Before the start of last season, many Ram fans and columnist
Woody Paige of The Denver Post predicted that the CSU football team
would go undefeated.
I responded in a column on Aug. 28 by showing that the Rams’
strength of schedule was underrated and explained how hard it is to
go undefeated. Then I dropped the quote that my buddies are still
giving me crap about, “A 12-0 season for the Rams is about as
likely as a 6-6 season, but you never know.”
Of course, the Rams finished 7-6 after their 35-21 loss to
Boston College in the Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl. I thought
the Rams would win nine or 10 games, but many problems contributed
to last season’s record.
This season, I believe the Rams will improve on last year’s mark
and win another Mountain West Conference title.
Now, a lot can go wrong between April and October and November,
when the conference games are played, but here are my reasons CSU
will win the Mountain West Conference next season:
Justin Holland at the helm
The all-time leading passer in Colorado high school history will
have his chance to be the starting quarterback after two years
behind Bradlee Van Pelt.
“When he’s behind the center, boy, he can make a lot of good
things happen,” head coach Sonny Lubick said after Holland went
17-for-22 for 218 yards in Saturday’s spring game.
A pure drop-back passer, Holland has the arm and the mind to
lead the CSU offense to a big season. His style will allow the Rams
to revert back to their old style of off-tackle runs, play-action
passes and utilizing the backs in the passing game.
The Rams could have the best set of players at the offensive
skill positions they have ever had.
At running back, Marcus Houston looks as relaxed and confident
as I’ve ever seen him since he started playing. When a media member
told him offensive coordinator Dan Hammerschmidt said there was
only one running back to fumble in spring drills, Houston replied
with a chuckle, “It wasn’t me!” He and Jimmy Green are solid.
At receiver, David Anderson returns for his junior year after
setting the CSU record for receptions in a season. The little man
will make big plays for the Rams all year. CSU will also have the
best tight ends in the Mountain West, Lubick said Saturday. If Joel
Dreessen stays healthy, he could be in the top echelon of tight
ends in the nation. Matt Bartz and Clint Oldenburg are also solid
blocking and receiving ends.
Defensive gaps filled
Lubick knew defense would be an off-season priority with seven
starters leaving or switching positions. He responded by landing
six junior-college players on defense to blend in with the small
group of young talent CSU returns.
Last year, the Rams had three new coaches, including defensive
coordinator Steve Stanard. This year there is only one new man,
Dave Arnold at special teams-tight ends coach, and Lubick worked
with him at Miami.
Defending champion Utah will likely be the favorite in the
Mountain West. CSU will have to travel to Salt Lake City to play
the Utes. The conference as a whole is getting better, and CSU will
be tested in every conference game. But the Rams always perform
best when they are not the favorites, and they could be picked
third or fourth in the conference this year.
I still maintain that an undefeated season is highly unlikely,
especially considering the Rams play at defending national champion
Southern California. But they have the talent and coaching to top
the Mountain West again.