Since their dramatic overtime loss to Colorado, the Rams of Colorado State have rattled off two straight wins. Jay Norvell’s squad is now headed on the road for their first Mountain West Conference game, where they’ll match up with Utah State. After previewing the game, I’ll break down why I’ll be backing the Rams as road favorites this weekend.
Going into halftime of their game against UCONN, it looked as if Utah State was well on their way to a 1-4 start to the year. However, that would not be the case after the Aggies came out and scored 27 second-half points to beat the Huskies 34-33. McCae Hillstead got the start under center, but after leaving with a concussion, Cooper Legas would come in and throw for 204 yards and three second-half touchdowns.
Legas will likely be under center to start the game this weekend, moving back into the starter role he claimed at the beginning of the season prior to his benching. The signal caller will lead a Utah State offense onto the field Saturday that ranks 62nd in points per game and 64th in offensive success rate. The Aggies are a pass-heavy team, ranking 11th in pass-play percentage, so Legas and leading receiver Jaylen Royals will be relied on heavily this weekend against Colorado State.
The Rams defense tasked with stopping Legas enters this matchup ranked 80th in defensive success rate. Opposing teams have consistently attacked the Rams' passing defense, as they’ve seen a 58.5% pass play percentage this season, the 11th highest in the country. Opponent’s pass-heavy approach on the Rams has led to them allowing an average of 364.3 passing yards per game, but mind you, two of the quarterbacks they’ve faced are Heisman candidates.
Much like the Aggies, the Rams' offense relies primarily on the pass, as starting quarterback Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi averages 45.3 passing attempts per game. In turn, that has led to him averaging 354 passing yards a game and throwing for 11 touchdown passes. The problem is that high passing volume has led to some turnover issues, with Fowler-Nicolosi throwing seven interceptions through the first four games.
Colorado State enters their first conference game as (-3) point road favorites, and I’ll be backing them for my play. The Rams are 2-0 ATS on the road this season and have a big advantage in the passing game since they are 40th in EPA per pass play and go up against an Aggies defense that is 125th in defensive success rate on pass plays.
Utah State has let opposing quarterbacks tear them up through the air, allowing a completion percentage of 65.05%. A big reason for that is their lack of pass rush, which has led to just a 3.74% sack percentage, so Fowler-Nicolosi should have plenty of time to find receivers like Tory Horton, who leads the team with 540 passing yards and six touchdowns.
As I mentioned before, Colorado State’s defensive numbers are a bit skewed since they faced Cam Ward and Shadeur Sanders in the first two weeks of the season. While they are still 80th in the country in defensive success rate, the Aggies' offense has been inconsistent up to this point, and even with their heavy passing attack, they still rank 81st in offensive success rate on pass plays. In a battle between two pass-heavy offenses and two weak passing defenses, I think the Rams can outlast the Aggies with a more efficient approach.
Colorado State (-3)