Colorado State had a legitimate shot to win the Mountain division last year, but partly due to Schedule, came up just short and finished 5-3 in MWC play, one of five teams with a winning record in the division. The Rams could Scorewith the best of them, but their defense faltered in must-win Games as well as in the bowl against Idaho, a 61-50 loss. The offense can be just as good in 2017 with key pieces returning, but the defense is a toss up.
Quarterback Nick Stevens (19 TDs, 5 INTs, 64.2%), in his third season as starter, has some questions to answer. He was benched in favor of freshman Collin Hill last year, but when Hill tore his ACL, Stevens stepped up and returned to his sophomore levels. To help continue that success, his top playmakers are back. Top receiver Michael Gallup will try and match his 1,272-yard, 14-TD campaign, while Olabisi Johnson (613 yards) just wants more looks as the second option. It’s the same situation on the ground with Dalyn Dawkins (919 yards, 4 TDs), Izzy Matthews (734 yards, 13 TDs) and Marvin Kinsey (if healthy) all returning. The line has a couple senior studs, but there are questions about the other three spots with those guys inexperienced. If the offense can match what it did in the second half of last year, this group will be in good hands.
And yet, the Rams still could have trouble in their quest to win the Mountain division, mainly because of a poor defense. Due to ineffectiveness last season, Colorado State was forced to play 23 starters, meaning experience isn’t an issue for this side of the ball. The question will be if they can improve on the 30.4 points per Game allowed, including the 110 points in their final two losses. The line is stocked with seniors, but this group’s weakness was against the run so that area has to improve. Linebacker Deonte Clyburn returns after a year off for health issues and his play will be important to improving the defense as a whole. The secondary also has experience with seniors, but depth is a question.
The Rams open a new stadium this season, but a tough non-Conference slate could have them out to a slow start with Oregon State, Colorado and Alabama all possibly being losses. An early road back-to-back in MWC play is also unkind with the first of those Games being in Hawaii. The biggest thing for CSU is that they win all of their home Conference Games with Boise State being the biggest one of those. To win the Mountain division and have a chance at the MWC title, it may also require winning at Wyoming. That Game could have some big implications in November and will surely provide a ton of points.
The Rams have a solid team and should be able to compete with most (outside of Alabama), but if the defense doesn’t take a step, it could be a similar season as to last. A bowl Game is on the horizon, but reaching more than eight wins may be a stretch. Getting to nine wins is possible and that will require taking down the Beavers in the opener, something not impossible as CSU opened as small favorites. The Rams are projected to finish behind Boise in the Mountain division and have +400 odds at 5Dimes Sportsbook to win the conference.
2017 Colorado State Rams Football Schedule
Aug. 26 vs. Oregon State
Sept. 1 vs. Colorado (Mile High Stadium)
Sept. 9 vs. Abilene Christian
Sept. 16 at Alabama
Sept. 30 at Hawaii
Oct. 7 at Utah State
Oct. 14 vs. Nevada
Oct. 20 at New Mexico
Oct. 28 vs. Air Force
Nov. 4 at Wyoming
Nov. 11 vs. Boise State
Nov. 18 vs. San Jose State