A pair of struggling Mountain West teams meet in Albuquerque on Friday night
The Colorado State Rams have won nine consecutive contests against the New Mexico Lobos dating back to November 2009. Perhaps a trip to Albuquerque this week is just what the doctor ordered for the struggling Rams.
Indeed, a 10th straight victory in the series is critical for the Rams' hopes of turning around what's quickly become a dreadful season.
Losers of four straight games, the Rams limp into Dreamstyle Stadium battered and bruised — both mentally and physically — trying to shake off a 1-5 start overall and an 0-2 opening to the Mountain West Conference campaign.
The only other team without a win so far in the Mountain Division happens to be the Lobos. They're 0-1 in Mountain West action and 2-3 overall. But the Lobos, who come in after two straight road losses, certainly play better on home turf, where their two wins have come over New Mexico State and Sam Houston State. Last week, they dropped a 32-21 tilt to host San Jose State in their first conference game of the season. In that game, the Lobos fell behind quickly, allowing 26 points before getting on the scoreboard themselves.
Not much separates the team statistically, except that the Lobos have allowed 100 more yards per game than the Rams. New Mexico has been burned by the pass — an average of 386 yards per game. But Colorado State's passing game hasn't exactly been setting the field afire. In fact, quarterbacks Patrick O'Brien and Justice McCoy combined for just 217 passing yards during Week 6's 24-10 defeat at the hands of San Diego State, igniting talk from head coach Mike Bobo about an employing a different QB strategy for Friday night's game and weeks beyond.
Colorado State at New Mexico
Kickoff: Friday, Oct. 11, at 8 p.m. ET
Spread: Colorado State -3.5
When Colorado State Has the Ball
Bobo has stopped short of calling it a QB competition between junior O'Brien and sophomore McCoy. But it's expected that the Rams will use both in their search to find something that works for them under center after losing starter Collin Hill to a season-ending ACL injury.
McCoy has taken only two snaps in his college career — both coming in last week's loss. Meanwhile, Nebraska transfer O'Brien has been a disappointment, throwing for 974 yards, three TDs and two interceptions on 73-of-123 passing.
Fortunately, the QB tandem can rely on senior running back Marvin Kinsey Jr., who has rolled to 618 yards and four TDs on 96 carries, giving him the ninth-most rushing yards among FBS talents through six weeks.
And O'Brien and McCoy are anticipating the return of star junior wideout Warren Jackson, who's been hampered by shoulder and concussion issues that have forced him to miss the last two games. But the Rams QBs won't have sophomore receiver E.J. Scott in the lineup, as he serves the final game of his two-game suspension for violating team rules.
While Jackson has 327 yards on 31 catches and Scott has caught 10 balls for 152 yards, freshman Dante Wright is the team's top receiver with 32 grabs for 487 yards and three touchdowns.
When New Mexico Has the Ball
The Lobos employ a spread offense, the type of attack that's been giving the Rams fits all season. But New Mexico, too, has been tinkering with its quarterbacks in trying to find a winning arm. Last week, it was sophomore QB Tevaka Tuioti getting the call, but for the second straight game, he proved ineffective. On the season, his passing numbers have been pretty pedestrian — 38-of-77 for 660 yards, four TDs, and four INTs.
So it was back to senior QB Sheriron Jones last week, as he took over in the second quarter for Tuioti and helped get the Lobos back in the game. Jones threw for 127 yards, two TDs, and three INTs and ran for 104 yards and a score. The veteran signal-caller spread the ball around, finding eight different receivers on the day, including a much-heralded connection with speedy Cedric Patterson III, who just might be the key to helping the Lobos get more out of their passing attack. Junior Jordan Kress is the team leader in receiving with a modest 215 yards and three TDs, but that's on just six receptions.
Senior Ahmari Davis has run the ball 93 times for 457 yards and four TDs to lead the ground game for New Mexico.
Consistent quarterback play seems to be the key to this one. And with both defenses struggling to find their form heading into the Week 7 match, it seems likely somebody with an arm — one of the four QBs in line to play, that is — will step up.
Colorado State's QB combo should get a lift from Jackson's return to the receiving corps. That combined with a steady diet of Kinsey running the ball should give the Rams the edge despite being shaky this season and winless on the road. Plus, the Rams boast better talent across the board.
Prediction: Colorado State 36, New Mexico 30
(Top photo courtesy of @CSUFootball)