CSU Rams at Wyoming football: 4 things to know, key matchups and predictions

Colorado State (3-5, 2-2 Mountain West) at Wyoming (4-4, 0-4)

1:30 p.m. Saturday, at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium

TV/Radio: CBS-SN/1430 AM, 98.1 FM

Line: CSU -3.5

Weather: Mostly Sunny, 62 degrees

What to know

Red zone zombies. With the exception of that chaotic (and avoidable) finish at Utah State, CSU kicker Cayden Camper, a Groza Award Semifinalist, has put together an excellent season with 22 field goals. In fact, three more makes would set a single-season Rams record — Jeff Babcock’s 24 field goals in 2002 is the number to beat. But as last weekend’s performance against Boise State showed, the Rams are too often settling for three in the red zone instead of coming away with touchdowns. On the plus side, CSU heads into Laramie ranked fourth among Mountain West programs in red zone chances (34). The other side of the coin? The Rams are eighth among Mountain West programs in touchdown percentage in the red zone (41.2%), a trend they hope won’t bite them in the backsides for a second straight game.

Third quarter terrors. Whatever coach Steve Addazio is saying at halftime, he might want to mix it up. The third quarter has been the Rams’ worst 15-minute stretch this season, a period in which CSU has scored 33 points while giving up 62, for a minus-29 point differential. CSU’s 4.7 points per game in the third quarter ranks No. 96 nationally, while its 6.9 points surrendered is 77th. It’s worth noting that CSU outscored Wyoming in last fall’s Border War, 7-3.

Takeaway time? In their first four games, all wins, the Cowboys turned over the ball just four times. In their next four games, all losses, Wyoming has given the ball away on 11 occasions, seven via interceptions, for a jump of nearly two more turnovers per game.

McBride’s marks. The Rams’ first full season under Addazio has been a roller-coaster of results and emotions, but tight end Trey McBride, CSU’s top NFL prospect, has been one of the steadier hands holding the rope. With five more catches, the senior from Fort Morgan will hold the school record for receptions by a tight end in a season. And he’s 45 receiving yards away from becoming the Rams’ all-time leader in reception yardage by a tight end.

Key Matchups

CSU defensive line vs. Wyoming offensive line. Led by defensive end Scott Patchan, CSU ranks second in the MW with 31 sacks and 3.88 per game. The Pokes head into the weekend sixth in the league with two takedowns given up per game. The Rams are at their saltiest when forcing the opposition into repeated third-and-longs. Although …

CSU secondary vs. Wyoming QB Levi Williams. That master plan didn’t quite work out against Boise State last weekend. Take out the first quarter against the Broncos, during which CSU raced out to a 13-0 cushion, and the visitors at Canvas Stadium converted five of nine opportunities on third-and-5-yards-or-longer. Yikes. Williams has been erratic (44.4% completion percentage) and will be missing one of his top targets in wideout Ayden Eberhardt, but the Rams can’t keep letting the opposition extend drives from out of nowhere.

Predictions

Sean Keeler, sports columnist: CSU 24, Wyoming 20

The Pokes’ offense will likely be without Loveland native Ayden Eberhardt the rest of the way. No team has held the Bronze Boot for just a solitary season in the series since Wyoming nabbed it in October 2006, in between two CSU victories. If the Rams can finish like they started against Boise State, it’ll stay in FoCo.

Scott Monserud, AME/sports:: CSU 21, Wyoming 20

The Rammies score late to win the Boot and take coach Steve Addazio off the mildly warm seat, for the time being.

Matt Schubert, deputy sports editor: CSU 27, Wyoming 13

The Cowboys’ offense has been abominable this fall, and it’s hard to see that changing against a Rams defensive line that is among the best in the Mountain West.

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