must win game for both teams and at this point it looks to be a close game.