As we continue our march towards Colorado State, we traded questions with Rams blogger Jeremy Mauss of SBNation Mountain West Connection
BC Interruption: Colorado State had a dynamic offense in 2013, with the the loss of Kapri Bibbs things have changed. How has the offense adapted since?
Jeremy Mauss: The offense is more of a passing attack with Garrett Grayson slinging the ball around. He has improved a good amount over last year with eight touchdowns to just two interceptions, plus he is averaging 335 yards per game with a pair of 400-plus yard performances against Boise State and UC-Davis. The primary target on the other end of Grayson's passes is Rashard Higgins who has three touchdown receptions and his averaging 102 yards per game. While the ground attack is not as stout with Kapri Bibbs it is still a solid group with Alabama transfer Dee Hart, and while Hart has cooled down after his first game against Colorado where he rushed for 139 yards and two scores. Since that game Hart has not crossed the goal line and has only 54 rushing yards. The Rams do have depth and the more consistent, and No. 1 back on the depth chart, is Treyous Jarrells who is performing a little bit better with 212 total yards and a pair of scores.
The offense will want to be balanced and the running game has potential to be a good unit, but the passing game is the strength of this offense.
BCI: Boston College is a run first team, how is Colorado State's rush defense, and what should we know about your front seven?
JM: The numbers are a big skewed since Boise State ran all over Colorado State with 324 yards, and the Rams defense did all right slowing down Colorado and UC Davis by allowing 134 and 179 yards each. However, the rush defense is nothing great as they allowed nearly 200 yards to a FCS team. If Boston College is going to run as its primary means of moving the ball, well that spells trouble for Colorado State's defense. Giving up five yards a carry against the Rams is not a good sign in stopping even a decent running attack. Colorado State does have a pair of pretty good linebackers in Max Morgan and Cory James, but the unit as a whole is having a tough time stopping the run, and that seems likely to continue.
BCI: Former Alabama OC Jim McElwain has done a solid job of turning around the Colorado State program, what has he brought to the program that has helped make this shift?
JM: Toughness is the main thing that Jim McElwain has brought from Alabama to Colorado State, and it has shown by improving and making a bowl game in 2013 and they are probably the third or fourth best team overall in the Mountain West, at least at this early point. The offense looks similar to Alabama with mostly a pro-style set and multiple backs but he will go in shotgun and spread the field at times, and he is mostly staying away from the uptempo effeteness that are sweeping the country. He wants his defensive front to be tough and they had it last year but the Rams also had the defensive player of the year in the league in Shaq Barrett, but he is gone and he was a huge factor the defense played well.
He is getting some good talent to come to Fort Collins but those players are still young in the program and if he can keep up the recruiting and steal a few players who were looking at Colorado, Utah or some of the Big 12 then the Rams could be heading back to the days of the late 1990s and early 2000s when Colorado State was winning and challenging for conference titles.
BCI: What are your expectations for this upcoming season?
JM: Coming into the season I felt they could be a darkhorse team to win its division and just maybe win the conference title, but the loss to Boise State shows that Colorado State is still not yet ready to win a conference title. However, the rational expectations were to go back to a bowl game and be a tougher competitor to the top of the league. After three games, a bowl game seems likely since the Mountain West has taken a step back in terms of having multiple top teams as Utah State and Fresno State struggling. The Rams will probably beat Utah State and finish second place in the Mountain division and behind just Boise State.
BCI: Alright prediction time, what have you got for Saturday's game.
JM: Going cross country and having an early kickoff (10:30 a.m. MT) could cause some problems for Colorado State, and I expect for the Rams to struggle to stop quarterback Tyler Murphy and running backs Myles Willis and Jon Hillman running the ball. Colorado State likely will have some success in the air and keep the game close, but I expect Boston College to win by about a touchdown and not a blowout.