DENVER - SEPTEMBER 04: A thermometer on the field behind the bench of the Colorado State Rams registered the heat as temperatures soared as the Rams faced the Colorado Buffaloes during the the Rocky Mountain Showdown at INVESCO Field at Mile High on September 4 2010 in Denver Colorado. Colorado was awarded the Centenial Trophy after they defeated Colorado State 24-3. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
GAME WEEK! Finally, right? And it's even worse with the closed practices because we've had zero observations to go on besides those that Embree and his coaching staff have given us. Yeah, I'm ready to finally watch this team. And on the other side of the ball, we still aren't 100% sure what we'll be seeing, so that makes this even tougher. At least there will be game tape on the other teams under new coaching staffs.
Anyway, this is what I'll be watching on Saturday.
- Colorado's Offensive Line vs. CSU's Linebackers - It sounds like CSU will be running some sort of a hybrid Defense with 3-4 personnel to take advantage of their talent at linebacker. Well this will be our first chance to see if our offensive line truly is the heart of this team like the coaches have been telling us. We have two new guards in Alex Lewis and Daniel Munyer (not only new as in new starters there, but also guys who moved to the positions after playing TE/OT and C respectively) and Jack Harris is back at right tackle after missing the final 11 games last season. Those guys are going to have to dig deep in the Passing game and make good contact in the running game against the CSU linebackers, especially Shaquil Barrett and James Skelton. Hopefully practicing all offseason against our own talented group of Linebackers has them prepared for this.
- Colorado's Defensive Tackles vs. CSU's Interior Linemen - While Will Pericak has always produced for us and should be even better this year, behind him (and next to him) there is a whole lot of unknown. Nate Bonsu is supposedly ready to play again after getting us excited as a true freshman and though we have a lot of potential in the big bodies that joined the team in August, but we don't truly know what we'll get out of Josh Tupou and Justin Solis just yet. And CSU has some talent in the middle of their line, starting with center Weston Richburg. Dealing with their running back (who is next) will be no picnic, but it'll be a lot easier for the rest of the defense if the big boys up front can win these battles.
- Colorado's Linebackers vs. CSU's Running Game - In addition to Chris Nwoke, who is a load coming out of the backfield and is finally turning into a pretty good running back, our linebackers are going to be facing down a number of tight ends and h-backs in an offense that will presumably know how to use them effectively. Throw a QB that can move his feet into the mix and Doug Rippy, Jon Major and Derrick Webb are going to have a busy day. And we hope it's those guys doing all the work and not our Safeties, because that means CSU is gaining too many yards against us.
- Kenneth Crawley vs. Starting as a True Freshman - He is a very talented athlete, but it's not often someone can step onto campus and instantly play at a high level. Fortunately the guy opposite him did a solid job of that last year, and he has apparently been going to Greg Henderson for advice. With Greg Brown overseeing the defense and former Buff Chapelle Brown assisting with the DBs, hopefully Crawley is able to make the jump to D1-Football with ease. Watching him in game one will be very interesting.
- True freshmen are listed as the top punt and kick returners, and I'm excited to see them get their first game action doing it. It's not surprising to me to see all guys that Embree & Co. recruited holding down the return positions and the starting wide receiver and cornerback slots. They've been preaching about the need to increase team speed and that has me thinking they've made some progress there.