Welcome to the 24th Tuesdays With Mitch, where I’ll start with a quick congrats to Randy and Emily on your new engagement. (And also making me feel old as hell.) It’s game week. Football is here in a couple days. Locally it all starts on Sunday afternoon with the Rocky Mountian Showdown, which has the potential to be the best day of every year. Most of my readers come from a Colorado State point of view, so let’s breakdown the 2013 Rams.
We’ll start with a quick glance back at last year. Here’s the schedule and results from 2012:
So the Rams started 1-6 last year, then got it together a little bit and won three of their last five. They finished 4-8, which was a one-game improvement from the past three years, each of which ended at 3-9.
Things should be better this year. Jim McElwain appears to know what he’s doing and if he does, we should see a noticeable difference between the coach’s first and second years.
The offense returns nine starters, including four on the offensive line. The best player on the offense might be senior center and four-year starter Weston Richburg. If the line improves around him the way it should, CSU figures to have a pretty potent running game. Donnell Alexander is a stud and he produced much more than most would have imagined as a true freshman last year. Chris Nwoke battled injuries, but two years ago ran for over 1200 yards. If both those dudes can stay healthy, the Rams should have a very solid ground attack.
Quarterback is an interesting spot. Two guys are capable of starting and they have very different skillsets. It sounds like junior Garrett Grayson will win the starting job. He’s a smaller, scrambling, rollout style quarterback. The other option is sophomore Conner Smith who is bigger and a more traditional pocket passer with a strong arm. Each player started a handful of games last year, with Smith taking over after Grayson was injured. Fans should hope one person can take over and be the every down quarterback. Like they say, if you have two quarterbacks, you have no quarterbacks.
The depth chart is a little murkier (real word) at wide receiver. Charles Lovett, Joe Hansley and Thomas Coffman are all coming back. They all had shoulder-shrug seasons last year. It sounds like some true freshman will be making an impact at receiver as well, led by Rashard Higgins. Kivon Cartwright and Crocket Gillmore are two very good tight ends who should be very active in the passing game. Gillmore is considered by some to be a fringe NFL prospect.
There are more question marks on the defensive side, but the unit returns six starters from last year. The strength figures to come at the linebacker position. Shaquil Barrett has the potential to be a beast if he can build off his production last year. Cory James had a great freshman season, leading the team with 7.5 sacks. He’s back as a sophomore. Both those guys are linebackers, but they figure to be utilized mainly as pass rushers. The defensive line has to improve, but there’s not much there to suggest it will.
Shaq Bell is a senior corner and a leader in the secondary. He’s one of the better defenders on a team with only a few recognizable faces on the defensive side of the ball. It sounds like sophomore Kevin Pierre-Louis will take over as a starter at safety. He played well in limited time as a reserve last year.
Overall the offense should be a strength. The defense will be trying to hold their own.
So there’s a quick breakdown of the roster and talent on the team. Here’s the Mountain West preseason predictions from the esteemed media experts and the wise guys in Vegas.
It’s pretty clear that Boise and Fresno appear to be the class of the MWC. Colorado State should be in the middle of the pack. Wyoming and Air Force could have set backs. Vegas likes CSU more than the media, which fans should find encouraging. Vegas knows more than everybody, and the media can be clueless.
Here’s the Rams’ 2013 schedule:
Adding Alabama on a would-be bye week means the Rams have 13 regular season games instead of the standard 12. One interesting note is that CSU plays eight straight games without a bye week to end the year, which could lead to an additional loss or two. Notice they don’t play Fresno State or San Diego State (both probable losses). They don’t get to play UNLV (a probable win). Here are my predictions with a short breakdown.
COLORADO (WIN) 1-0
CU might be the worst college program in the nation. They are a unanimous pick to finish last in the Pac-12 and are coming off a 1-11 campaign. Going through a coaching change. No way they win three games. All that said, CSU is currently only a 3-point favorite. Bet the mortgage.
@TULSA (LOSS) 1-1
Tulsa has a really good program. One of my close friends has worked with Tulsa football for the past couple years so I’ve been following them pretty closely. They are the defending Conference USA champions and Bill Blankenship doesn’t seem to have bad years. Most are picking Tulsa to repeat as conference champs. I expect the Rams to be underdogs by about 10.
CAL POLY (WIN) 2-1
Cal Poly is another threat of a FCS team that the Rams will host at home. (They lost to North Dakota State last year.) Cal Poly beat Wyoming in Laramie last year, so they are no joke. Still, I expect CSU to handle their business against a lesser opponent this go ’round.
@ #1 ALABAMA (LO$$) 2-2
Ha. Thi$ one will not be clo$e. $hould be a cool experience for the Colorado $tate who will take home $1 million for playing thi$ game. (Just hope none of those NFL players in red jerseys injure any Rams too badly).
UTEP (WIN) 3-2
Texas-El Paso is a mid-to-bottom level C-USA team. Playing them in Fort Collins is the key. CSU should not lose this game.
SAN JOSE STATE (WIN) 4-2
This would be a small upset for Colorado State. San Jose State has quite a bit of talent returning and has beaten CSU the past two years. Quarterback David Fales is tough to contain. But the Spartans have a new coaching staff and I just feel like this is the type of game the Rams need to start winning to get over that hump. This year feels like the year they make that move.
@WYOMING (WIN) 5-2
Brett Smith is one of the best quarterbacks in the Mountain West. Some are pegging the dual threat signal-caller as an NFL draft pick. Last year Wyoming finished with an identical record to Colorado State (4-8, 3-5). They beat CSU 45-31 last year. I expect CSU to be improved. I expect Wyoming to be about the same. This game should be close one way or the other. Another swing game for the Rams this season. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but I think they’ll pull it out.
HAWAII (WIN) 6-2
Hawaii is pretty bad.
#19 BOISE STATE (LOSS) 6-3
Not happening. Might be a little more competitive than in year’s past. But it ain’t happening.
NEVADA (LOSS) 6-4
This seems like a coin flip game. Chris Ault is gone after 28 years with the Wolf Pack, but his pistol offense remains. CSU is not good enough to win every 50/50 game on their schedule. It’s inevitable for them to drop a game or two like this one.
@NEW MEXICO (WIN) 7-4
CSU won’t lose to New Mexico, even on the road. The Lobos should suck again.
@UTAH STATE (LOSS) 7-5
The Aggies should contend for the MWC title, even with a coaching change. They went 11-2 last year and were 6-0 at home. Asking the Rams to win in Ogden this season is a little much.
AIR FORCE (WIN) 8-6
Air Force has beaten CSU seven straight times. Seven! The Falcons are only returning three starters on offense and are replacing almost every skill position. Things aren’t much better on the defensive side and Troy Calhoun would have to pull off quite the coaching job to give Air Force a winning season. The Rams get the Zoomies at home, which could turn out to be key to Colorado State breaking their awful streak and beating the Falcons for the first time since 2005.
So there ya have it. 8-5 and a trip to the Calahan Auto Parts Inline Rotary Girder Bowl in Flint, Michigan. Honestly 8-5 seems a little overzealous, but when I went through the schedule game-by-game, it kind of made sense. Before breaking down each game, I probably would have predicted a 7-6 or even 6-7 season. So credit a diminished Mountain West and a fairly soft schedule for the Rams turnaround.
Last week, I showed you a news report from some kid at Ball State who made a half-court shot to win free tuition for a year. Apparently my Alma Matter did not want to be outdone. This is so awesome.
They didn’t have those pep rally things for new freshman when I went there. Looks like a ton of fun. And that kid will remember that moment for a very, very long time. Pretty clutch.
This is one way to score a touchdown.
This is hilarious and well done.
I love watching the Little League World Series. This stole the show for me.
So did this.
I’m not sure which is better. Tumbling down 6 rows and exploding countless empty plastic chairs or an all out faceplant into some bushes.
Deadspin is great at showing how stupid ESPN can be and this story on how they just made up a topic and turned it into a story is really interesting. You should read it.
This thing on MLB Payrolls is a really cool timewaster.
Welcome to school, kids.
LIKE A BAAADASSSSS! Like a badass indeed, nerdy Andy Samberg. You really got those dorky ACC engineers riled up. I think a few of them even clapped a couple times. Seriously, were those kids sedated?
I fancy myself a bit of a beard aficionado, so I really enjoyed this cool stop-motion video some dude with a great beard made.
Gets a little weird at the end, but it’s still cool.
And finally, don’t try to rob this store in Brazil. (Wait for iiiitt….)
I really hope that’s real and the worker inside is just an animal.
Happy Tuesday everybody. Thanks for reading. Enjoy your Labor Day Weekend. We’ll talk some Broncos next week. See ya then.
…and Go Rams!
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