I got with Ryan Krous, the publisher for Scout.com InsideTheRams.com for a look at the Colorado St. Rams. I also answered his questions about the Rebels.
Here is your look, behind enemy lines: the Colorado St. Rams:
Joe- 1. CSU enters the game at 3-4 and like the Rebels have had some inconsistencies and injuries in 2016. How would you summarize the Rams season up to this point, and has it met the expectations of most fans entering the season?
Ryan- It has been a whirlwind season to date, yet the Rams are still in the hunt for a bowl bid in Mike Bobo's second year at CSU. The Rams had blowout losses to their top two rivals earlier in the year - Colorado and Wyoming - which were major disappointments, especially considering the Rams were considered a superior team at home in the 21-point loss to Border War foe Wyoming. The Rams have also utilized three quarterbacks. They began the year with this week's starter - Nick Stevens - before letting Georgia transfer Faton Bauta take over for Stevens after his horrific opener against Colorado.
Bauta was a decent running threat, but an even worse passer, as the CSU offense could hardly gain a first down with Stevens and Bauta at the helm. True freshman Collin Hill then entered the fray and immediately flourished, throwing four touchdowns and running for a 51-yard score in the first half of his first career start against Northern Colorado. Hill was one of CSU's best players before tearing his ACL against Utah State, an 14-point comeback win for the Rams several weeks ago.
All in all, the season has mostly been disappointment, yet most followers of the program considered this more of a rebuilding year anyway. CSU's defense is young and inexperienced and Bobo has utilized 24 first-time players and seven true freshmen overall. The Rams have a solid amount of talent across the board, but inconsistency has resulted in a volatile performance in 2016.
Joe- 2. How has head coach Mike Bobo done so far in his tenure at CSU? What are his strengths and where would you like to see him and his staff improve?
Ryan- So far, the results are mixed. He did get to a bowl game in his first season, which ended in a loss to Nevada in the Arizona Bowl. That was a positive, but he didn't exactly come to CSU with the cupboard bare, either. This year, expectations were a little higher, but the 3-4 start has halted some of their offseason momentum, in which the Rams signed one of their better signing classes in recent memory and are set to open a new on-campus stadium next fall.
His strengths are as a recruiter (he recruited some of Georgia's top players during his 14 years in Athens), he is a player's coach and he was known as a strong Xs and Os guy at UGA as the offensive coordinator. His offense has been hit or miss this year, but a big part of that has been to an underachieving offensive line and poor quarterback play.
The playcalling has received mixed reviews and CSU's defense was a mess prior to the win over Utah State. In the staff's defense, there is some lacking personnel to enable certain schemes to flourish. So the reality is CSU will need another recruiting class or two before we can really begin to critique how effective the staff has been.
Joe- 3. What can the UNLV fans expect from the CSU offense and how has the QB carousal effected the Rams? Who are the playmakers, the strengths and weaknesses?
Ryan- Offensively, CSU runs a base prostyle set. They will run some mixed spread, which has been a benefit when the run game has been ineffective. The Rams have two solid tailbacks, one of which is Dalyn Dawkins, who ran for a career-high 151 yards against UNLV last year. He is quite small, but is explosive and very tough for his size. His issue has been an inability to make defenders miss in open space. The other back is bruiser Izzy Matthews, who is starting to come into his own.
At receiver, junior college transfer Michael Gallup has started to emerge. He has grabbed four touchdown passes over his last five games and averaged 88 yards per game over that span. Other than Gallup, CSU's receivers have struggled with consistency, as have the tight ends. Then at quarterback, Nick Stevens is the man going forward with Hill out for the year. Stevens threw four touchdowns against the Rebels last year and appears to have regained his form of old over the past two weeks. Really, the Rams go as their offensive line goes. When they block well, then CSU can run the ball and the passing game follows suit. Otherwise, CSU doesn't have the horses to be a passing-only team.
Joe- 4. Same question, just on the defensive side of the ball. What can the Rebels fans expect from the CSU defense? Who are the playmakers, the strengths and weaknesses?
Ryan- CSU's defense was on pins and needles for the first quarter of the season, having been very ineffective. But following a big second half performance against Utah State (the Rams trailed 24-10 at half, but posted a second-half shutout en route to a 31-24 win) and a strong showing at Boise State last week, confidence has returned to the unit. They are still green in the secondary and struggling to find a solid pass rush.
Senior linebacker Kevin Davis is the best player on the defensive side. He is the leader of the team, although he isn't very vocal. Safety Jake Schlager is a steady tackler. While I am quick to note CSU's lack of a quality pass rush, the defensive line really has improved of late. True freshmen Toby McBride and Arjay Jean at end have really improved over the past couple of weeks. Fellow freshman O'Shea Jackson had a nice week at nose tackle against Boise State last week. So some pieces are developing, but like I said, there has been inconsistent play with CSU's 3-4.
Joe- 5. Finally, what are your keys to a Rams victory and a sore prediction for Saturday's game?