The matchup between Colorado Buffaloes' corner Jimmy Smith and Colorado State's receiver Rashaun Greer should be fun to watch.
What you need to know about the Rams' Offense:
You have heard it a hundred times by now; the Colorado St. Rams have the most experienced offensive line in college football. Yes, 129 total starts between the five players up front. Last season, the Buffs were able to get to then senior quarterback Billy Farris five times and held the Rams to a net 71 yards rushing. Colorado hopes to have the same sort of success against the most experienced offensive line as once again the Rams try to break another new quarterback in Grant Stucker. OG Shelley Smith and C Tim Walter are the two studs on the line, but Smith is questionable for the game Sunday due to a high ankle sprain. Walter has the ability to be the top center in Mountain West and is the anchor of the line.
Walter and Smith, if healthy, will be in charge of protecting Grant Stucker, the 6-2, 207-pound senior, saw little action last year completing just 3-of-5 passes for 22 yards. Stucker is a decent athlete who will certainly be more mobile than Billy Farris was a year ago but most have said Farris is the better pure passer. Head coach Steve Fairchild was not afraid to voice his displeasure at the quarterback position this offseason as Stucker or Jon Eastman failed to grab the reins of the position, with Stucker almost winning by default due to injuries elsewhere. Stucker will be at a disadvantage compared to the Farris last year as the Rams will have to replace two stalwart running backs in Gartrell Johnson and Kyle Bell. John Mosure, who rushed for 122 yards last season will get the start. Mosure, 5-10, 200-pounds, will add a little speed to the Rams backfield but it is hard to be convinced with the loss of Farris, Bell and Johnson that this year's backfield will be better than last year's.
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The real excitement for the Rams comes from the wide receiver spots as they have two of the better ones in the Mountain West conference. Rashaun Greer, a 6-1, 203 pounder senior, emerged last year after the receivers were labeled as the weak spot on the offense. Greer caught 63 passes for a team leading 1,114 yards and averaging an impressive 17 yards a reception. He only scored three times, though, something that Steve Fairchild would like to see amplified. Greer had a nice coming out party against Colorado last season, hauling in 8 for 80 yards. Dion Morton rounds out the dynamic duo at the receiver spot. Morton, a 5-10, 163-pound senior, was second on the team with 51 catches for 859 yards and a record-setting ten touchdowns. He is also dangerous in the return game, something that Buffs need to be aware of as they try to buck the trend of last year's special teams play.
Colorado State does lose some fire power on the edge in tight end Kory Sperry. Although Sperry was keyed on last season by the Buffs and had little impact on the game, he still had an impressive senior season before departing for the NFL. Colorado fans will be glad not to see him or Gartrell Johnson on the field this year. Taking over for the athletic Sperry will be Eric Peitz, a 6-5, 250-pound junior who played two years ago Sperry went down with a torn ACL. Peitz is more known for his blocking ability rather than his playmaking, catching only 5 passes for 29 yards in 2008. Sperry's 492 yards and six touchdowns will be difficult to replace this season as will his presence in the middle of the field.
Stat To Know About:
Other than the offensive line's 129 total starts, the Rams lose some firepower off of their 7-6 team from a year ago...some might not be the right way to put it. Colorado State has to replace 91% of its passing yards and 100% of its passing touchdowns in Billy Farris. They lose 74.3% of their rushing attempts, 88.1% of their rushing yards and 72.2% of their rushing touchdowns with the departure of Kyle Bell and Gartrell Johnson. The loss of receiving statistics is only about 30% between Sperry, Johnson and Bell but still is significant considering safeties had to stay home to cover Sperry instead of being able to provide strong over the top help for corners covering Morton and Greer. With Peitz now taking over at tight end, I expect the Buffs to key much more on the receivers and less on Sperry.
The Best Matchup:
If you are at the game, make sure you keep an eye on the Buffs' corners against the Rams' receivers. The matchup of CB Jimmy Smith against WR Rashaun Greer will be worth the price of admission as 6'3" 200 corner will have the forum to show off his skills against a talented receiver. And don't forget about the little guys on the other side who are no slouches in their own right. CB Cha'pelle Brown, an all conference performer a year ago, will go up against the Rams touchdown leader from a year ago in Dion Morton. These matchups should provide great theater all day long. Smith, Brown, Jalil Brown and Ben Burney better be ready as these will be two of the better receivers the Buffs will face all year.
Matchup Buff Fans Should be Worried About:
Clearly it is in the trenches. This group of CSU linemen have been through a lot together and they should be the rock of the offense. On the other side of the ball, the Buffs have lost most of their experience upfront from a year ago replacing three senior starters with sophomore Curtis Cunningham, redshirt freshman Will Perciak and sophomore Lagrone Shields. If the Rams can get a solid running game going, they could raise some issues for the Buffs this Sunday. I expect Colorado defensive coordinator Ron Collins to be ready to make many in game adjustments based on how the battle in the trenches goes. The good thing for the Buffs is the cornerbacks should be able to hold their own, allowing more in the box to stop the run and get after Stucker. But if things start going wrong for the Buffs, look to this matchup as the reason.
What Remains to Be Seen:
The obvious answer is Grant Stucker. How he plays in his first real collegiate game on the road in a nationally televised spot will get most of the attention. No doubt he has some talent at receiver but Colorado matches up extremely well there. The biggest question in my eyes is can the defensive line of the Buffs keep the Colorado St. line occupied enough to let the deep group of linebackers run rampant. Colorado doesn't have that proven huge space filler unless it is true freshman Nate Bonsu and who knows if he is "college ready." How quick do the Buffs switch from the 4 - 3 to the 3 - 4 will also be something to watch.
If Colorado gets any play out of the front four, the Rams are not going to have much success against the Colorado defense.