What a time to be alive. College football season is finally approaching. Nothing beats the smell of freshly cut grass on a Saturday in the fall. It seems like we haven’t experienced real football in years with everything that’s been going on, but it’s (hopefully) going to be the real deal this year with full capacity crowds, drunk college kids, and hard hitting, always entertaining Mountain West football.
Today I’ll be previewing what we’ll be getting this year from the boys in green and gold, as CSU looks to put a disappointing 2020 season in their rearview and focus on a bright future ahead.
So enough jibber-jabber. Let’s get right into it.
Reasons for optimism: Easy. The Rams have two of the best weapons in the entire conference on their side in Trey McBride and Dante Wright. Combine these two with an offensive line returning all 5 starters, plus a couple more Boston College transfers to compete for the starting spots, and new Offensive Coordinator Jon Budmayr has to like the foundation that’s been built on that side of the ball.
Cause for concern: What is CSU going to get out of the most important position on the field? Temple transfer Todd Centeio earned the starting QB spot in Spring camp, but Ram fans are still clamoring to see if this is the guy that can lead this team to a shot at the Mountain West Championship. Playing through injuries last year was tough for him, but he’s a legitimate threat on the ground and if he can prove accuracy in the passing game, this concern might turn into an asset.
Key stat: 22%. This was the Rams 3rd down conversion rate on offense last year. That’s obviously not going to cut it. Again, this will largely be determined by what type of QB play CSU gets this year.
Wildcard: David Bailey. Another Boston College transfer, Bailey will be competing for snaps at running back with Marcus McElroy and converted WR A’Jon Vivens. Addazio brought this kid in for a reason and it’s not hard to imagine Mr. Bailey taking over as the lead back this year for the Rams.
Reasons for optimism: This team’s defensive front is LEGIT. It’s hard not to start with Miami transfer Scott Patchan, who in only four games last year, had five and a half sacks and seven and a half tackles for a loss. Not to be outshined, the Rams also bring back Toby McBride (Trey McBride’s little brother), Manny Jones, Devin Phillips, and Ellison Hubbard. All guys that have proven spurts of dominance at various points in their careers. Outside of the defensive line, CSU essentially is returning every player from that side of the ball from last year. And from everything being said at camp, Chuck Heater seams to like what he’s got over there. Also, Chuck Heater is an all time Defensive Coordinator name, just for the record.
Cause for concern: While CSU is returning most of last years talent, last years talent wasn’t exactly awe-inspiring. They were 104th out of 127 teams in college football scoring defense. That is a bit skewed however due to absolutely abysmal Special Teams play.
Key stat: 16 sacks. The Rams had a total of 16 sacks last year, which on the surface actually sounds pretty terrible. But considering they only played 4 games, those 16 sacks are an impressive feat for a defense returning its entire defensive line and linebacking core.
Wildcard: The entire Rams secondary. Chuck Heater (again, all time football name) has an aggressive style when it comes to defensive backs, and that can often have unpredictable results. This is my wildcard for the entire Rams team this year because if we see some good play out of this secondary, the rest of the defense is talented enough to make this a really hard team to score against.
Fri, Sep 3 vs South Dakota State 6:00 PM on FS1
Sat, Sept 11 vs Vanderbilt 7:00 PM on CBSSN
Sat, Sep 18 @ Toledo 1:00 PM on ESPNU
Sat, Sep 25 @ Iowa TBD
Sat, Oct 9 vs San José State TBD
Sat, Oct 16 @ New Mexico TBD
Fri, Oct 22 @ Utah State 6:30 PM on CBSSN
Sat, Oct 30 vs Boise State TBD on CBSSN
Sat, Nov 6 @ Wyoming 12:30 PM on CBSSN
Sat, Nov 13 vs Air Force 4:00 PM on CBSSN
Sat, Nov 20 @ Hawai’i TBD
Sat, Nov 27 vs Nevada 6:00 PM on CBSSN
Thoughts: This is a tough team to figure out. On one hand, they have a ton of talent. A lot left over from the Mike Bobo (eww) era, and a lot brought in by Steve Addazio. 2020 was such a weird year that it almost seems unfair to judge this Ram team based on their 1-3 record. Also, 2020 was quite possibly the worst possible time to try and implement a new head coach, so I’m going to have the mindset that 2020 didn’t count (Sorry SJSU). So, in 2021, I feel that Ram country is cautiously optimistic about this football team.
Best case scenario: Rams win their first 3 out-of-conference games, taking care of business against South Dakota State, beating an SEC team for the first time in school history, and having their first real road game in almost 2 years be an enormous success by beating an experienced and well coached Toledo team in their house. They come up short against Iowa, staying competitive throughout, but come back home and beat the defending Mountain West Champs, SJSU, proving to themselves they really are for real this year. They go on to be undefeated in conference play, win the Mountain West Championship and go to a New Years 6 bowl, pulling off a Boise State like miracle at the last second against one of the most dominant programs in College Football history. A boy can dream can’t he?
Worst case scenario: The Rams go 0-4 heading into conference play, killing any optimism that was in the air at the beginning of the year. They follow that up by getting smoked by SJSU at home and win only 2-3 games the rest of the way.
What’s probably going to happen: What’s probably going to happen? You read the best case scenario right? What else do I have to explain here?
All jokes aside, while I may have exaggerated a tad...it’s not crazy to say that Colorado State has the biggest gap between how many games they could realistically win and lose out of any Mountain West team this year. There are just so many unknowns. For example, a realistic scenario could take place where CSU plays really well in their out-of-conference games, but still start the year 0-4...or 1-3 if we want to be nice. This situation would most definitely kill their confidence heading into conference play. And then if they lose their first conference game at home against the defending champs (again, very realistic), watch out because that could snowball into a brutal year.
However, it’s also realistic to say the Rams could go 3-1 to start the year. In this scenario, yes they lost to Iowa (consistently a top 10-15 team in the country), but it would also mean they beat an SEC team (however bad they may be), a really solid Toledo team on the road, and an equally well coached SDSU team that could compete with most, if not all, D-1 mid majors. What could happen then? Really competitive conference play, that’s what. And in that scenario, who knows what could happen.
This years team is truly a crapshoot for the Rams. So what do I think’s probably going to happen? Please refer to the section titled “Best Case Scenario.” I’ll be right until proven otherwise.