CSU did a bit of a quarterback shuffle last week when struggling senior Caleb Hanie (6-2, 236) was replaced late in the game, but then reinserted into the lineup for the final series. Much like the rest of his team this season, Hanie has struggled, throwing for just 1,584 yards and 11 touchdowns through eight games. He also has 13 interceptions.
Hanie is a classic drop-back passer who can run the ball when he's pressured. He has netted 8 yards rushing this year, despite Colorado State having given up 25 sacks on the season. Hanie and the CSU offense have struggled mightily when the Ram running attack is stymied and the team is reduced to passing the ball on most downs.
CSU will rotate two running backs who are both similar in their running styles. Kyle Bell (6-2, 232 Jr.) and Gartrell Johnson (6-0, 230 Jr.) have rushed for 540 and 474 yards on the season, respectively. Both run very hard, trying to pound it away at the defense. Bell has recently given way to Johnson as the primary running back.
The Rams use a four-receiver rotation led by Damon Morton (5-11, 176 Sr.), who has 26 catches for 553 yards and five touchdowns. Morton is the guy who will mount the biggest challenge downfield for the Cougar secondary. The other three wideouts in the rotation have combined for two touchdowns.
CSU's starting tight end Kory Sperry suffered a season-ending injury earlier in the year. The Rams will use two tight ends primarily: Mark Starr (6-5, 273 Fr.) and Chris Kuwulok (6-3, 244.) Starr and Kuwulok have combined for just four catches on the year.
CSU will field an inexperienced offensive line which has four sophomores and a lone senior heading the Ram offensive attack. While they've proven decent in run-blocking, they've struggled mightily in protecting Hanie on passing plays. It's an offensive line that is very much developing and learning to play together more effectively.
BYU vs. CSU's passing attack
The Cougar pass defense has been stingy this season, having given up just over 200 yards per game despite a game against Tulsa where they gave up 490 yards. The Cougar secondary has settled down since then, as the numbers can attest to.
A lot of CSU's woes in passing the football have come with the lack of pass protection for Hanie. The Cougars aren't big on rushing the quarterback and putting on constant pressure, insteady preferring to drop 7-to-8 men into zone coverage on most occasions.
The biggest threat CSU poses down the field is with Damon Morton. Morton averages over 21 yards per reception and has the speed and skill to burn a secondary downfield. Beyond that, the downfield threats CSU has are limited.
Conclusion: Hanie throws for a little over 200 yards per game, while the Cougar defense gives up a little over 200 yards per game. One can fully expect the Cougar pass defense to minimize Hanie's effectiveness, keeping him around his unspectacular average on the season.
BYU vs. CSU's running attack
As stingy as the Cougars have been against the pass, they've been more-so against the run, having only given up 90 rushing yards per game.
Sonny Lubbick and the Ram coaching staff are very much dedicated to the run game and making it work. CSU is most effective when running effectively, which leads to play-action opportunities where they'll try and hit Morton down the field.
Conclusion: The Rams have the patience to let the running game work for them. The fact that teams have made CSU one-dimensional by forcing the Rams to drop back and pass consistently has led to most of CSU's woes on the season thus far.
Simply stated, Colorado State must mount an effective run attack to have any hope at winning Saturday's game. The Cougar front seven has proven apt at neutralizing the opposition's run game in general throughout the year.
The Rams field a four-man DL which includes three seniors and a sophomore starting along the front. They're a bit undersized and have struggled in defending the run this year. Their ends weigh in at 225 and 263 pounds respectively, while their tackles are 257 and 289 pounds. Their most effective pass rusher is defensive 225-pound end Tommie Hill, who has 3.5 sacks on the year.
The Rams are very young at linebacker, starting a junior with one sophomore and a freshman. As they have backed up the Ram defensive line, they haven't been able to provide effective run support. CSU has given up 226.6 rushing yards per game, which isn't close to acceptable.
While the Rams have struggled mightily against the run, they've made up for it somewhat with their pass defense, which gives up just 209 yards per game. Of course, a lot of this is perhaps due to teams being able to pound away at their weak front seven, subsequently limiting the need to try and pass the ball for a lot of yards.
The Rams are experienced in the secondary, starting a couple of senior cornerbacks to go along with another senior at free safety and a junior at strong safety. The cornerbacks are perhaps CSU's defensive strength, as each of the two starters will be making their 22nd consecutive start on their respective careers.
BYU's running attack vs. CSU
Bear down the hatches and get ready for the Cougar running attack to romp. Harvey Unga is hitting his stride, while Fui Vakapuna is working his way back. BYU's OL and running backs should be chomping at the bit to get going on the ground tomorrow against CSU's very susceptible run defense.
Conclusion: This is likely the biggest mismatch of the game, and the Cougars should approach and exceed over 200 yards on the ground this Saturday. Nothing CSU has shown indicates anything but a Cougar romp on the ground during Saturday's game.
BYU's passing attack vs. CSU
Meanwhile, the Cougar passing game has hit somewhat of a snag over the past few games. Teams have started to play a soft-zone forcing Max Hall to go time and again underneath the coverage to Unga and Tonga. CSU plays a lot of cover-two and cover-three zone, which may limit Hall's ability to go downfield once again.
Conclusion: Hall and his teammates are raring to get it going again, and look for more opportunities to be had downfield for the wideouts, predicated on CSU's expected struggles in defending against the Cougar running attack. Regardless, Hall should have Unga and Tonga open for most of the game as they run circle routes underneath the coverage. Dennis Pitta should also rebound from his subpar outing against Eastern Washington two weeks ago, and should be able to split CSU's cover-two scheme with seam routes.
Predicted Final Score: BYU 44, CSU 14