The Colorado State Rams and Utah State Aggies gave us one of the most dramatic endings of the 2018 college football season. Though it first appeared the Rams won by completing a last-second Hail Mary pass for a touchdown, the play was nullified and allowed Utah State to survive 29-24.
Colorado State, 1-3 overall this year following a 41-35 loss to Toledo last week, will have revenge on its mind in its Mountain West Conference opener. Meanwhile, the Aggies hope to improve to 3-1 overall and 2-0 in league play, following a 23-17 victory over San Diego State in Week 4.
Colorado State at Utah State
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 28 at 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: CBS Sports Network
Spread: Utah State -24
When Colorado State Has the Ball
Colorado State has one of the most successful passing attacks in the country. The Rams rank No. 10 nationally in passing offense (345.0 ypg) but have done so despite a lot of shakeup in offensive personnel.
Colorado State lost quarterback Collin Hill to an unprecedented third torn ACL after his third start this season and have since turned to Nebraska transfer Patrick O'Brien as its new starter. O'Brien completed 32 of 52 attempts for 405 yards and a touchdown, and also was intercepted once, in his first start last week.
O’Brien benefitted from the on-field arrival of Nate Craig-Myers, a former five-star Auburn signee who sat out the first four games of the season due to transfer rules. The two connected five times for 88 yards a week ago, and will likely hook up much more this year. After all, O'Brien may be without the services of top target Warren Jackson (31 rec., 327 yds., 3 TDs) and leading rusher Marvin Kinsey Jr. (556 rushing yds., 3 TDs), both of whom are nursing injuries and are questionable to suit up Saturday.
When Utah State Has the Ball
Utah State leads the Mountain West and is fifth nationally with 367 passing yards per game. Quarterback Jordan Love also is fifth nationally in passing (334.3 ypg), as he's thrown for 1,003 yards with four touchdowns. He has been intercepted three times as well
Siaosi Mariner has emerged as Love's favorite target early this season. Mariner, a Utah transfer, has caught a team-high 20 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns in his first season with the Aggies. Running backs Jaylen Warren and Gerold Bright have combined to run for 442 yards and six touchdowns, giving the Aggies a balanced attack that has combined for an average of 562.7 total yards per game — best in the Mountain West.
Either through the air or on the ground, Utah State is poised for more success against Colorado State. The Rams currently sit at the bottom of the conference in yards allowed per play (6.86), which also ranks 123rd nationally.
Both defenses will have their hands full this week. Though Utah State has the top offense in the Mountain West in terms of yardage, Colorado State is No. 2 in the league (552.3 ypg). The Rams lead the conference in yards per play (7.17), just ahead of the No. 2 Aggies (7.03).
But Utah State has a far better chance of stopping — or at least slowing — the Rams' potent offense. Not only has Colorado State been banged up on offense, but the Aggies also feature one of the most productive defensive players in the country in linebacker David Woodward, whose 13.67 tackles per game rank second in the conference and fourth nationally. With Woodward leading the way, Utah State has allowed just 4.65 yards per play this year, which ranks third in the Mountain West and 29th in the country.
Given the overall health concerns at Colorado State, and the defensive edge for Utah State, we should expect the Aggies to pick up an important home win this week and stay undefeated in conference play. Odds are, it won't be nearly as close as last year's nail-biter.
Prediction: Utah State 43, Colorado State 30
(Top photo courtesy of Utah State Athletics)