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Colorado Buffaloes vs. Colorado State Rams: Enemy intel and unit match-ups

Ralphie Report talks with Joshua Carvalho about this week's "rivalry" matchup with the Rams of Colorado State

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Will the Colorado Buffaloes get revenge on the CSU Rams for last year's upset loss in Denver (yes)?  Joshua from Mountain West Connection gives us the some inside insight on the Rams and we break down each position unit prior to Saturday's game.

Nick Stevens' stat line wasn’t great from last game, and Coleman Key looked like he injected some instant offense when he came in. When you have 2 QB’s, you have none, so who starts this week for CSU, and maybe more importantly, who finishes the game?

According to Coach Bobo’s press conference after the game last Saturday, Nick Stevens will be the starting quarterback. However, after watching the game, it will be interesting to see what kind of leash Bobo gives Stevens. It’s obvious that Key came into the game and gave the offense a much needed spark. Key led the offense on two critical scoring drives in the fourth quarter after three quarters where Stevens was ineffective. Stevens starts the game, but I won’t be surprised if Key relieves him if the Rams struggle to move the ball early on. My prediction: Stevens begins and finishes the game.

Tyson Summers has certainly made an impact on the defense, and they seem to performing well. He’s known for aggressive defenses. How has the mentality change affected the performance?

Aggressive is the key for Tyson Summers. Summers wants defensive guys that are tough and always willing to fly around. His players have the mindset that when they step onto the field, they will be successful. His switch to the 4-3 has been a success in the first two games. The Rams don’t change much up front on defense, allowing the defenders to stay in their positions and stick to their responsibilities. Without much change, there is less thinking going on. The less players have to think, the faster they play. The scheme and mentality change that has been implemented at CSU has had a positive effect on the Rams in the early stage of the 2015 season.

Who is one player that Buff fans may not know about on offense, but should? What about defense?

Dalyn Dawkins is a player on offense that Buff fans should know about. The nephew of former All-Pro Safety Brian Dawkins, Dalyn, a sophomore, has established himself as the Ram’s potential lead back. With Treyous Jarrells recovering from minor arthroscopic knee surgery, Dawkins led the Ram’s back with 19 carries for 92 yards and a touchdown against Minnesota, while Jarrells had 7 carries for 28 yards. The coaching staff will most likely look to lean on Dawkins for another week as they ease Jarrells back onto the field.

On defense, senior defensive end Joe Kawulok is a player to keep track of. The Boulder native is a part of a long line of Kawuloks that have played football for the Rams. He is a two year starter who has shown tremendous strides each year. A season ago, he got 3.5 sacks and started to make a name for himself in the 3-4 defense. This year, in the 4-3, he can be a little more aggressive and has already gotten to the quarterback twice and has forced a fumble as well.

Why have the Rams coughed up so many turnovers?

You know, that is a tough question to answer. Any time you have thrown 3 interceptions and have lost 6 fumbles in 2 games, there is a problem. Dawkins did struggle against Minnesota with two fumbles, one being in overtime. However, the overtime turnover was just unfortunate as he was getting hit before he fully gained control of the ball. The CSU quarterbacks have committed 5 turnovers themselves. We can mark that up to inexperience; however, I’m not going to making excuses for the team. This turnover problem has to stop if they plan on being successful against the Buffs.

Who wins the Rocky Mountain Showdown?

Trying to be as unbiased as possible, I would have to say the Rams win this one 24-10. I think the Ram’s defense will be playing an inspired game after losing to the Golden Gophers, and after watching Sefo’s play so far this year (especially the Hawaii game), I think he will struggle against an experienced Ram’s defensive backfield. Stevens will get back on track against a CU defense that isn’t as skilled as Minnesota’s. Plus, the addition of a healthy Rashard Higgins and Treyous Jarrells gives the Rams a matchup advantage on the field. Should be fun, and anything can happen in the RMS, but I just don’t see the Buffs winning this one.

Unit Match-Up Predictions

CU's O-line vs. CSU's D-line - Advantage: Even. This Ram front line is stout at the point of attack and had a very good game against a big Minnesota team. The junior college transfers from the past few years have done well to step into the starting role, but the starring play has to be Joe Kawulok, the bear of a man. 6'6, lean and mean, Kawulok should cause fits up front for the Buffs this game, and his teammates might get some more opportunities if CU decides to double. The only reason this is even is because of a DOMINATING performance from the offensive line against UMass. Granted, it's the Minutemen, but 400 yards rushing against anyone is a good sign. The loss of Jeromey Irwin hurts, but Sam Kronshage has played well in his stead thus far. He will be tested in this game.

CSU's O-line vs. CU's D-line - Advantage: Even. I'm going to be honest, a lot of these rankings are crapshoot, and these teams are closer than both fan bases care to admit. The Rams have been solid along the front line, and have a lot of experience this year. Jake Bennett has been having a great year at guard, and Fred Zerblis and Sam Carlson have been good leaders thus far. The Buffs' defensive line has been a very pleasant surprise this early in the season. It would be a really nice surprise to have José Franke ready for this game, but I'm not holding my breath, as concussions are hard.

CU's QB vs. CSU's DBs - Advantage: Slightly CU. Sefo has disappointed starting this 2015, but honestly the coaches haven't tasked him with much and he has done a great job checking to run plays. CSU's secondary gave up a lot of yards last year, and while they haven't faced a real quarterback so far, they're confident that the improvement will continue. If all goes well, Sefo won't have to be a hero this game.

CSU's QB vs. CU's DBs - Advantage: Slightly CU. This is more of an indictment of CSU's quarterbacks than an endorsement of the job done by the Buffs in the backfield. The corners have struggled to shut down anybody this year, and I expect that their job will not be any easier on Saturday. Luckily, Nick Stevens or Coleman Key may have trouble getting the weapons the ball. Supposedly, Stevens will remain the starter after a bad performance against the Gophers, which may make CU's job easier. The safeties will be more than fine, as they have been all year, but the corners need to ball out to shut down the passing attack.

CU's Skill players (WR, TE, RB) vs. CSU's Back 7 (LB's and DB's) - Advantage: Slightly CU. This is another tough one to call, and the more I look, the more even these teams look. I'll give the edge to the Buffs because of the legendary Nelson Spruce. I just don't see that they have any one that can shut it down without help, which leaves room for others to make a play. Also, Michael Adkins is awesome and amazing.

CSU's Skill players vs. CU's Back 7 - Advantage: CSU. This is the biggest matchup disparity in the whole game. Even if Higgins isn't 100%, the cornerbacks for the Buffs may be overmatched and the linebackers haven't shown me enough to give me confidence to stop Tryeous Jarrells and crew. CSU may put yards on CU, especially if the D-line doesn't show up to play. And again, if Higgins shows up to play, it could get ugly.

Special Teams - CSU. Hayden Hunt is a good punter, or so they say, and Alex Kinney has been less than stellar. That's all I got for this one.