Mike Bobo has been Mr. Consistent during his time at Colorado State. The long-time University of Georgia offensive coordinator was hired away from the program at the end of the 2014 season, and since then he has led the Rams to three straight 7-6 seasons. They have now made it to a bowl game in five straight years, and that’s one of the longest streaks in the Mountain West.
However, there is reason to be concerned over whether or not the Rams can make it six straight years with a postseason appearance. Colorado State loses a lot of its offensive production from 2017, and the Rams are going to have the fewest number of returning starters of any team in their division.
That being said, the Rams have been impressive enough under Bobo’s tenure that many media members are giving them the benefit of the doubt. Sportsbooks are not so inclined to do that though. Colorado State’s win total this season is 5.5 according to 5Dimes, and the same sportsbook has given the Rams odds of 40-1 to win the Mountain West. Keep in mind that these win total odds do not include conference championship games or bowl games.
|8/31 (F)||VS COLORADO (DENVER)||+8|
|10/6||@ SAN JOSE STATE||-9|
|10/19 (F)||BOISE STATE||+25.5|
|11/24||@ AIR FORCE||+6|
Colorado State had the best offense in the Mountain West last year in terms of both YPG and PPG. Unfortunately, those numbers are going to take a major hit in 2018 with their leading passer, rusher, and receiver no longer on the team. Nick Stevens was the team’s pivot man and was fantastic en route to First Team All-MWC honors. WR Michael Gallup was even better, picking up All-America recognition after another fantastic year. RB Dalyn Dawkins didn’t receive as much attention as the other two, but he was earned all-conference honors too and will be missed.
Graduate transfer K.J. Carta-Samuels is set to be the team’s starting quarterback. Carta-Samuels had been the back-up to Jake Browning at Washington, and he was able to start one game during his time with the Huskies. The addition of Carta-Samuels turned out to be fortuitous, as last year’s back-up Collin Hill tore his ACL in spring practice and might not be able to play this year. Still, there will be a drop-off in production at this position.
The situation at the skill positions is a little tenuous too. Izzy Matthews is likely to be the team’s starting running back, but he averaged a full 1.6 YPC less than Dawkins did last season. He is more of a bruiser and doesn’t have the explosiveness that set Dawkins apart from the rest of the team’s running backs. The depth chart is heavy on big backs too, and this unit will likely lack the big play ability it had last year.
Wide receiver is likely to be the bright spot of the offense, even with four of last year’s top five receivers gone. Olabisi Johnson has proven himself as a consistent option, and former four-star WR Preston Williams looks ready to shine after sitting out last season.
The entire left side of the offensive line will need to be replaced this year, and the Rams lose two First Team All-MWC linemen in Jake Bennett and Zack Golditch. They will get a big boost with the addition of offensive tackle T.J. Roundtree from Louisville, but it’s still likely to be a rebuilding year along the front too.
Colorado State had one of the worst defenses in the Mountain West last year, and this unit is being rebuilt from the ground up. In the trenches, only one starter from last year’s defensive line returns, and the returning linemen will need to learn new techniques too. New defensive coordinator John Jancek is switching the defense from a 3-4 to a 4-3, and there will be a lot of changes when it comes to certain responsibilities.
The linebackers should be the strength of Colorado State’s defense. Josh Watson was the team’s leading tackler last year, and he is back for his senior season. Tre Thomas and Max McDonald bring a lot of experience to the table too.
The secondary received some great news this offseason when the NCAA announced that safety Jordan Fogal was awarded an extra year of eligibility. Fogal was plagued by injuries early in his career, and he will be leaned on this season. He was the team’s second-leading tackler last year. The only other returning starter is Anthony Hawkins who looked promising at cornerback in 2017 after switching over from wide receiver.
This non-conference schedule is very tough. The Rams are likely to lose three of their first four games, and even their FCS opponent isn’t a pushover. Illinois State has one of the best defenses in the FCS, and if the offense can’t find its footing early on, it might give the Redbirds a chance to pull off the upset.
Fortunately, the conference slate is manageable. The Rams play Hawaii, San Jose State, and Nevada in their cross-divisional games, and many are calling for those teams to be at the bottom of the West Division.
Pick: Under 5.5 (-110, 5Dimes)
The under is the play here for me. Although the Rams could rally after a slow start, I think 2-3 is the best case scenario for Colorado State before their first bye week. That could lead to Bobo deciding to go with one of the team’s other quarterbacks and a mid-season rebuild.