Colorado State Rams
Colorado State was, at one time, one of the premier non-BCS programs. My how things have changed. Now, Steve Fairchild comes from the NFL to try to rebuild from the ground up, can he succeed in year one?
THE OFFENSE: The running game is obviously something to keep an eye on. The big question this year is (as it usually has been) will Kyle Bell be healthy all year? Bell is such a crucial cog in their offensive machine. Even if he can't go and gets hurt somewhere down the line, don't panic! Gartrell Johnson is still a very good back that Fairchild can rely on. Most offseason talk about the Rams have centered around the coaching move or the rushing attack, but there is a hole at QB now that Caleb Haine has graduated. From top-to-bottom, this position does have a lot of talent that still needs to be developed and I guess that's where Fairchild can come in and help immediately. Billy Farris isn't the best QB on the planet, but he is the most experienced and should be the starter early on. If they drop out of contention though, look for Grant Stucker to see some extensive time seeing how he's a junior and Farris is a senior and, let's face it, this year is about building towards 2009. But anyway, the Rams will need some major production from the receivers, such as track star Rashaun Greer who figures to be in the mix to be the number one guy in Fort Collins. Kory Sperry is one of the better TEs in the country and probably will be one of the top receivers on the team this season. The offensive line was an issue last year as Hanie got sacked three times a game. Mark Starr's development is key to the success of the line, but there isn't a whole lot of promise here.
THE DEFENSE: One thing Colorado State has been missing over the last few years is a solid defensive line. They've been getting torn to shreds, at least since 2005. 2007 was no different as Colorado State ranked 107th in the nation; not good enough to win the big Mountain West intraconference battles. Every defensive lineman on the starting roster is a junior or a senior which bodes well for their hopes of stopping the run. Tommie Hill is probably the best player up front as he did have 5.5 sacks last year. Sevaro Johnson should see plenty of playing time coming from the JUCO ranks at DT. Jeff Horinek is the best LB on the team and Ricky Brewer is also returning at that position. The safeties are probably the best attribute of the Ram defense with Klint Kubiak and Mike Pagnotta returning at full strength. The CBs are young and we don't really have a clue as to how they will react as starters. DeAngelo Wilkinson is a sophomore and Ivory Herd is a redshirt freshman, so that experience factor could be some cause for concern.
Aug. 31 Colorado (Denver)
Sept. 6 Sacramento State
Sept. 20 Houston
Sept. 27 at California
Oct. 4 UNLV
Oct. 11 TCU
Oct. 18 at Utah
Oct. 25 at San Diego State
Nov. 1 BYU
Nov. 8 at Air Force
Nov. 15 New Mexico
Nov. 22 at Wyoming
The year begins with, what is in my opinion, the most underrated rivalry game in college football, The Rocky Mountain Showdown versus Colorado. The game against Houston is winnable and that is probably huge if they want to start the year at least 2-2. Traveling to Utah and Wyoming are always tough tasks to handle, but there are harder schedules out there.
Don't Even Think About It: @ Cal
Ehhhhh.....Maybe....: Colorado, Houston, TCU, @ Utah, BYU, @ Wyoming (Cowboys are hard to beat in Laramie)
Good/Probable Shot At It: Sacramento State, UNLV, @ SDSU, @ Air Force, New Mexico
THE OUTLOOK: There isn't a whole lot to like about Colorado State this year. For a team that finished 3-9 a year ago, there isn't much pointing to the postseason. The QB situation has to have a declared winner instead of somebody taking the job by default, Kyle Bell must remain healthy, the receivers have to develop in a hurry, the line has to be better in pass protection, there aren't many run stoppers on the defensive line, and the CB position is, well, we don't know how that will turn out. Oregon had some freshman CBs play in 2006 and they did fine. We'll see, but Colorado State has some talent that if used properly, can be good for a few upsets. This year is more about setting the foundation for better things to come, so, no bowl game. This is a 4 win team.
BOWL GAME?: Nope.
North Dakota State Bison
Our FCS wildcard today are the Bison of North Dakota State. NDSU was probably one of the best FCS teams out there but they didn't get an opportunity to show it in the postseason. They were actually reclassifying but they'll spend this year as a member of the Missouri Valley Football Conference (what used to be known as the Gateway). Will North Dakota State pull off a MVC Conference championship in their first year of playoff eligibility?
THE OFFENSE: Losing QB Steve Walker is big. Walker was no minor part to the offense and in a few games that come to mind (Central Michigan, Sam Houston State) he came up huge. The guy was extremely reliable for the most part; he only played one bad game against Stephen F. Austin and that was it. So, the big question coming into 2008 is who will replace Walker? Nick Mertens seems to be the guy this year. If Mertens can stay healthy throughout the season, it will be a big plus to the Bison this year because they can't exactly afford to lose him. The biggest name on the offensive side of the ball is Tyler Roehl who ran like a madman against Minnesota last year. He racked up 263 yards rushing against the Golden Gophers and 257 against Illinois State, both really good performances. Just about every weapon at receiver comes back and this unit should have a big year. Kole Heckendorf was last year's top threat, but helping him will also be Alex Belquist, Jordan Schultenover, and TE Jerimiah Wurzbacher. The Bison have one of the better FCS offensive lines and more of the same should be expected.
THE DEFENSE (revised): Joe Lardinois will be back, the sack leader. The Bison had a solid sack total of 26 last year. North Dakota State finished last year giving up about 126.5 yards a game which would virtually put them ahead of James Madison for twenty-second overall in run defense. Nick Compton saw the field in every game last year so Christon Dallas will be missed but he won't be irreplaceable on the defensive line. Joe Mays is off to the NFL, but Ramon Humber should do a fine job replacing him in the LB corps. Nick Schommer is primed for a big year as the leader of the secondary at FS. Kyle Belmont teams up with Schommer at SS and the Bison probably have one of the better FCS tandems at that position. Sam Boraas and David Earl are the only guys departing the secondary this year so the pass defense from a year ago should only get better.
Aug. 28 Austin Peay
Sep. 6 Central Connecticut State
Sep. 13 at Wyoming
Sep. 20 at Youngstown State
Oct. 4 Southern Illinois
Oct. 11 Western Illinois
Oct. 18 at Northern Iowa
Oct. 25 at Illinois State
Nov. 1 Indiana State
Nov. 15 at Missouri State
Nov. 22 South Dakota State
It's interesting, although I must say, North Dakota State, you disappoint me! Only one FBS team this year? I kid, but the Missouri Valley is without a doubt the toughest FCS conference coming into this year with teams like South Dakota State, Southern Illinois, Northern Iowa, Youngstown State, and Western Illinois all of whom I believe should be ranked in the FCS poll. The lone FBS game is a road trip to Wyoming.
Don't Even Think About It:
Good/Probable Shot: The entire schedule
THE OUTLOOK: As you just read, every game on the schedule could be won by the Bison, but there are a few landmines. Southern Illinois should be better than expected even though North Dakota State gets them in the Fargodome. The make-or-break conference game is on the road against Northern Iowa who will be one of the best FCS teams in the nation. The running game should provide enough of a lift until Mertens gets his feet wet. The defense, as is usual, should be good enough to impress a number of people. The Bison are a lock for the FCS playoffs this year, count on it.
FBS UPSET?: Not really sure whether or not you can call this an upset. Wyoming is really tough to beat on the road but considering that North Dakota State was a failed FG away from being 4-0 versus FBS competition since 2006, I wouldn't be shocked if North Dakota State did win. I like the Cowboys in a really tight game, but mainly because its in Laramie; this game is the definition of a tossup.
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