Gameday is almost here! Right now, both teams are undefeated, so anything is possible. The beginning of a brand new season. The slate is clean. So friggin' excited!!
We all know the history: CU has dominated the series overall wining nearly 75% of the games over the years. In the last decade, however, we only have a 6-4 advantage and they beat us on our home field to open up last season. For a game that we have historically dominated, it looks to be a must-win situation tomorrow.
We know the big news out of CSU training camp: True Freshman QB Pete Thomas will get the start. He's big and looks like a fairly polished passer for his age, and he enrolled early to get extra time with the playbook. But I don't expect that to be the focus of their offense. They will try to establish the run. They've got their own talented SoCal transfer in Raymond Carter (UCLA). They've got a stable of talented running backs, and we will learn a lot about our front 7/6 in the early-goings of this game. If they can get their running game going, that should open things up for Thomas and his wide receivers, who are a pretty talented bunch. They also have another very good TE that could be a thorn in our side in Eric Peitz. Their O-line will be something to watch. They had one of the most experienced O-lines last season, but they lost four of those guys. They will have a brand new center, and a couple of new starters. Some of them have seen snaps, but their experience is pretty limited. This certainly won't help them establish a running game and protect their new QB.
Matchups I'll be watching:
-We have some talent and experience inside, so we'll see if they can prevent the Ram's O-line from getting a push in the running game. They also should be able to collapse the pocket a bit. A young QB with no room to step up is the perfect recipe for sacks and interceptions.
LBs in coverage vs. Peitz & the Rams TEs
-This will be a good test for Jon Major, Michael Sipili and the boys. Peitz is pretty good, but they will face some very good TEs as the season goes on, not to mention the run-n-shoot offense vs. Hawaii. We'll get our first glimpses at how they perform in coverage, or who in the secondary is tasked to cover the TEs
They return quite a bit of starting experience here. At defensive end, they have two undersized speedsters. This may work into our advantage, though, as Nate Solder and David Bakhtiari both have quick feet, and we don't want to throw Bakhtiari into the fire against a guy that can bull-rush right through him. Inside, they've got a couple of big and talented DTs. That will tell us a lot about our running game this season. They have a small but very quick group of experienced LBs that we had trouble with last year. They also will likely blitz us from every direction. Their secondary is made up of all upper-classmen. Our increased WR speed should give them problems, though, especially when they send extra pass rushers.
Matchups I'll be watching:
-Just like above, this will be a good barometer for well we will be able to run the ball this year. If we can generate a good push against these guys, that will bode well for the rest of 2010. And if they can hold the pocket on passing downs, that will make a world of difference for our passing game.
CU blitz pickup vs. Rams pressure
-They blitzed a bit in last years game, and it looks like they'll do it even more this year. Whether its Rodney Stewart and the RBs staying in to block, or it's Ryan Deehan and the TEs, our blitz pickup needs to swift and effective. I don't want to see Hansen running in this game unless the play calls for it.
-We will finally get to see our deep passing game in action. Scotty McKnight will see most of his snaps in the slot, so we will get to see these talented WRs work the outside. The Rams have the experience, but not the speed to cover these guys. Lets see if we can take advantage of that.
I've been saying this for a while, but this should be a big win. We have improved tremendously on both sides of the ball. The Rams may be slightly improved on defense, but definitely not as good on offense. That should mean a big swing on the scoreboard. I don't see us allowing more than two touchdowns on defense (one passing and one rushing). On offense, I see us putting up quite a few points. Our WRs are great after the catch, and we should be excellent on third downs. Between McKnight and Deehan, Tyler Hansen will have two safety blankets, and he should have plenty of time to go through his progressions. Someone should always be open. Stewart should hit 100 yards easily. In fact, I see us bringing guys like Quentin Hildreth and Justin Torres in to run down the clock in the second half.
I know we've had our troubles with the Rams lately, but this should be a big win. I'm looking at a score somewhere in the high thirties/low forties for CU, and a score of ten or so for the Rams. Lets say 41-10 in favor of the Buffaloes. And I'll say we score most of those points in the first three quarters, while the Rams don't get that TD til the second half.