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Nevada football 2021 offseason opponent preview: Colorado State

Colorado State vs Wyoming

After over 200 days of long-waited anticipation, the Nevada Wolf Pack football season is set to kick off in nine days against the Cal Golden Bears.

This is our second annual Wolf Pack offseason opponent preview. Each Thursday leading up to the season, I will be previewing each Pack opponent on their 2021 schedule — starting at the beginning.

This week, we preview Nevada’s 12th-and-final contest of the regular season against Colorado State. Here’s a look at its full 2021 schedule:

Nevada Football 2021 Schedule

Date: Opponent: TV: Time (all time PT)
Date: Opponent: TV: Time (all time PT)
Sept. 4 at California FS1 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 11 vs. Idaho State TBA TBA
Sept. 18 at Kansas State ESPN+ 11:05 a.m.
Sept. 25 BYE ---------
Oct. 2 at Boise State Fox Networks (specifics not yet announced) TBA
Oct. 9 vs. New Mexico State CBS Sports Network 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 16 vs. Hawai'i CBS Sports Network 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 23 at Fresno State Fox Networks TBA
Oct. 29 vs. UNLV CBS Sports Network 7 p.m.
Nov. 6 vs. San Jose State Fox Networks TBA
Nov. 13 at San Diego State CBS Sports Network 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 19 vs. Air Force FS1 6/7/7:30 p.m.
Nov. 27 at Colorado State CBS Sports Network 6 p.m.

Without further ado, let’s jump into it!

Week 13: Colorado State Rams

2020 record: 1-3 (all MWC)

When: Saturday, Nov. 27

Where: Canvas Stadium in Fort Collins, Colo.

Matchup History: Colorado State leads 12-4

Colorado State 2020 season-in-review:

It was a suboptimal season for Rams first-year head coach Steve Addazio, who compiled a 57-55 record in nine combined seasons with Temple and Boston College. Colorado State’s four games in the COVID-shortened season were the fewest in the Mountain West. Its original season-opener against New Mexico State was cancelled, but its first game came five days later in a road bout versus Fresno State, losing 38-17. Its followed suit with a 10-point home victory versus Wyoming — resulting as the Rams’ only win of the season. They fell 52-21 to Boise State the ensuing week with a 29-17 loss to San Diego State two weeks later — sandwiched between three COVID-19 cancellations (UNLV, Air Force and Utah State).

Colorado State on offense:

In its limited sample, Colorado State had one of conference’s worst offenses. Matters didn’t help that it faced three of the best Mountain West defenses: Boise State, Wyoming and San Diego State, the latter two coming on the road.

New offensive coordinator Jon Budmayr — who previously spent time as Wisconsin’s offensive coordinator (2018-20) — inherits a Rams offense that sported the second-worst offense (323.5 ypg), the third-worst scoring offense (22.3 ppg) with the second-fewest first downs per contest (17.3).

They also posted the fourth-worst rushing offense (124.0 ypg), in addition to ranking last in yards per carry (3.2 ypc) and No. 6 in passing offense (199.5 ypg).

Signal caller Todd Centeio is scheduled to begin the season as the starting quarterback. He began 2020 as the quarterback, but struggled with performance and injury. In three games, he completed a dismal 38.9 percent of his passes for 207 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He added 25 rushes for 92 yards on the ground.

A’Jon Vivens, who transitioned from receiver to running back last spring, led the team in rushing with 210 yards on 49 carries (4.3 ypc) with a score. Marcus McElroy registered eight fewer carries with 100 fewer yards, but tallied a team-high three touchdowns (3).

The running back room brings in Boston College transfer David Bailey, who totaled 1600 career yards (on 4.8 ypc) with 16 touchdowns in three seasons with the Eagles. Last season, Bailey, Boston College’s best tailback, amassed 503 yards on 127 carries (4.0 ypc) with seven scores in 10 games.

Bailey re-unites with Addazio, who spent seven seasons as Boston College’s head coach (2013-19) — including Bailey’s first two seasons.

Colorado State had two players, Trey McBride and Dante Wright, register 20-plus catches; nobody else cracked double digits.

McBride, a two-time All-Conference honoree, hauled-in a team-high 22 catches for 330 and recorded all four of the team’s touchdown passes. Wright, who earned second-team All-Mountain West in 2020, recorded 20 catches for 315 yards.

The Colorado State offensive line returns all five starters, headed by Elijah Johnson, Cam Reddy and Barry Wesley.

Colorado State on defense:

The Rams defense front seven looks to build off a dominant 2020.

They were second in the Mountain West — No. 12 nationally — in rushing defense (108.5 ypg) and ranked No. 2 in the country in yards per carry surrendered (2.5 ypc).

As a team, Colorado State registered 42 tackles-for-loss and 16.0 sacks in just four games — placing atop the conference in both sacks (4.0) and tackles-for-loss per game (10.5).

The group is led by sixth-year senior Scott Patchan, a former Miami transfer. In just four games, Patchan recorded an incredible 7.5 tackles-for-loss and 5.5 sacks. The former tight end was given All-Mountain West first team honors in his first season with the Rams in 2020.

He is joined by Manny Jones, who finished second in tackles-for-loss (5.5) and sacks (2.0), adding 13 tackles. Toby McBride, Trey’s older brother, finished with 12 tackles, 3.5 tackles-for-loss and a forced fumble.

Colorado State returns top tackler, senior linebacker Dequan Jackson — a team captain. The second-team All-Conference honoree had 40 tackles, tying Jones and linebacker Cam’Ron Carter for the second-most tackles behind the line of scrimmage with 5.5. Jackson also had two sacks with one fumble recovery.

Aside from Patchan, Jackson was the only other Ram defensive player to be named to the All-Mountain West first- or second-teams in 2020.

Carter was the team’s second-leading tackler with 32, adding one sack and one fumble recovery as well.

The secondary is where it’s seeking the most improvement. Collectively, the unit posted the third-worst defense thru the air (250.3 ypg) with the third-worst pass defense efficiency allowed (141.5).

Colorado State’s top corner, Marshaun Cameron, recorded the team’s only interception in 2020, coming against Wyoming. In addition, he added 29 tackles, three tackles-for-loss, one sack and one forced fumble. Logan Stewert finished fourth in tackles (26), adding 1.5 tackles-for-loss and one pass breakup.

My thoughts:

There isn’t really any directions Colorado State’s offense can go besides up, though it’s fair to give them a pass since they didn’t have spring practices last year. Positive regression indicates that Centeio improves from his inconsistent — and injury plagued — 2020 campaign. The addition of Bailey with Vivens and McElroy should heighten the Rams’ ceiling in the running game, predicating on average offensive line play — which didn’t occur in a small sample a year ago. Addazio’s forte is to run the football; thus, any offensive success generated will likely heavily rely on that. Colorado State doesn’t possess the requisite weapons — outside of McBride — to hurt opposing secondaries. The defense should be good again in 2021 — which will benefit even more from a strong running game. Can Nevada get its first ever win in Fort Collins in its ninth visit? If it can take away the ground game, I don’t see why not.