FACTS & STATS: Site: War Memorial Stadium (29,181) -- Laramie, Wyoming. Television: ROOT-NW. Home Record: CSU 2-1, Wyoming 3-0. Away Record: CSU 0-2, Wyoming 1-2. Neutral Record: CSU 0-1, Wyoming 0-0. Conference Record: CSU 0-1, Wyoming 2-0. Series Record: Colorado State leads, 55-44-5.
GAME NOTES: For the second year in a row, the annual Border War between the Colorado State Rams and the Wyoming Cowboys is slated to take place in Laramie this weekend.
For the first time since 1963-64, CSU is having to travel for this particular meeting in back-to-back seasons and seeing as how the Rams have yet to win outside of Fort Collins in 2013 that's probably not the best thing for the team right now as it competes for the Bronze Boot in the 104th installment of this rivalry.
Then again, last weekend the Rams hosted San Jose State in the Mountain West Conference opener at Hughes Stadium and still came out on the wrong side of a 34-27 final. The defeat was the second in the last three games for Colorado State.
As for the Cowboys, the leaders of the MWC's Mountain Division with a 2-0 mark in league action, they're coming off a 38-31 victory against a pesky New Mexico squad at home last weekend. The win was the fourth in five games for a team that lost to nationally-ranked Nebraska in the season opener by a mere three points and then inexplicably was blown away by Texas State on the road last month, 42-21.
Last season the Pokes claimed a 45-31 win over the Rams, but still it is CSU that maintains a 55-44-5 advantage in the long-running series. Wyoming has won four straight and is looking for its first five-game win streak over Colorado State since posting seven consecutive victories between 1967-73.
The Rams led 24-17 at the break versus San Jose State last Saturday, but then registered just a single field goal the rest of the way en route to the setback at home. Garrett Grayson converted 19-of-34 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns, but also tossed a couple of interceptions as the team lost for the second time in the last three outings. Kivon Cartwright caught three passes for 91 yards and two scores, while Crockett Gillmore turned his team- best five receptions into 76 yards and a TD as well.
Defensively, Cory James came up with a pair of sacks and a forced fumble on eight total stops, while Max Morgan and Aaron Davis tallied 14 and 13 tackles, respectively.
While those aforementioned three may have played well against SJSU, the fact remains that the Colorado State defense just isn't up to snuff these days, particularly when trying to shut down aggressive passing attacks. Through six games the Rams are 117th in the country with 307.3 ypg allowed through the air, their pass efficiency defense rating coming in at 164.28 which is second- worst in the FBS.
Grayson has tried to keep the offense balanced with his 58.1 percent accuracy and 10 touchdowns against just four interceptions on 198 attempts. Rashard Higgins may be the leading receiver in terms of total catches (24) and yards (334), but his three touchdowns is second to Cartwright who has five scores on only 14 grabs.
On the ground, the Rams are relying on Kapri Bibbs (429 yards, six TDs) and Chris Nwoke (320 yards) to give them a lift, but they tend to be inconsistent from one game to the next.
A pair of Cowboys ran for more than 100 yards last Saturday as Wyoming registered the win over the New Mexico Lobos in the 500th home game in program history. Quarterback Brett Smith produced a game-high 138 yards and scored twice on 14 rushing attempts, while Shaun Wick tacked on 116 yards and two more TDs on 17 carries as the Pokes powered their way to a fourth win in five tries. Smith also converted 19-of-33 passes for another 247 yards and a score for a team that logged 285 rushing yards and 532 yards of total offense.
Despite being listed as questionable with a shoulder injury heading into the game, wideout Dominic Rufran caught six balls for 43 yards for the hosts.
Outside of the MWC Smith probably doesn't get the press he deserves, but there's no denying that he is a special talent who can do damage both with his arm and his legs. Through six games, the quarterback has completed 64 percent of his attempts for an average of 309.0 ypg and a total of 15 touchdowns, against just four picks.
Smith also stands as the second-leading rusher for the program with 420 yards on 59 attempts, averaging a strong 7.1 yards per carry and having scored three times. The signal caller might have a quick step when he leaves the pocket, but clearly the primary ball carrier for the Pokes is Wick who now has a team- best seven TDs and 478 yards on 79 attempts.
On the defensive side, Wyoming ranks 19th in the country in stopping the pass (189.5 ypg), but is a woeful 116th when trying to slow down the run, giving up 239.7 ypg in that department. But considering the Cowboys have already battled run-happy programs such as Nebraska and Air Force, maybe those numbers aren't truly indicative of the talent on that side of the ball.
Assume that Smith and the rest of the Wyoming offense will be gearing up to run all over the Rams, although the stats show that an aerial assault would be a much better mode of attack for a Cowboys squad that intends on staying at the top of the division standings.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Wyoming 35, Colorado State 20
Saturday, October 19, 2 p.m. (et).