THE RAMS ON OFFENSE
| Cougars (6-6) vs Rams (7-6)|
AT A GLANCE
11:00 a.m. PT
University Stadium (37,457)
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WSU by 4 ½
This is WSU's first matchup with CSU.
Cougs 33, CSU 17
Players to Know
Kapri Bibbs, RB: CSU's featured offensive weapon leads the nation with an eye-popping 28 rushing touchdowns. He is a compact, downhill runner with game-breaking ability. He ranks 6th in the nation with 1,572 rushing yards. He isn't much of a receiving threat, but has scored three or more touchdowns in six of the seven games CSU has won.
Garrett Grayson, QB: The junior out of Vancouver, Wash. has been keen to take advantage of defenses that try to stack the box. He has thrown for 3,327 passing yards and 21 touchdowns with only 10 interception this season. Grayson is at his best when protecting a lead (21 touchdowns, 3 interceptions when CSU is ahead.) He has good vision, isn’t afraid to go long and uses a very effective play-action fake once Bibbs starts rolling up the yards on the ground. But Grayson has looked quite mortal when asked to carry the offense himself. He has thrown zero touchdowns and seven interceptions when CSU is tied or trailing.
Crocket Gilmore, TE: A capable receiver and run blocker, Gilmore has the size (6-6, 255) and skill to create mismatches with most of the defenders assigned to him. Gilmore received first team all-conference honors and ranks 9th among FBS tight ends with 533 receiving yards, and has a pair of touchdowns.
Reshard Higgins, WR: CSU's top receiving threat is a true freshman from Texas. Higgins has 795 receiving yards (2nd among FBS freshmen) and six touchdowns. He is more of a possession receiver than deep threat, but is a productive piece of the offense.
This is one of the most statistically balanced offenses in the country. The Rams average 259 passing yards and 203 rushing yards per game, ranking in the top 40 nationally in most offensive categories. But in truth, it has been feast or famine for the Rams this year. In the CSU's victories, Kapri Bibbs has averaged 174 rushing yards (7.1 avg.) per game. And in their defeats, that number drops to a mere 60 rushing yards per game (4.3 avg.). Getting Bibbs rolling early will be essential to their game plan. It sets up Grayson's play action passing and takes the pressure off an inconsistent CSU defense.
WSU's game plan should be similar to what worked against Arizona. The primary concern is Bibbs, and although he isn't the same kind of talent as KaDeem Carey, he’s dangerous and especially if allowed to gain confidence early. McElwain likes to work Bibbs frequently to the outside -- while hitting receivers on quick passes to the inside. That’s kept defenses off balance in their wins. WSU's base defense should hold up, and they do not need to take chances with their safeties. CSU is not well equipped to stage a comeback, so the Cougs should be well positioned to tee-off on Grayson from the start pm the other side of the ball, Halliday and the offense can build a decent lead.
That would be 100 rushing yards: When Bibbs runs wild, CSU wins – and he has 312- and 291-yard outings this season. The Rams have won every game when Bibbs has topped 100 hashes or more. But they are just 2-6 this season when he hasn't. Indeed, Bibbs has not had more than 83 rushing yards in any of the six CSU losses.
THE RAMS ON DEFENSE
Players to Know
Shaquil Barrett, LB: The MWC Defensive Player of the Year has 20.5 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, and three blocked field goals this season. At 250-pounds he has a nice balance of speed and power.
Shaq Bell, CB: Leader of CSU's secondary. Bell is a versatile player who can play both corner and safety. Sometimes sent on blindside blitzes, has 7.5 tackles for a loss this season -- unusual for a cornerback.
Max Morgan, LB: The “quarterback of the defense,” Morgan leads the team with 129 tackles on the year, the most by any Ram player since 1996.
The Rams operate out of a multiple defense, utilizing Barrett in a sometimes hybrid role. Colorado State has struggled in pass defense this year, surrendering 3,450 yards and 7.9 yards per pass attempt. You can expect them to operate out of a base 4-2-5 most of the time to try and cover WSU's ample receiving targets.
Colorado State really hasn't faced an Air Raid style offense this season. The closest comparison was Hawaii's run and shoot which passed for 386 yards and two touchdowns against them in a 35-28 CSU win. The Rams held their last two opponents in check (Air Force and Utah State) but prior to that had looked very vulnerable against the pass. Expect them to take chances and try for turnovers. Halliday needs to focus on ball control and utilize his running backs and hot routes.
No. 100 in pass efficiency defense: For a defense that did not face any big-name quarterbacks, the Rams should have fared better against the pass this year. Any defense giving up 400-plus passing yards to Colorado and San Jose State, should be highly concerned about what kind of output Mike Leach's offense could generate.
THE RAMS ON SPECIAL TEAMS
Kicker Jared Roberts is a Lou Groza finalist. He is 17-20 this year with a long of 54 yards.
The Rams will be in a more familiar setting than the Cougs. They played in this very stadium just a month ago, and they won that game 66-42 over New Mexico.
In the Rams’ victories, they came storming out of the gate offensively. Conversely, they did not show much resiliency in their defeats. Quarterback Garrett Grayson has yet to throw a touchdown pass with CSU tied or trailing.
University Stadium sits at 5,100 feet, almost the same altitude as Fort Collins so the Rams should be less affected by that than the Cougs.
Colorado State is traveling along a similar trajectory as WSU. They have a second year coach who has the program back to a bowl game and are generally said this December to be a year ahead of schedule. McElwain deserves credit for getting the Rams to seven wins, but it must be said: Colorado State did not beat a single team with a winning record or headed to a bowl game. And they lost to three teams that aren’t bowling this season.