Scouting the Opposition

… How Athlon, The Sporting News, Lindy’s, et al. see CU’s 2017 opponents …

Game Four – Washington – September 23rd

… Last December 2nd, Washington embarrassed Colorado in the 2016 Pac-12 championship game, 41-10. Washington’s subsequent 24-7 loss to Alabama in the College Football Playoff semi-finals did nothing to diminish the optimism for the Huskies heading into the 2017 campaign. If Colorado is to return to national significance this fall, the first Pac-12 conference game of the fall is an excellent opportunity …

– 2016 National Rankings (Offense)

— Scoring – 8th … 41.8 points per game

— Rushing – 44th … 198.1 yards per game

— Passing – 41st … 258.8 yards per game

— Total – 32nd … 456.9 yards per game

– 2016 National Rankings (Defense)

— Scoring – 8th … 17.7 points per game

— Rushing – 28th … 133.9 yards per game

— Passing – 15th … 182.9 yards per game

— Total – 12th … 316.9 yards per game

Street and Smith’s has Washington as the No. 1 team in the Pac-12 North, and the No. 8 team in the nation.

The Huskies’ 2016 breakthrough was no fluke, though quarterback Jake Browning’s recovery from offseason shoulder surgery is a concern. So is a secondary that lost two players early to the NFL. But Myles Gaskin (1,373 yards, ten touchdowns) and Lavon Coleman (852 yards, seven touchdowns) provide a formidable rushing combo, while wideout Dante Pettis (15 touchdowns) stretches defenses deep.

… The biggest intrigue is at the top of both divisions of the Pac-12, because Washington and USC both have Heisman trophy candidates for quarterbacks and enough overall talent to put them both in the College Football Playoff picture. While they don’t meet during the regular season, it will be a surprise if they don’t meet for the Pac-12 championship.

Lindy’s has Washington as the No. 1 team in the Pac-12 North, the No. 8 team in the nation

Primary Strengths … The offense should be among the best in the nation with Browning and Gaskin back for the third year as starters. And the defense should be especially strong up the middle with the tackle tandem of Vita Vea and Greg Gaines and linebacker Azeem Victor and Keishawn Bierria.

Potential Problems … Three draft picks – all second-rounders – must be replaced in the secondary. They were the key to a defense which led college football in turnovers with 33 – 19 of which were interceptions. Offensively, its hard to replace speedy John Ross, as dynamic a play-maker as there was in college football last season.

Overview … Coach Chris Petersen completed the rebuild last season. Now, he has to maintain. The Huskies have an experienced roster and many top incoming recruits, making Washington the clear favorite in the North and a threat to reach the playoff again. Two questions are how well Washington will handle the role as favorite and if there will be much of a drop-off in the secondary.

Athlon has Washington as the No. 1 team in the Pac-12 North, the No. 4 team in the nation

Final Analysis … After a College Football Playoff appearance, coach Chris Petersen returns 13 starters, including the reigning Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year in Jake Browning and a middle linebacker in Azeem Victor who might be the league’s best defensive player. Petersen continues to recruit well. He has another soft non-conference slate and doesn’t have USC on the league schedule. If Washington can restock the secondary and keep the momentum going, the Huskies will be a serious contender – both in the Pac-12 and nationally – again.

National Unit RankingsQuarterbacks – No. 4 – Jake Browning’s development was a big reason why Washington earned a trip to the College Football playoff last season … Running backs – No. 8 … Wide Receivers/Tight Ends – No. 15 … Offensive Line – No. 7 … Defensive Line – No. 8 … Linebackers – No. 5 – Injuries to Azeem Victor and Joe Mathis hindered this unit until late in the year, but the Huskies have reloaded and are poised to rebound in 2017 … Defensive Backs – No. 14 … (so yes, Athlon does have every unit on the Washington team ranked in the top 25 in the nation) …

 

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Game Three – Northern Colorado – Saturday, September 9th (12:00 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Networks)

… Northern Colorado has been a member of the Big Sky Conference since 2006. The Bears won the Division II national championship in 1996 and 1997 under coach Joe Glenn, who went on to coach at Wyoming (2003-08).

In 2016, the Bears went 5-6, 4-4 in Big Sky Conference play. Northern Colorado played Colorado State in Ft. Collins, falling 47-21.

In 2017, the Bears will open with the College of Idaho at home on September 2nd before traveling to Gainesville to face the University of Florida on September 9th.

– 2016 FCS National Rankings (Offense)

— Scoring – 15th … 34.3 points per game

— Rushing – 55th … 157.2 yards per game

— Passing – 24th … 260.6 yards per game

— Total – 25th … 417.8 yards per game

– 2016 FCS National Rankings (Defense)

— Scoring – 111th … 38.2 points per game

— Rushing – 112th … 238.1 yards per game

— Passing – 89th … 242.3 yards per game

— Total – 115th … 480.4 yards per game

Street and Smith’s has Northern Colorado as the No. 7 team in the 13 team Big Sky Conference (last year’s Big Sky opponent, Idaho State – which CU defeated 56-7, is rated as the No. 13 team in the conference).

Looking for its third straight winning season under third-year head coach Earnest Collins, Jr., Northern Colorado (6-5, 4-4 in 2016) will count on returning running backs Trae Riek and Brandon Cartagena, who rushed last season for 736 and 435 yards, respectively, and first-team All-Big Sky return specialist Hakeem Deggs. On defense, the Bears return just one starting lineman and one linebacker.

 

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Game Two – Texas State – Saturday, September 9th (12:00 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks)

– 2016 National Rankings (Offense)

— Scoring – 124th

— Rushing – 128th

— Passing – 77th

— Total – 126th

– 2016 National Rankings (Defense)

— Scoring – 125th

— Rushing – 106th

— Passing – 87th

— Total – 117th

Lindy’s has Texas State as the No. 128 team in the nation, No. 12 (last) in the Sun Belt Conference

Primary Strengths … Graduate transfer quarterback Damien Williams gives the offense some hope, running back Robert Brown should give some life to an ineffective ground attack (82.4 yards per game last year). Bryan London and Gabe Loyd are quality defenders and the return of Easy Anyama makes the linebacker the strength of the defense.

Potential Problems … Though it will likely have a little more pop, the running game still has a long ways to go. Young players likely will have to come through to provide depth on both sides of the ball. The lost of cornerback Brandon McDowell leaves the secondary thin and vulnerable.

Overview … Coach Everett Withers had a good recruiting class in his second year with the Bobcats, but that will take at least a year before it begins paying dividends. A similar subpar season looms, unless Williams has a huge year at quarterback – which is definitely possible – and answers are found on defense.

Athlon has Texas State as the No. 129 team in the nation; No. 12 (last) in the Sun Belt Conference

Final Analysis … After a tumultuous 2-10 season, the worst by the Bobcats since going 0-8 in 1938, things should only get better in head coach Everett Withers’ second season. A winning record would be a major stretch in 2017, but with improvements to both lines and a new quarterback with experience in the SEC, they should be a little bit more competitive in the Sun Belt Conference.

Street and Smith’s has Texas State as the No. 11 team in the Sun Belt Conference, ahead of only New Mexico State.

From the start of his first session of spring drills in San Marcos to the next, with two wins in between, Texas State’s Everett Withers felt like his program made a quantum leap. Expectations are better understood, if not yet realized. But toughness and depth still must be found, play makers still must be identified. The search begins with several newcomers to a largely remade roster.

After beating only Ohio and FCS Incarnate Word in his first season at Texas State, the battle will be mostly uphill for Withers in 2017.

 

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Game One – Colorado State … Friday, September 1st (6:00 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks)

– 2016 National Rankings (Offense)

— Scoring – 28th

— Rushing – 31st

— Passing – 55th

— Total – 30th

– 2016 National Rankings (Defense)

— Scoring – 81st

— Rushing – 98th

— Passing – 32nd

— Total – 69th

Lindy’s has Colorado State as the No. 68 team in the nation, No. 3 in the Mountain division behind Boise State and Wyoming

Primary Strengths … Quarterback Nick Stevens goes into his third year as a starter. Unlike fellow MW Mountain division hopefuls Boise State and Wyoming. Colorado State returns its running game intact and its leading receiver. “I don’t want to put limitations on what we can do or how explosive we can become offensively,” Bobo said.

Potential Problems … CSU has a brutal non-league schedule, including a trip to Alabama, that could stall early season momentum. With two newcomers at offensive guard and a casting call for a tight end, the front is the only question on offense. Likewise, there is scant presence on the front seven on defense.

Overview … The Rams move into a $220 million new house on campus after being relegated for half a century to the side of a hill across town. Bobo gave up a guaranteed W against Abilene Christian in the stadium’s inaugural game, moving up Oregon State and creating a bye week between Alabama and a Mountain West-opening trip to Hawai’i. If CSU survives with limb and psyche intact, the Rams should thrive in the Mountain West hunt and land in a fifth straight bowl.

Athlon has Colorado State as the No. 58 team in the nation, No. 2 in the Mountain division behind Boise State

Final Analysis … The Rams should contend for a fifth straight bowl appearance and challenge Boise State for the Mountain West’s Mountain Division title. The high-powered offense should put up plenty of points, but a defense that still has holes on the line and in the secondary is likely to give up plenty of points, too. Three of the biggest games of the season fall in the first four weeks – against Oregon State to open Colorado State’s new on-campus stadium, v. Colorado in Denver and at Alabama.

Street and Smith’s has Colorado State as the No. 5 team in the Mountain division, finishing only ahead of Utah State

Colorado State may have to out-score the opposition to win games as the defense, despite nine returning starters, is young and it may take some time for things to gel. Perhaps the return of linebacker Deonte Clyburn will help. He missed last season due to blood clots, but he started in 2015 and averaged nearly 10 tackles in his first four games.

The Rams have a challenging schedule, opening the new stadium August 26th against Oregon State, then playing Colorado in Denver. Two weeks later, they go on a brutal back-to-back road trip – first to Tuscaloosa to face Alabama – then two weeks later to Honolulu to open conference play at Hawai’i. Survive that start, and things could be very interesting in Fort Collins come October.

 

2 Replies to “Scouting the Opposition”

  1. As much as I dislike knocking over tomato cans the Cornpones did this for a long time for a reason besides padding the win total. The premise is that in most of these games, while being aware buffnaustin’s caveat, the second and even third teams get time and experience on the field improving the depth quality if needed in later and tougher games.

  2. Always practice and play with Drake and Montana St in the back of your mind. Nothing is a given but Texas St can be ours if we go take it.

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