Previewing the Season : Colorado State

25_medium   vs.   36_medium

Game #4 : September 27 vs. Colorado State, 3:00 PM (televised on Comcast Sports Net West).

TwistNHook:  Ok, show of hands, who thinks we should just skip these guys, because, I mean c'mon, we already know everything there is to know about Colorado State University football.  Go Buffs!  Buffs, right?  It is the Buffs?  Can I get some verification on this?

ragnarok:  It is not.  You're thinking of Colorado.  Colorado State is the Rams.  Thanks for playing, though.

Yellow Fever:  My only question regarding this game is whether Bob Gregory will pull the starters at all.

TwistNHook:  If we lose this game, we should all cry.  ESPN listed CSU as a possible team for its "10 Worst College Football Teams".

This article notes that this is yet ANOTHER team that we face with a strong running game and major questions at QB and WR:

2. Running game: Fairchild might have the MWC's top rushing attack after the strong spring comeback of Kyle Bell, who rushed for 1,288 yards in 2005 but has struggled with recent knee injuries. Bell is ahead of Gartrell Johnson, who led the team in rushing last season. "Offensively, it's always been our moniker here that we're going to line up and try to beat you up running the football," Fairchild said. "You can't hide from the physical part of this game and I guarantee you we'll be a physical team.

1. New QB needed: The departure of three-year starting QB Caleb Hanie has Fairchild considering junior Grant Stucker and senior Billy Farris as his replacement. He also expects incoming freshman Alex Kelly to get a long look at fall practice. Farris got the nod as the starter in the spring game, but none of the Rams quarterbacks were impressive, as they collectively completed only 15 of 32 passes with four interceptions.

2. Playmakers needed: Fairchild didn't mince words after a sluggish collective performance by his receiving corps in the spring game. Don't be surprised if he immediately considers several additions from his incoming freshman class this summer. "We really need to play better, and our receiver play has not helped us develop at quarterback," Fairchild told the Loveland (Colo.) Reporter-Herald. "It is what it is, and we need to work to get better and improve."

It seems like every team we face is pretty similar.  Strong running game.  Questions at QB and WR.

And a new coach:

1. Enthusiasm from the new coach: Former Colorado State assistant coach Steve Fairchild has infused the program with a fresh attitude. Fairchild spent the last seven years in the NFL after previously serving as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under former Rams coach Sonny Lubick, so he knows the lay of the land in Fort Collins. "We're still learning to practice at the tempo I would like, but we're getting there," Fairchild told the Rocky Mountain News.

Definitely another team in flux.  Hopefully, by this point in the season, our "flux" won't be as bad as "their" flux.  Given that the talent disparity seems high, I feel strong about our chances of victory.  Guys?

CBKWit:  Kyle Bell coming back from his injuries is a good thing for the Rams, but a bad thing for us.  He was very strong in the first half of last year's game at Fort Collins, leading CSU on two long touchdown drives.  Cal only led by 3 points at half.

Morekylebell_medium

Is that a lunchpail with no bottom in his left hand?  A tiny bowling ball bag?  An oversize cowbell?  -  Image via www.ramnation.com

And that's about all I can think of to worry about.  This is really our only gimmie game of the year and we should cruise.  It does have the feel of a trap game, coming off a bye and between our higher profile OOC games and a showdown with ASU the following week, but that's not much of an excuse.

Yellow Fever:  Given that we haven't been in "Potential Bottom 10" territory since the Holmoecaust, I feel pretty good about our chances.  48-3.

TwistNHook:  48-3, eh?  I'm going to go with my own special blowout:  5-0.

ragnarok:  Agreed.  We gotta have this game.  I know we let it get interesting last year, and I know CSU beat us at home in 2003, but if this game is any kinda close, Bears fans should be very, very worried.  35-12.

TwistNHook:  Wow, 35 points.  That's a WHOLE lotta safeties!

HydroTech:  I think most people made too much fuss about last year's close win against CSU.  We didn't play as well as we could have but it's not like we were playing our best and getting dominated by CSU.  There's a difference between winning a close one due to your own faults and winning a close one when you're playing to your full potential.  For the most part, we handled CSU fairly well last year and I should see no problem handling them again this year.  Why?  Let me tell you.

CSU's QB last year?  Gone.  Replaced most likely by senior Billy Farris who has played in 8 games (not starts) over 2 years and only has about a 51% completion percentage.  While it's not a lot of stats to go off of, you have to wonder how good he really can be if it's taken him this long to crack the starting line up and he's only played in 8 games.

Also gone are CSU's top 3 returning WRs.  They will most likely start junior college transfer Ryan Gardner who has 4.3 speed and junior Dion Morton.  Morton had 20 catches last year.  This unit will probably be one of the weaker spots on the team.

But what the Rams lack in the air attack they make up for in the ground attack.  Paving the way for the RBs are 4 returning starters on the OL (who are all juniors).  These big uglies up front will be paving the way for CSU's most lethal attack, their RBs.  Returning this year are their top 3 rushers from last year: Gartrell Johnson, Kyle Bell, and Michael Myers.  Between the three of them they rushed for 1857 yards on 389 attempts for a 4.77 yards per carry average which is decent for the college game.

CBKWit:  So, you're telling me that in addition to Kyle Bell, who looked like Earl Campbell when he played against Cal last year, they also have Michael Myers as a tailback??  Suddenly I am extremely worried about the Rams gashing and slicing our defense.

Michael-myers11_medium

Has a nice spin move to go with a deadly stiff arm.  -  Image via www.horrorphile.net

HydroTech:  You should be.  The Rams are a run-first team.  Last year they attempted about 26 passes per game and about 43 rushes per game (about 62:38 run:pass ratio).  Clearly, the Rams like to run the ball and be physical with you.  Will the Rams keep up this offensive philosophy this year?  I ask this because they have a new head coach, Steve Fairchild, who is a CSU alum and former Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator.  Oh, and Fairchild will call the plays, so it'll be interesting to see what an NFL OC brings to the college game.

But what about defense?  CSU does return all their 3 starting LBs.  That's the good news.  Senior MLB Jeff Horinek logged 94 tackles last year!  His strong and weak counterparts logged 61 and 64 tackles respectively.  If we want to beat CSU, let's get our power run game going and make sure that our OL is getting to these LBs.  The bad news for the Rams is that they only return 1 out of 4 on the DL.  The new guys who will probably start against us are green and/or senior players who have experience but aren't that dominant to begin with.  These are the guys that our OL will have to beat handedly in order to make take out the Rams' LBs.  As for the Rams' secondary, they should be starting two fairly young players at the CB position as since last year's starters graduated.  But at the safety positions, the Rams will most likely start two of their most experienced players in senior SS Mike Pagnotta and junior FS Klint Kubiak.  Both of these players were Mountain West Conference Honorable Mentions in 2006 which is a testament to their playing abilities (although not so much for the Rams' DL and LBs in 2006).  Neither Pagnotta nor Kubiak were 1st team or 2nd team MWC players last year due to injuries.

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Beating Colorado State should be like taking candy from small children.  [Note:  the California Golden Blogs does not endorse taking candy from small children.]  -  Image via www.nbc11.com

All in all, the Rams aren't exactly bursting at the seams with all-conference talent or experience.  I don't see this team as being particularly dominant on either side of the ball.  If we power run at them and take out their linebackers (their strongest defensive unit) it'll be up their offense to keep up with ours.  Their offense will probably not be able to keep up with ours, not when we'll be focusing on stopping their run game and forcing their inexperienced players to pass and catch.  We should beat them handily.

Cal wins 42-17.

TwistNHook:  This should be the easiest game of the year.  If Cal struggles in this game, it would portend poorly for the rest of the season.

CBKWit:  Yeah, we should win convincingly.  Not much more to say than that.

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