By Dave Bruning
The revitalization of the Colorado State football team continues to take steps forward. The latest first down is a berth in the New Mexico Bowl against Washington State. It marks the Rams first bowl appearance since 2008 and their 13th overall bowl appearance. The bowl game signals a bright future for the Rams.
Rams head coach Jim McElwain is rebuilding the football team. He brings a pedigree of success to Fort Collins from his time at Alabama as an offensive coordinator. He has repeatedly stated his goal of building of consistently winning program. The lofty goal of a new on-campus football stadium is on the agenda. Winning seasons and bowl games will go a long way towards securing the new stadium.
The Rams feature a versatile and potent offensive attack. They are the only FBS school in the country that features a 3,000 yard passer (Garrett Grayson) and a 1,500 yard rusher (Kapri Bibbs). Bibbs leads the nation in touchdowns with 28. Colorado State also features a pair of dynamic tight ends in Crockett Gilmore and Kivon Cartwright. Rashad Higgins has emerged as their leading receiver as a true freshman. The offensive weapons available to McElwain are diverse. The Rams have scored more than 50 points in four different games this year.
The Rams are led on defense by MWC defensive player of the year Shaquil Barrett. He is 3rd in the nation in sacks with 12 and 4th in the nation in tackles for loss with 20.5. The rest of the defense has been a little more generous, specifically the secondary. This unit has been torched so often McElwain has the Fort Collins fire department on speed dial. You could make a strong argument the secondary has cost the Rams at least two football games.
A porous secondary does not match up well against the Cougars and their 4th ranked passing attack, coached by Mike Leach. Leach brought his wide open passing offense to Pullman after a stint at Texas Tech. It has the potential to be a long afternoon for the Rams if they cannot defend the pass.
I was hopeful for a higher profile bowl for the Rams. However, they are kicking off the bowl season and football hungry fans have been without a college game for the better part of two weeks. An impressive showing by the Rams would surely be a boon for recruiting as well as stadium fund raising. Albuquerque is also close enough for Rams’ fans to start Christmas vacation a little early.
I am fearful the Rams will not be able to defend the pass. The Colorado State alumnus in me believes in the Rams and their potent offense. Make it 44-37 Rams. Happy college bowl season to all!