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1. Taking a big swing
Hughes Stadium's days are numbered. Picturesque and isolated, it has served as the off-campus home of Colorado State football since 1968, when it replaced a tiny, on-campus facility called Colorado Field.
Its 49th season will be its last. The Rams are scheduled to move into a new, large stadium in the southern portion of campus in 2017. Construction is ongoing.
Hughes Stadium is a symbol of Colorado State's past. The Rams have long been a sturdy mid-major program, attending 14 bowls in 26 years and finishing in the AP top 20 three times between 1994-00. But the program grew stale in the 2000s, finishing above .500 only once between 2004-12. In 2013, serious discussions for a new stadium -- a $200 million breath of life, basically -- began.
We can debate whether a project like this is ever really worth it. While on-campus stadiums are easier for students to access (and could therefore generate more of an active, vocal crowd), $200 million is a lot to spend on a bigger stadium before you can actually prove you can fill it. And with CSU likely stuck in the Mountain West for the far foreseeable future, it will probably take a while for the new stadium to truly pay off.
Regardless, the tentatively named Colorado State Stadium is a clear sign of investment, and it is a signal of the future Colorado State wants. Like so many other programs, the Rams would probably love a shot at entry into the Big 12, but they do not appear to be top candidates at the moment. Still, they appear more than interested in attempting to compete with conference heavyweight Boise State in the program-building department.
That the erection of the stadium has coincided with an actual rebuild of the team makes that vision a little clearer and, seemingly, more realistic. Under Jim McElwain, the Rams went 18-9 in 2013-14 and enjoyed their first 10-win season in 13 years. When McElwain took the Florida job, they replaced him with another successful SEC offensive coordinator, Georgia's Mike Bobo.
In 2015, CSU took a step backwards, but not a significant one. After a 2-4 start to the season, Bobo's Rams whipped eventual MWC Mountain champion Air Force, lost to San Diego State, then won four games in a row to finish the regular season 7-5. They finished with a tough, lucky win over Fresno State and a bowl loss to Nevada, but they sustained enough of McElwain's gains to attend a third straight bowl game.
Meanwhile, Bobo was putting together CSU's best recruiting class in a long time. Per the 247Sports Composite, CSU's February class ranked second in the MWC and 70th overall. It was the Rams' best class since 2011; over the previous four recruiting cycles, even while building a solid program, CSU's average class rankings were eighth in the MWC and 103rd overall.
Bobo signed 17 three-star recruits and added a load of junior college transfers to account for turnover at receiver and in the secondary. His receiving corps and defensive line will still be as green as their uniforms this fall, but with as few as two to three senior starters on offense and four to five on defense, the Rams that enter Colorado State Stadium against Abilene Christian on September 9, 2017, will be seasoned and, potentially, quite strong.
2016 is basically an interim year before Colorado State's future begins in 2017. With eight opponents projected 80th or worse in S&P+, the Rams will have a solid chance of reaching the postseason for the fourth straight year, but since they're projected at only 96th themselves, that's not a given. But recruiting is looking good, and the depth chart is young.
2015 Schedule & Results
|Record: 7-6 | Adj. Record: 5-8 | Final F/+ Rk: 86 | Final S&P+ Rk: 81|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Percentile
|3-Oct||at Utah State||53||18-33||L||12%||3%||-16.0||-10.5|
|31-Oct||San Diego State||43||17-41||L||34%||16%||-20.8||-20.5|
|21-Nov||at New Mexico||99||28-21||W||65%||92%||-1.3||+5.0|
|28-Nov||at Fresno State||103||34-31||W||14%||16%||-7.4||-6.5|
|Points Per Game||29.6||62||27.2||64|
2. Clear improvement (in spurts)
Colorado State spent a good portion of 2015 losing games it should have won and winning games it should have lost. Win Expectancy tosses all of the key stats from a given game into the air and says, "With these stats, you would have won this game X percent of the time." CSU's win expectancy against Minnesota was 60 percent, and the Rams lost, 23-20. It was 53 percent in a 27-24 loss to Colorado. And in the bowl loss to Nevada, it was 55 percent.
Meanwhile, win expectancy was just 32 percent in the two-point win over UTSA and a paltry 16 percent in the win over Fresno. That's a lot of contrary results, though in the end, the actual win total of seven was about right.
After a romp over ratings skewer Savannah State in the season opener, CSU trailed off quickly. The tight losses to Minnesota and Colorado were followed by increasingly disappointing performances against UTSA, Utah State, and Boise State. But there was clear growth over the second half of the year.
- Average Percentile Performance (games 2-6): 23% (~top 100) | Average score: Opp 31, CSU 21
- Average Percentile Performance (games 7-13): 56% (~top 55) | Average score: CSU 32, Opp 26
The offense took a clear step forward with the emergence of freshman running back Izzy Matthews. During the first seven games, he rushed just 24 times for 104 yards (4.3 per carry), but in the final six he rushed 73 times for 486 (6.7). Along with the steady production of Dalyn Dawkins, that helped CSU to improve from 164 rushing yards per game through eight to 251 over the final five.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||47.1%||17||Succ. Rt. +||112.0||25|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||27.4||21||Def. FP+||28.3||43|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||4.2||88||Redzone S&P+||110.5||34|
|Q1 Rk||38||1st Down Rk||55|
|Q2 Rk||73||2nd Down Rk||47|
|Q3 Rk||42||3rd Down Rk||69|
By the end of his tenure as Georgia's offensive coordinator, Bobo was one of the best play-callers in the business. He was pragmatic and logical, and while "Fire Bobo!" was an ongoing Internet meme, it became more of a parody as time went on. Georgia established the run, baited defenses into overcommitting, then hit them with a devastating mix of screens and vertical passing. And when the run game wasn't quite as effective, he was able to isolate receivers and defenders and create relatively easy passes on passing downs.
Bobo brought a familiar face with him to Fort Collins. His first offensive coordinator was Georgia's former offensive line coach, Will Friend.
While it took a little while, by the end of the season Bobo and Friend had figured some things out. CSU finished 25th in Success Rate+ and 17th in Rushing Success Rate+, and while big plays were a bit of an issue -- the Rams had 63 gains of 20-plus yards, 53rd in FBS -- CSU's offense was actually more efficient than Georgia's.
Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Nick Stevens||6'3, 205||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8356||211||347||2679||21||12||60.8%||15||4.1%||7.1|
|6'2, 220||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8799||15||33||154||0||4||45.5%||1||2.9%||4.4|
|J.C. Robles||6'5, 200||RSFr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8036|
|Collin Hill||6'5, 225||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8497|
|Dalyn Dawkins||RB||5'9, 175||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8375||170||867||2||5.1||4.3||43.5%||5||5|
|Jasen Oden, Jr.||RB||154||746||6||4.8||4.1||34.4%||2||2|
|Izzy Matthews||RB||6'0, 215||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8174||97||590||5||6.1||5.6||46.4%||0||0|
|Nick Stevens||QB||6'3, 205||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8356||30||128||3||4.3||2.6||46.7%||4||2|
|Deionte Gaines||WR||5'8, 180||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8449||12||138||2||11.5||6.8||83.3%||2||0|
|Danny Nwosu||FB||6'3, 245||Sr.||NR||0.7868|
|Bryce Peters||RB||5'11, 205||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8000|
|Johnathan Lewis||RB||5'11, 190||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7893|
|Rashaad Boddie||RB||6'0, 225||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8256|
|Marvin Kinsey||RB||6'1, 190||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8100|
4. Efficiency despite youth
Quarterback Nick Stevens was a sophomore, Dalyn Dawkins was a sophomore, Izzy Matthews was a freshman, and CSU began the season with a line that featured two sophomores and two juniors. There were upperclassmen involved, too -- the top three receivers (including all-star receiver Rashard Higgins), right tackle Sam Carlson, No. 2 running back Jasen Oden Jr. -- but the offense's slow start was relatively predictable.
The passing game is obviously a concern moving forward; Higgins, Joe Hansley, and tight ends Kivon Cartwright and Steven Walker are gone after accounting for 136 catches and 1,996 yards last year. But the strength of the offense last year was the run, and the main pieces are all back.
Matthews showed star power as a true freshman, and Dawkins rushed for at least 90 yards in five games. (In terms of targets, he was also CSU's No. 4 receiver.) Plus, a line that ranked an incredible 16th in Adj. Line Yards and 17th in Adj. Sack Rate returns four-fifths of its lineup, including all-conference guard Fred Zerblis.
There's a lot to like here, and one just assumes that Bobo and Friend will be able to establish the run once more this fall. But at some point, they'll have to call pass plays. That's when the problems could begin.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Targets||Catches||Yards||Catch Rate||Target
|Dalyn Dawkins||RB||5'9, 175||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8375||34||24||178||70.6%||9.2%||5.2||47.1%||32.4%||1.43|
|Xavier Williams||WR||6'4, 215||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7000||33||19||231||57.6%||8.9%||7.0||57.6%||45.5%||1.49|
|Jordon Vaden||WR||6'3, 195||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8301||22||11||184||50.0%||6.0%||8.4||77.3%||40.9%||1.81|
|Deionte Gaines||WR||5'8, 180||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8449||19||13||112||68.4%||5.1%||5.9||78.9%||36.8%||1.47|
|Sammie Long IV||WR||6'3, 195||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.8410||9||5||60||55.6%||2.4%||6.7||44.4%||44.4%||1.32|
|Jasen Oden, Jr.||RB||8||8||51||100.0%||2.2%||6.4||75.0%||75.0%||0.68|
|Elroy Masters, Jr.||WR||6'2, 210||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7933||3||3||35||100.0%||0.8%||11.7||66.7%||66.7%||1.88|
|Nolan Peralta||TE||6'3, 245||Sr.||NR||0.7000||3||2||26||66.7%||0.8%||8.7||66.7%||33.3%||1.87|
|Olabisi Johnson||WR||6'0, 185||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8073||3||2||15||66.7%||0.8%||5.0||33.3%||66.7%||0.89|
|John Freismuth||WR||6'4, 220||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7726|
|Trey Smith||WR||6'0, 190||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7659|
|Michael Gallup||WR||6'2, 210||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8428|
|Dalton Fackrell||TE||6'4, 240||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8231|
|Darneail Jenkins||TE||6'5, 240||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8315|
|Isiah Pannunzio||TE||6'2, 215||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8181|
|Anthony Hawkins||WR||5'11, 185||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8149|
5. A reload in the receiving corps
There will at least be some familiar faces for Stevens in the receiving corps. Xavier Williams, Jordon Vaden, and Deionte Gaines were not huge pieces of the passing game in 2015, but they have combined for 109 catches and 1,323 yards in their respective careers. Sammie Long IV and Elroy Masters have combined for 19 more career catches.
Still, in Higgins, CSU must replace one of the nation's most prolific receivers. Over three seasons, Higgins caught 239 passes for 3,649 yards and 31 scores; his transcendent 2014 season was one of the main reasons for CSU's 10-win surge. His opportunities trailed off a bit in 2015's run-first attack, but defenses had to mind him at all times.
Some combination of veterans and incoming JUCOs -- three-star wideout Michael Gallup (one of the more highly-regarded pieces of this past signing class) and tight ends Dalton Fackrell and Darneall Jenkins -- will have to figure out how to punish defenses for getting distracted by the run. The athleticism here seems relatively impressive, but production isn't guaranteed. And Stevens' ability to find some play-makers open will determine whether this is a top-40 offense or a top-75 offense. The run game will be awesome if defenses have to mind the passing game, and while I have the utmost confidence in Bobo and Friend, they can only do so much if receivers don't step up.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||2015 Starts||Career Starts||Honors/Notes|
|Fred Zerblis||RG||6'3, 295||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7000||13||26||2015 2nd All-MWC|
|Jake Bennett||C||6'3, 295||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7993||13||16|
|Nick Callender||LT||6'5, 315||Sr.||NR||0.7000||10||13|
|Zack Golditch||LG||6'6, 290||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7685||12||12|
|Trae Moxley||LT||6'5, 320||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7998||2||2|
|Colby Meeks||LG||6'4, 300||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8008||0||0|
|Tomas Rivera||RG||6'6, 330||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||NR||0||0|
|Brett Jordan||RT||6'5, 275||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7000||0||0|
|Christian Montes||OL||6'4, 270||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7926||0||0|
|Nicho Garcia||OL||6'5, 300||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8174|
|Jeff Taylor||OL||6'3, 295||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8026|
|FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||40.7%||62||Succ. Rt. +||91.0||100|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||30.7||48||Off. FP+||29.2||87|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||4.5||78||Redzone S&P+||100.5||69|
|Q1 Rk||92||1st Down Rk||110|
|Q2 Rk||104||2nd Down Rk||38|
|Q3 Rk||102||3rd Down Rk||128|
6. One year, one coordinator replacement
You figure Bobo knew he wasn't going to have Tyson Summers for very long. He brought the up-and-coming former UCF defensive coordinator with him in 2015, and after just one season, Summers was named Georgia Southern's head coach.
Bobo didn't search too far for a replacement, simply choosing to promote linebackers coach Marty English. English was Wyoming's defensive coordinator from 2009-11 and has been a linebackers coach at one school or another for much of three decades.
Linebackers were certainly a strength for CSU in 2015 -- the Rams were seventh in the country in Linebacker Havoc Rate-- and that should remain the case with five of six contributors returning. But CSU still ranked just 88th in Def. S&P+ because a dreadful inability to keep opponents from catching back up to the chains. CSU was 124th in Passing Downs S&P+, allowing 62 gains of 20-plus yards (77th in FBS but far worse if you were to adjust for opponent).
English will have a more experienced secondary to work with, and the line does feature five former three-star recruits (per 247). But four are either true or redshirt freshmen, and the fifth, junior Darnell Thompson, has made 0.5 tackles in two seasons. The top four tacklers up front are all gone.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Josh Lovingood||DE||6'4, 290||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7833||11||11.5||1.6%||1.0||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Colton Foster||NT||6'3, 285||So.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7544||7||6.5||0.9%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Jakob Buys||DT||6'4, 265||Jr.||NR||NR||11||5.0||0.7%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Johnny Schupp||DL||6'5, 275||Sr.||NR||0.7000||12||2.0||0.3%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Darnell Thompson||DE||6'5, 275||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8316|
|Richard King||DE||6'5, 260||RSFr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8200|
|O'Shea Jackson||DT||6'1, 290||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7600|
|Christian Colon||DT||6'3, 310||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8510|
|Anthony Smith||DE||6'3, 250||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8504|
|Arjay Dean||DE||6'3, 220||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7994|
|Toby McBride||DE||6'3, 250||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7893|
7. A scary lack of depth up front
I said five of the top six linebackers return, but that doesn't acknowledge the blurred lines of the BUCK position, the hybrid DE-OLB slot I am counting as a defensive end here. Both bucks (Joe Kawulok and SteveO Michel, who combined for 17 tackles for loss and seven sacks) are gone, which might limit English's attacking options.
More worrisome, however, is the loss of two of the top three tackles. Among other things, CSU had an injury problem in the middle last year -- no listed tackle played in more than 11 games -- which meant that a few different guys saw playing time. And while both of 2015's season-opening starters are gone (Terry Jackson, Justin Hansen), Colston Foster, Jakob Buys, and inside-outside guy Josh Lovingood are all back.
Still, a lot of the aforementioned three-star freshmen will potentially see the field, at least as backups. And while it's possible that a player like redshirt freshman Richard King or monstrous true freshman Christian Colon will be solid out of the gates, you hate to rely on that.
If the interior linemen can keep blockers off of linebackers like Kevin Davis and Deonte Clyburn (combined: 21 TFLs in 2015), the defense's strengths will remain strong. But the depth up front is pretty scary.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Kevin Davis||WLB||6'3, 240||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8127||13||74.5||10.6%||14.0||3.0||1||2||0||0|
|Deonte Clyburn||WLB||6'1, 230||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7519||13||57.0||8.1%||7.0||0.5||0||0||2||0|
|Tre Thomas||SLB||6'1, 215||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7819||13||31.0||4.4%||5.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Kiel Robinson||SLB||6'2, 225||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7894||12||30.5||4.3%||5.5||3.0||0||0||1||0|
|Josh Watson||MLB||6'2, 230||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7833||13||28.0||4.0%||6.0||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Evan Colorito||LB||6'4, 240||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8186||10||2.0||0.3%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Patrick Elsenbast||LB||6'1, 210||Jr.||NR||NR||8||2.0||0.3%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Bryan Ohene-Gyeni||LB||6'1, 225||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7000||4||1.5||0.2%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Deshon Mayes||LB||6'2, 200||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7933|
|Pierre Copeland II||LB||6'2, 205||Jr.||NR||NR|
|Hunter Donnelly||LB||6'1, 220||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8299|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Tyree Simmons||CB||5'11, 185||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7759||12||34.0||4.8%||3.5||0||1||8||2||0|
|Preston Hodges||CB||5'11, 200||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7667||12||28.5||4.0%||1||0||0||1||0||0|
|Jake Schlager||SS||6'0, 205||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7794||12||14.0||2.0%||1||0||0||0||0||0|
|Braylin Scott||CB||6'3, 185||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8256||12||7.5||1.1%||0||0||0||2||0||0|
|Justin Sweet||FS||5'10, 190||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7966||5||5.5||0.8%||1||0||0||0||0||0|
|Shun Johnson||CB||5'11, 170||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7519||11||2.5||0.4%||0||0||0||1||0||0|
|Kevin Nutt, Jr.||DB||5'10, 190||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7948||12||2.5||0.4%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Marcus Wilson||CB||5'10, 190||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7583|
|Devron Davis||CB||6'0, 210||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8600|
|Houston Haynes||S||6'4, 200||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7752|
|A'Keitheon Whitner||DB||5'11, 180||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7744|
|Chris Gaston||DB||6'2, 180||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8319|
|Jamal Hicks||DB||6'3, 180||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8285|
8. Got safeties?
While the offense's surge accounted for a good portion of CSU's late-season improvement, the secondary raised its game as well. After allowing a passer rating of 131.2 through eight games, the Rams allowed just a 104.3 in the final five.
That four of the top five corners from this improved defense return is unquestionably a good thing. There were breakdowns, sure, but seniors Tyree Simmons and Preston Hodges, junior Shun Johnson, and sophomore Braylin Scott have put in plenty of reps.
The safety position though, is a major concern. The top three safeties -- Kevin Pierre-Louis, Trent Matthews, and Nick Januska -- are all gone, and while Jake Schlager and Justin Sweet have put together some reps, this was disconcerting enough for Bobo to go out and sign three JUCO defensive backs: Devron Davis, Houston Haynes, and A'Keitheon Whitner. Davis was highly touted and is big enough to play either corner or safety, but he'll be counted on to stick somewhere in the lineup sooner than later.
The edges of this defense appear to be well-manned, but a good portion of the backbone -- namely, the safety and defensive tackle positions -- have a scary lack of proven depth. English's hands might be tied if these areas don't produce quick solutions.
|Hayden Hunt||5'11, 220||Sr.||52||46.0||1||18||23||78.8%|
|Braxton Davis||5'11, 170||So.||69||62.7||26||3||37.7%|
|Wyatt Bryan||6'0, 175||So.||43-46||14-16||87.5%||2-6||33.3%|
|Braxton Davis||5'11, 170||So.||0-0||0-0||N/A||0-1||0.0%|
|Deionte Gaines||KR||5'8, 180||Jr.||18||23.4||0|
|Jordon Vaden||KR||6'3, 195||Sr.||7||31.4||0|
|Preston Hodges||PR||5'11, 200||Sr.||3||6.3||0|
|Special Teams S&P+||73|
|Field Goal Efficiency||96|
|Punt Return Success Rate||41|
|Kick Return Success Rate||79|
|Punt Success Rate||19|
|Kickoff Success Rate||44|
9. One more year of Hayden
Granted, Hayden Hunt probably benefited a bit from thin air, but CSU still has a keeper at the punter position. Hunt not only averaged 46 yards per kick but also produced 18 fair catches and had 23 of 52 punts downed inside the 20. Those are ridiculous numbers, and they offer a built-in field position advantage.
Hunt's return will make this a decent unit regardless of the other pieces, but those other pieces could use some work. Deionte Gaines and Jordon Vaden were explosive but inefficient kick returners, Wyatt Bryan missed three PATs and most of his longer field goals (albeit as a freshman), and the loss of Joe Hansley in punt returns hurts quite a bit. So decent might be all CSU can hope for here.
2016 Schedule & Projection Factors
|Date||Opponent||Proj. S&P+ Rk||Proj. Margin||Win Probability|
|15-Oct||at Boise State||36||-18.2||15%|
|12-Nov||at Air Force||80||-9.2||30%|
|26-Nov||at San Diego State||55||-13.8||21%|
|Projected wins: 5.7|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||-16.4% (94)|
|2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk||76 / 86|
|2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin*||-12 / -9.5|
|2015 TO Luck/Game||-1.0|
|Returning Production (Off. / Def.)||49% (58%, 40%)|
|2015 Second-order wins (difference)||7.2 (-0.2)|
10. Liftoff is probably a year away
CSU's projection this year is a conservative 96th, mainly because the numbers deeply value returning production in the receiving corps and defensive backfield, and CSU lacks in both areas. The Rams haven't ranked lower than 89th since 2012, though, and if WR and DB are only a slight problem instead of a significant one, then CSU's strengths -- namely, the running game and linebacker play -- could shine.
Still, this is a red flag of sorts. Bobo will coax the most out of his offense, and last year's class really was a potentially exciting sign of things to come, but CSU is inexperience in a lot of the wrong places and might need to wait a year for the pieces to all click together.
By MWC standards, the Rams don't have a ton of tossup games. They are given between a 42 and 62 percent chance of winning in four games (Utah State, at UNLV, Fresno State, New Mexico), with all the other games either at one-in-three or worse (five) or two-in-three or better (three). To feel good about a bowl bid, they'll probably need to fare well at home, giving Hughes Stadium a few more happy memories before heading to new digs.