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Mike Bobo had his battles in his first season as Colorado State head coach, but after closing the year with four straight wins (three on the road), the Rams made it to a bowl game. The Rams lost two early OT games against Minnesota and Colorado, but were outclassed by the best teams in the MWC, losing by double digits in all of their conference losses. Now with a lot of inexperience on the roster, Bobo's group faces yet another uphill battle, but at the least will have its starting quarterback.
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Nick Stevens returns under center and it's expected the junior will play better in his second season in the system after completing 60.8% of his passes for 21 TDs and 12 INTs. Eight of those interceptions came in four of their losses. The problem for Stevens is that he loses his top target Rashard Higgins, who was the only receiver with more than 28 receptions on the roster and he had 75. Someone will have to step up with Xavier Williams and Elroy Masters next in line.
But this offense found success last year through the ground game with Dalyn Dawkins (867 yards, 2 TDs) and Izzy Matthews (590 yards, 5 TDs). With four starters returning to the offensive line, it's expected the running game will once again be the strong suit. Even so, they'll only be able to run the ball if Stevens can move the chains with his arm as well.
The defense could end up being the bigger issue for Colorado State this season with a lot of new faces, including a new coordinator in Marty English, the former linebackers coach. With English comes the 3-4 scheme that was used for the Rams a few years ago. That should help a bit with no returning starters on the line, while three linebackers return to the mix with leading tackler Kevin Davis joined by Deonte Clyburn and Kiel Robinson.
However, the secondary is also bare outside of a couple seniors in Tyree Simmons and Preston Hodges. Jordan Vaden is a converted receiver and should help in the speed department, while a couple junior college transfers also fill out the core.
Because of the schedule, it'll be extremely difficult for the Rams to compete for the Mountain division title, especially against Air Force and Boise State. To improve on last year's record, they'll either need to beat Colorado in the opener or win at Minnesota a few weeks later. Surpassing last year's 5-3 conference record may be out of reach, though, with Boise, Air Force and San Diego State all coming on the road. Their over/under is sitting at 6 wins for a reason (under 6 -165 at 5Dimes), although reaching seven should be attainable to match last year's record.
While the offense should be just as good with a solid running game combined with better quarterback play, the defense could be a liability, especially against the better team in the conference.
2016 Colorado State Rams Football Schedule
Sept. 2 vs. Colorado (Mile High)
Sept. 10 vs. UTSA
Sept. 17 vs. Northern Colorado
Sept. 24 at Minnesota
Oct. 1 vs. Wyoming
Oct. 8 vs. Utah State
Oct. 15 at Boise State
Oct. 22 at UNLV
Nov. 5 vs. Fresno State
Nov. 12 at Air Force
Nov. 19 vs. New Mexico
Nov. 26 at San Diego State
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