Hailing from the Mountain West and boasting a win against Oregon State while losing to Colorado, the CSU Rams, led by head Coach Mike Bobo, are actually entering their 4th game of the season. So don’t let any volume stats, such as the fact that QB Nick Stevens leads the league in total yards, deceive you.
On offense, they are decidedly above average. 33 points per game is good for 63rd in the nation. 512 yards per game is a little further above average, but is boosted by an extra game against Abilene Christian, plus the blowout of Oregon State.
That said, don’t sleep on them either. They return the same QB, top two running backs, and top two receivers from last year’s offense that ranked 28th in scoring and averaged 6.7 yards per play in a 7-6 season.
Senior Nick Stevens is in his 3rd year as a starter, and has been nothing if not steady over his time as a starter by completing 61% of his passes for 5735 yards and 8.2 yards per attempt, while throwing 47 touchdowns to 21 picks. In 2016, he was fourth in the entire NCAA with 9.6 yards per attempt.
He’s not the most mobile of guys, but is fearless in the pocket and is not afraid to chunk it deep. He has the arm strength to do it too, if not always the accuracy. In general though, he prefers longer developing drag routes and 10-15 yard outs.
Senior Michael Gallup is the guy here. After starting in 2016 and leading the Rams with 76 catches for 1272 yards and 14 touchdowns, Gallup is definitely one of the top receiving threats in not only the Mountain West, but all the NCAA.
Next is the 6’0” speedy junior Olabisi Johnson, who averaged an absurd 21.9 yards per reception last year. He has 848 yards and 5 touchdowns in his career, and is a threat to gain huge chunks of yards every time he’s targeted.
Freshman Warren Jackson is a 6’5” monster who has thus far replaced Jackson as a deep threat, and is averaging 24.3 yards per catch over his first three games.
At tight end, a combination of senior Dalton Fackrell and freshman Cameron Butler have 8 catches for 80 yards and a touchdown this year.
Senior Dalyn Dawkins is in his third year as a starter, and nearly reached 1000 yards on each of his first two seasons. The 5’9” 185 lb scat back has averaged 5.3 yards per carry with 1969 yards and 8 touchdowns since 2015.
Junior Izzy Matthews enters his third year as Dawkins’ sidekick and running mate, and his 220 pound bruising style is a perfect complement to Dawkins’ speed and shiftiness. Over the same two years, Matthews has carried the ball 281 times for 1477 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Junior left tackle Zack Golditch is in his third year as a starter, and has been an exceptional pass blocker over the last few years. At left guard, the 6’6” 330 pound giant of a senior is in his second year as a starter, though he’s been a regular contributor every season since he redshirted as a senior.
Center Jake Bennett is in his fourth year as a starter (though his freshman season was only three starts before a season-ending injury cut his season short). The veteran was named All-Mountain West last year, and is on the preseason watch list for the Rimington Trophy.
The right side of the line is not quite as lauded, however. Right guard Nicho Garcia and Right tackle Ben Knox are both JUCO transfers with talent, but no FBS experience.
So, all said, this is a veteran offense, with almost everyone except the right side of the O-line having started together for 2-3 of the last few years. QB Nick Stevens can be a bit erratic and interception prone at times, but also extremely dangerous passing downfield to veteran receivers Gallup and Johnson, while the younger Jackson is a 6’5” monster freshman that could be a freakishly dangerous deep threat.
Throw in two veteran running backs with opposite styles and a veteran offensive line, and this could be a very dangerous offense. I expect them to score at least three times on Alabama, probably somewhere in the 17-24 range.