It’s easy to see the headlines and highlights of SEC teams and other top programs in the weeks before Alabama plays them, but often times we go into these games with smaller teams from across the continent and we have little idea of who we’re actually playing against.
Here to tell us about CSU is Jeremy Mauss:
Brent: In our Q&A to your site, I mentioned that 6’5” receiver Warren Jackson terrifies me, despite his limited stats. Who is he? Should we fear him? Where does he fit in your receiver rotation?
Jeremy: While he is a big target for Colorado State and has made some nice plays down the field he is not the biggest concern for the Alabama defense to focus on, and he is at best the third option in the Rams passing game.. The biggest wide receiver threat is preseason All-American Michael Gallup who has 26 receptions in three games this year and is a legitimate future NFL prospect. Last year he had 14 touchdowns and averaged 16 yards per catch and is the go-to wide out for the Rams. Next in line would be deep threat, and kick returner, Olabisi Johnson who is averaging 16 yards per catch and is on pace to have a breakout year as his 14 catches are halfway to his 2016 total of 28. There are options in the passing game for Colorado State to move the ball.
Brent: Mike Bobo has had success against Alabama in the past in the running game. Obviously, Todd Gurley is in the NFL now, but how dangerous is the CSU running game? Are Dalyn Dawkins and Izzy Matthews capable of taking over a game, or are they just complements to a passing attack averaging 330 yards per game?
Jeremy: They actually go four deep in the running game but Dawkins and Matthews are the key backs. While the two will split carries look for Dawkins get the ball on short yardage situations. The two is a very formidable one-two punch and will make Alabama work to take those two down. The other two will get fewer carries but the fresh legs will make them successful. There is Marvin Kinsey who might be the most talented of this group but he tore his ACL last November prior to the bowl game so his action has been limited to a handful of carries per game, and the other is redshirt freshman Rashaad Bodie and he gives Mike Bobo a huge smile whenever he is talked about to coach. The depth allows for a rotation to keep players fresh but Matthews is the guy who will lead the team in rushing.
Brent: Defensively, what’s your strongest unit? Weakest? And what single player is most likely to make a game changing play?
Jeremy: The Rams are just OK defensively and that is their weakness overall. I would say their secondary and pass defense is their strength as they have seven interceptions on the year and they have been distributed evenly with three against Oregon State and two against Colorado and Abilene Christian. They also have scored three touchdowns off of those seven interceptions, plus they have another six pass break ups. If Alabama is throwing the ball a lot look for Colorado State to make a few plays.
The rushing game is about on par with the passing game as both so far are about average within the Mountain West. The rush defense does allow only 3.84 yards per play which is about top third nationally in a per play average. So, it is not amazing but is pretty good.
As for payers who can make their name heard that has to be either defensive backs Jamal Hicks or Kevin Nutt as both have two interceptions each.
Brent: Not really related to this game, but how do you predict the CSU season ends up going?
Jeremy: Prior to the season my prediction was that the Rams would go 12-1 and winning the Mountain West and being in contention for the New Year's Six bowl game from the Group of Five, and the only loss coming to Alabama. Well, the Colorado loss blew that up in my face as their offense struggled to move the ball consistently and there were a lack of points, and only so much can be made of poor officiating because Colorado State did not get it done. Colorado State still has a good chance to win the Mountain Division since Boise State is playing two quarterbacks and Wyoming does not look to be as good as last year. Look for them to make it to the Mountain West title game and play San Diego State, but ultimately loss to the Aztecs.
Brent: Finally, what is your game prediction? I mentioned to you that I don’t think it will be close, but I figure you likely have more faith in your team than I do, as I haven’t watched as CSU game since Hollywood Higgins went to the NFL.
Jeremy: The Rams have potential to make this game somewhat entertaining. Their offensive line has some good talent including center Jake Bennett who will be in the NFL next year and Colorado State goes four deep at running the ball, but clearly they will not have enough to stay with Alabama for the entire game. There will be some spurts where Colorado State makes some plays and even moves the ball well against the Crimson Tide but only here and there. Look out for wide receiver Michael Gallup who might actually be better than Higgins. I think Colorado State can get on the board against Alabama but the final score will be 34-17 in favor of Alabama.
Thanks again to Jeremy for taking the time to talk with us about CSU. I’m definitely looking forward to the game this weekend.