This week, we asked questions of Jeremy from Mountain West Connection to learn a bit about Alabama's upcoming opponent, the Colorado State Rams.
1. How has head coach Jim McElwain been received so far? After a 4-8 season last year, and a slow start that seems to put that same mark out of reach this year, what is the outlook for McElwain?
He is a no nonsense guy that made some changes immediately in his first spring by taking down some sign that referred to playing like winners, and he told the team they had to earn the right to have a sign like that. In short, he means business and wants to win at Colorado State, but everyone in the program, alumni and media are perfectly fine so far, mainly because 4-8 was a step up from three straight seasons of going 3-9.
Injuries to the teams top two receivers Charles Lovett and Joe Hansley were injured and hurt the teams chances against Colorado and Tulsa, but there are still plenty of winnable games on the schedule. Colorado State's running game will help them against teams like UTEP, New Mexico, Hawaii and Air Force; those are the four most likely winnable games left on the schedule. Finishing with the same record still has a good chance of happening. McElwain just needs to find a quarterback that can play well, the team had a three-way battle in camp before settling on Garrett Grayson and he has been far from ideal.
2. What type of systems are the Rams running, both offensively and defensively?
On offense, the team uses a pro-style set with usually one or two running backs, at least a tight end and then some receivers. Colorado State wants to run the ball and they have three good running backs in Donnell Alexander, Kapri Bibbs and Chris Nwoke to interchange throughout the game. Not that Colorado State will be able to pound the ball against Alabama, but look for them to run the ball early to set up the pass. Balance is the key for Colorado State and they try to do a 50/50 split, but usually they have been leaning to the pass a bit more due to trailing late in games; a trend that likely will continue. If they get Lovett and Hansley back in the lineup at wide receiver then the Rams could open the playbook up more and spread the ball around.
On defense, the Rams use a hybrid 3-4 set where the goal is to have athletes on the field, plus a beefy 330 pound nose tackle in Calvin Tonga. This has helped in stopping opposing teams rushing attack, Colorado State has allowed just one rushing touchdown this year and is giving up just 175 yards per game on the ground. The pass game is where Colorado State defense struggles, especially with speedy wide receivers.
3. Are there any potential star players on the roster that fans should keep their eye on?
On defense linebacker Shaq Barrett is the best defender, and he seems to have his hand in on nearly every play. Barrett already has seven tackles for a loss, two sacks and two blocked punts. Offensively, any of the running back trio between Bibbs, Alexander and Nwoke could have a big game, but to pick just one it probably has to be Nwoke for the yards and Bibbs seems to find his way in the end zone. What Colorado State really needs is to get Charles Lovett and Joe Hansley back because they both are playmakers as a receiver and in the return game. If those two are back they could help Colorado State be able to move the ball with, at least, moderate success.
4. How do you see this game going? What's the final score?
It likely will be a blowout in favor of Alabama. Colorado State needs to go into this game and not turn the ball over and give Alabama short fields to work with, if that happens then the game will get out of control very early. I expect Alabama to put the pressure on early and get a big early lead with Colorado State struggling to move the ball, and there will be a turnover or two early against the Rams. They can't happen but I am sure they will. Once Alabama starts rotating in some of the backups in the second is when Colorado State will be successful in moving the ball and getting some points.
As for a final score, Alabama 41 Colorado State to 13.