Better Know a Foe: Colorado State in the Spud Bowl

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Basically, the video above is what people think will happen to Idaho at the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. They think Idaho is going to fall flat on our asses.

Colorado State is favored by two touchdowns, beat the shit out of Mountain West and Las Vegas Bowl champion San Diego State, winning five of their last seven with a five-point loss at Boise State and a three-point loss to Air Force.

Oh, and then there’s Colorado State being ranked No. 23 in the nation in S&P+, while Idaho is chillin’ at No. 96 in the country right now. The Rams are good, have beaten good teams and have a lot to prove.

But, hey, you know, crazy shit happens in bowl season. I think Idaho will win, you think Idaho will win. Think positively, you know?

But what do we actually know about our friends from Fort Collins aside from a split home-and-home six years ago with both games being decided by one possession?

Who is Colorado State?

The Colorado State Rams are a proud member institution of the Mountain West Conference based out of Fort Collins, Colorado.

Nestled into the Rockies, Fort Collins is a charming city home to one of the Mountain West’s more ambitious programs.

It’s why their last two coaches came from the SEC. First, Jim McElwain from Alabama and then Mike Bobo from Georgia when McElwain landed the Florida job.

The SEC love has landed the Rams in four consecutive bowl games, including a trip to the Vegas bowl in 2014 after a 10-2 regular season. Prior to this run of four straight, the Rams have only been to two bowl games since 2005. So, it’s safe to say the Rams are on an uptick at the moment.

With up to 15 starters returning next season they think this uptick could lead to a Mountain West championship.

The numbers look good.

The Rams rank No. 28 in the country in offensive explosiveness, No. 21 in efficiency success rate, and No. 4 in the country in finishing drives (points per trip inside the 40).

The Rams are an elite team in the country offensively. Specifically, an elite passing team. The Rams are No. 16 in the country in passing S&P+ and No. 22 in passing success rate.

Quarterback Nick Stevens has thrown 14 touchdown passes with at least one completion of at least 35 yards in each of his last six games.

This is going to be a hard game.

Fun facts about Colorado State:

– Leslie Jones went to Colorado State!!!
– Larry Eustachy is Colorado State’s men’s basketball coach. His first head coaching job was at Idaho in 1990 before moving on to Utah State and then Iowa State.
– They have like, uh, twice as many undergrads than we do.
– Colorado State is also a flagship, land-grant institution! You know who isn’t? The school whose stadium we’re playing at on Thursday. They are not a flagship institution. At like, anything.

Now, before we get into my analysis on the game, let’s learn more about Colorado State!

Que and Aye

Meet Stephen Cohen! He is the lead sports writer at the Seattle P-I, mostly being stellar at covering the Seahawks. He is also a proud, obnoxious Colorado State fan. I know you’re not used to obnoxious pride on this website so please brace yourselves.

Sean Kramer: Colorado State beat the crap outta San Diego State to end the season. You’re on fire to end the season, but a 7-5 record seems kinda underwhelming. On a scale of one potato to 10 potatoes, how excited will this Rams team be for the bowl game?

Stephen Cohen: 6 potatoes. This team got better as the season went on, and I’d go so far as to echo head coach Mike Bobo’s claim that they’re the best team in the Mountain West as of right now. The offense in particular has been on fire, averaging over 47 points per game over the last five games. They could contend for a MWC title next year, and I think they’ll want to carry some momentum over.

SK: What’s the perception Rams Nation has of this Idaho team and/or program? It’s okay to be honest.

SC: The last memory of Idaho that I and many of my fellow Rams fans have of the Vandals is the 31-29 loss at the Kibbie Dome in 2009, which was a real blow to then head coach Steve Fairchild even though CSU won the next matchup at home the next year. Other than that, I can’t say we give a lot of thought to Idaho, particularly with the looming move to FCS (which I think will be great for the program, by the way).

SK: Do you expect fans to travel for this one or for most hold off to see what this team can build on for next season? (VEGAS BABY?)

SC: I think they’ve sold less than 500 tickets, which is frankly embarrassing. If next year is as good as I think it might be, hopefully it’s a MUCH better showing.

SK: Idaho has a solid rush defense, at times awful pass defense, and an all-around efficient but not necessarily explosive offense. How do you think that’ll match up with Colorado State?

SC: I think things might not go well for the Vandals. CSU’s offense is extremely balanced, with a solid offensive line, two legitimate running backs, a resurgent quarterback in Nick Stevens and a star in the making in wide receiver Michael Gallup. They can beat you in a number of ways.

The defense is young in spots, but that’s allowed them to grow their depth throughout the season. Their performance against San Diego State, when they limited Donnel Pumphrey to a season-low 53 yards on 18 attempts, speaks to their improvement.

SK: Is there an iconic bar/pub/restaurant/joint in Fort Collins synonymous with supporting Colorado State? Tell us about it!

SC: I don’t know if there’s one in particular that stands out… But my favorite place in the Fort is Coopersmith’s in Old Town, which has good pub grub and a delicious (and potentially dangerous) Green Chili ale.

SK: Prediction?

SC: I’m going to be a total homer here. Rams 48, Vandals 17.

The game itself.

This is gonna be hard, guys. I’m not going to sugarcoat this shit. Colorado State is a better football team than Idaho. Their conference was much tougher and their resume of wins is much better, especially when comparing opponents down the stretch.

The Rams are 14-point favorites for a reason. They also play the game for a reason. Idaho is an eight-win football team with three wins of 25-points or more and four wins on the road.

This game? This is not a road home. This is very much a home game, and will be the biggest home game of the year.

The break-even point for this is 2,500 tickets. And that’s just the number of tickets purchased straight through the University of Idaho. There will likely be more than 20,000 fans at the game cheering for the University of Idaho.

Hopefully, crowd noise won’t have to be a factor. To win this game Idaho needs to move the chains offensively, eat clock and finish drives with touchdowns.

Idaho comes in ranked No. 54 in offensively efficiency, meaning half on first down, 70 percent to gain on second down and all to gain on third and fourth down. Explosiveness won’t be required unless Idaho falls behind by multiple scores, but finishing drives will be critical from the get-go.

Idaho can’t go down the field on the first drive, eat six minutes of clock and end up with a field goal. That just won’t do. Colorado State is too explosive and capable on offense. Idaho ranked No. 88 in the country at points per trip inside the 40. That’s got to get better. The offense is clearly talented and capable enough to keep up with Colorado State in a shootout if drives are moving and manifesting in touchdowns.

While the hope is Austin Rehkow won’t have to make much of an impact in his final game as a Vandal, we know he will when he hits the field. Idaho is among the best teams in the country at both starting field position and advantageous opponent field position.

If we do need to see Rehkow, we know he is absolutely automatic from inside 40 and capable up to the upper 40s depending on wind conditions. We also know every punt of his is either being pinned inside the 20, booted or being fair caught. Rehkow will also play his ass off because this is an NFL audition for him.

Field position won’t mean anything, though, if we just allow Colorado State to break off explosive plays anyways. Idaho has made significant improvements defensively, climbing to No. 55 in the country in limited opponent IsoPPP (points per play). Though, that’s mostly containing opponent big rushing plays. Passing plays seem to still get through Idaho’s secondary, which is solid at times, not very thin but still susceptible.

We’ll win this game in the front seven. It will be Aikeem Coleman and Tueni Lupeamanu making plays in the running game and making Stevens uncomfortable in the pocket. It will be Kaden Elliss dropping back in pass coverage and snaring an interception. It will be Ty Graham and Tony Lashley making a big hit on a screen play to force Colorado State into third and long.

Do that and our offense will have a chance to create long drives. It will have to be Isaiah Saunders continuing to give Idaho the steady running it had been missing since Elijhaa Penny graduated. The steady 4.5 he’s been averaging over the last four games would be just solid, allowing Aaron Duckworth to perhaps break off some explosive runs.

We also really can’t afford to do stupid shit, like fumble the ball on the goal line or allow a field goal to get blocked and returned for a field goal. Things that turned competitive games at Washington and Washington State into complete and utter blowouts.

Best case/ Worst case

Best case! Idaho wins the opening toss and elects to receive. Matt Linehan hits Trent Cowan over the middle on a seam on the first place, Isaiah Saunders pounds a couple more first downs before Linehan finds Deon Watson in the corner of the end zone for the touchdown. Vandals lead 7-0. The offensive is in a groove and keeps putting together drives to keep up in the shootout. Kaden Elliss snares an interception in the fourth quarter to allow Idaho to manufacture a game-winning drive, Idaho wins a shootout 48-41.

Worst case! Colorado State wins the opening toss and defers. Linehan is sacked on the first place and Idaho is forced to eventually punt. The Rams score touchdowns on their first two possessions and it’s a game of chase from there. Vandals fight back but it’s not really a game from there. Idaho falls 45-21.

Necessary links

The amount of incredible journalism being produced this week from Idaho beat reporters is absolutely fucking insane. You are all lucky to have these guys on the beat working for you.

There is like a handful more great stories from these guys you need to read. Check out both The Spokesman-Review and The Lewiston Tribune.

My Prediction

The fuck you think this is? Idaho is going to win. Score doesn’t matter. What matters is that I’m going to see dozens of people I haven’t seen in weeks, months or years. We’re going to sing the fight song even when there doesn’t seem to be a reason to sing it. Because that’s just what we do.

Please, get at me at social media if you’d like to tell me your Vandal stories tomorrow. I’m going around and talking to people and am I’m going to write as many stories as I can, regardless of the outcome of this game.

Stay warm. Enjoy the game.

As always, Go Vandals.


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