Colorado State football preview for 2016, including keys to success for the Rams, best players and season prediction.
What You Need To Know About Colorado State’s Offense
Give the Rams’ coaching staff credit in its first year – it did a nice job of keeping things going. The passing game might not have been the killer it was in 2014, but the attack averaged 426 yards per game and was efficient enough down the stretch.
Now the offense needs to be far more consistent and far more dangerous despite the loss of the top receivers, including Rashard Higgins.
Quarterbacks Nick Stevens and Georgia transfer Faton Bauta are a good place to start building up the attack even more, while Dalyn Dawkins is a good back working behind an experienced. Expect another balanced offense with more emphasis on the ground game.
Key To The Colorado State Offense
The running game should take over for a stretch. Colorado State will always have a decent passing attack with a head coach like Mike Bobo at the helm. But with Rashard Higgins and the top four receivers of last year gone, and with the power coming from a solid veteran line paving the way for running backs Dalyn Dawkins and Izzy Matthews, this should be a stronger, tougher ground game that occasionally takes over games – at least that’s the hope. New receivers will emerge – there’s talent coming back – but it’ll be too easy to keep giving the ball to the backs.
What You Need To Know About Colorado State’s Defense
The Rams lose their entire starting front four. However, the linebacking corps is terrific, so it’s not a drastic move going to a 3-4 to take advantage of one of the team’s biggest strengths.
At the very least, the defense will be versatile enough to switch to whatever it needs to be on a given day with a hybrid linebacker doing a little bit of everything. While the Rams struggled against the run, they were fantastic against most good passing teams with a strong, veteran secondary – that’s gone.
The defensive backfield will be a work in progress, and now the pass rush needs to make up for it.
Key To The Colorado State Defense
Can the front seven start coming up with more production against the run? It’s not the biggest group, but it’s not going to be a thin bunch even when it’s working out of a 3-4. However, there’s plenty of overhaul on the line and the deep linebacking corps will have to do most of the heavy lifting for a while. Somehow, the defense that came up with just 22 sacks has to get into the backfield more while getting nastier against the dangerous ground games. The Rams allowed 200 rushing yards or more in eight of the last ten games and gave up over five yards per pop.
Colorado State Football Will Be Far Better If …
The penalties slow down. The Rams didn’t necessarily lose games because they were flagged too often, but the lost yards certainly didn’t help in a 23-20 loss to Minnesota after getting nailed ten times for 86 yards. The 12 sins for 110 yards were a part of the loss to Utah State, and in game after game there were too many needless errors. It’s not a coincidence that when the penalties slowed down, the close wins followed getting hit just 11 times over a three-game winning stretch late in the year. On the season, CSU was 4-0 when committing six penalties or fewer, 3-6 when committing more.
Best Offensive Player
QB Nick Stevens – But here’s the thing – Faton Bauta could end up being the key to the season. Stevens stepped into the starting role last season and did a terrific job, completing 61% of his passes for 2,679 yards and 21 touchdowns with 12 picks. He doesn’t, however, have the same receiving corps as last year and needs to be a little more careful with the ball. Bauta comes in from Georgia with the dual-threat abilities, but without the pure passing skills of Stevens. Bauta will be an X factor, but Stevens is too good to lose the gig.
Best Defensive Player
LB Kevin Davis – The team’s leading tackler came up with 101 stops in his breakout campaign, earning all-star honors as the big hitter on the outside. Now with the more versatile scheme, he’ll work at times both inside and out, but he’ll be at his best on the weak side with good size and nice range. He’s a decent pass rusher, but he has the skills with the hybrid potential to be a more dangerous factor behind the line.
Key Player To A Successful Season
WR Xavier Williams – The 6-4, 215-pound veteran finished fifth on the team in receiving yards, coming up with 231 on 19 catches with two scores in just nine games. With Rashard Higgins and Joe Hansley done, along with the two pass catching tight ends, Williams suddenly becomes the main option with the size and downfield ability to come up with his share of big plays. He’s not going to be Higgins, but as long as he’s steady, he’ll be doing his job.
Colorado State’s Season Will Be A Success If …
The Rams win the Mountain title. That might be a bit of a stretch considering how good Boise State is, and with New Mexico, Utah State and Air Force all solid, but the offense should be terrific and the defense just deep enough to be okay. It’s hardly an easy slate with road games at Boise State, Air Force and San Diego State, but the goal for the program that won ten games just two years ago has to be to at least get to the Mountain West championship game.
Oct. 15 at Boise State – The Broncos won with a 41-10 dominant performance last season, but the Rams took the 2014 showdown in Boise 37-24 in one of the keys to the season. Boise State has won four of the last five meetings, and to be realistic, it’ll take a CSU win on the blue turf to have any real shot at the conference title. A loss means wins on the road at Air Force and San Diego State are a must – that’s too tough a task.
Fun Stats From 2015
– Penalties: Colorado State 97 for 898 yards – Opponents 83 for 732 yards
– First Quarter Scoring: Colorado State 130 – Opponents 74
– Fourth Down Conversions: Colorado State 10-of-17 (59%) – Opponents 14-of-26 (54%)
Prediction For 2016
What’s going to happen to Colorado State football this season? Check out what the final record is going to be …