Although Colorado State hasn’t been able to nail down a conference championship in nearly two decades, playing in bowl games had become an annual routine for the Rams – until last year.
The 2018 season got off to a rocky start and never really improved as the Rams finished 3-9 overall, 2-6 in the Mountain West Conference.
Beginning with the Rams, BuffZone.com will take a look at each of Colorado’s opponents over the next 12 days. CU will open the season on Aug. 30 in Denver against the Rams, who had made five consecutive bowl appearances before last year.
Heading into head coach Mike Bobo’s fifth season in Fort Collins, the Rams are coming off their worst season since 2012. Bobo is determined to get back on track.
“When you don’t make (the postseason) and you go 3-9 and you’re sitting at home, there’s a ton of time to reflect,” Bobo told The Denver Post this spring. “I didn’t want to put a Band-Aid on anything. I wanted to go back to ground zero, like it was your first year at the program, setting the standard for every single thing we’re going to do. Because I want to build a consistent winner. I don’t want to build a winner that’s going to be a Band-Aid, that doesn’t have the right foundations. That doesn’t make sense. We weren’t going to blow everything up, but we were going to make sure everybody knew what they were supposed to do in every phase of this program. And that was going to come from me.”
This offseason, Bobo and the Rams have talked quite a bit about accountability and being tougher.
Last year, the Rams folded in an opening loss to Hawaii, and then got crushed in Denver by the Buffs. With the exception of a surprising win against Arkansas in the third game, the Rams didn’t have many highlights.
Bobo, who dealt with health issues last season – as of this spring, he said he was feeling better but not 100 percent – was so disappointed in last season that he declined a $100,000 raise.
For the Rams to get back to the postseason, they’ll have to exceed expectations. Most publications have CSU finishing near the bottom of the MWC’s Mountain division. The Rams have a new full-time starter at quarterback and lost two NFL-caliber receivers, their leading rusher and their top two tacklers.
It may take a few weeks for the Rams to get in sync, but Bobo is determined for this year to be a better one in Fort Collins. If it’s not, his future could be in question. But, going into the year, Bobo has support from athletic director Joe Parker and president Tony Frank.
“That’s always reassuring,” Bobo told the Post. “Now, ultimately, I’ve got to get it done.”
CU Opponent preview: Colorado State Rams
Date with CU: Aug. 30, 8 p.m., at Broncos Stadium at Mile High in Denver
Head coach: Mike Bobo, 5th year (24-27)
Series: CU leads 66-22-2
Rams in 2018: 3-9, 2-6 in Mountain West
Returning starters: 10 – 4 on offense, 6 on defense
5 offensive players to watch (2018 statistics):
TE Cameron Butler, Jr. (29 catches, 312 yards, 0 TD)
WR Nate Craig-Myers, Jr. (transfer from Auburn)
QB Collin Hill, Jr., (119-of-202, 1,387 yards, 7 TD, 7 INT)
WR Warren Jackson, Jr. (32 catches, 405 yards, 4 TD)
RB Marcus McElroy, Jr. (52 att., 219 yards, 0 TD)
5 defensive players to watch:
CB Rashad Ajayi, So. (33 tackles, 1 INT, 6 PBU)
S Jamal Hicks, Sr. (93 tackles, 2 TFL, 3 PBU)
DE Emmanuel Jones, Jr. (34 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 2 sacks)
LB Max McDonald, Jr. (6 tackles)
DT Devin Phillips, So. (26 tackles, 3 TFL, 1.5 sacks)
Notable: For the first time in his career, Hill enters the year as the expected starter. He’s had eight career starts – including the last four games of last season – but also two ACL tears in his left knee. He had a good spring, holding off Nebraska transfer Patrick O’Brien for the top spot entering fall. … Craig-Myers was a former blue chip recruit to Auburn, but may not be available to play against Colorado. He played the first three games last season at Auburn before deciding to transfer and per NCAA rules might have to sit out the first three games this year. … CSU enters its second season with coordinators Dave Johnson (offense) and John Jancek (defense). … Last year, the Rams ranked 108th nationally in scoring (22.8 points per game) and 117th in points allowed (36.8 per game). … Senior Braxton Davis is expected to take over at kicker. He was the Rams’ kickoff specialist from 2015-17 and through the first four games last year before electing to use his redshirt year. … Junior Ryan Stonehouse is one of the top punters in the country. … CU has won the last four in the series, including the last three by a combined score of 106-23.