PHOTO: USA Today Sports
Colorado State Rams (7-6) vs Washington State Cougars (6-6)
Saturday, Dec 21st @ 2 PM EST (ESPN)
Line: Wazzu by 4.5
How Colorado State got here: It was a big change for head coach Jim McElwain after he left the National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide for a Colorado State team that had gone 3-9 for three consecutive seasons. In just his second season as head coach, McElwain has the Rams on the right track as they won 7 games and 4 of their 6 losses came against teams that will be playing in bowls this season.
How Washington State got here: After winning just one conference game in Mike Leach's inaugural season, the Cougars went 4-5 this season in conference including wins at Arizona and USC. Sitting at 4-2 after their first six games, the Cougars went on a three game slide and many thought their season was in doubt. The Cougars rebounded by going on the road and beating Rich Rodriguez's squad and then came home and beat Utah to secure bowl eligibility.
For Colorado State to win: It's all about balance for the Rams and keeping their opponent off balance. Star RB Kapri Bibbs will get the publicity going into the game but the Rams need to make sure they get Garrett Grayson comfortable early. On defense, Colorado State has their work cut out for them as they have the 10th rated (out of 12) pass defense in the Mountain West Conference. Colorado State gave up the most plays in the Nation of 60 yards or more (11 total; 8 of which were passing plays) so it will be important for them to limit Wazzu's big plays and make them earn every yard. For the Rams, this game will probably be about trying to outscore the Cougars.
For Washington State to win: It's no secret that Wazzu is going to throw the football. It's what they do and stopping the pass is a weakness of the Rams. The Cougars need to make sure that they don't get too excited and try to do too much early. Taking what the defense gives them and being efficient will be the key offensively. Washington State has struggled to stop the run in their losses. They need to clamp down on Bibbs and make Grayson beat them with his arm. Colorado State runs a fairly unique offense, so it will be important for the Washington State defense to make the right reads on defense and make sure everyone is taking care of their responsibilities against the Rams running attack while also watching out for the short passing attack the Rams utilize.
Key Player (Colorado State): Kapri Bibbs, RB. Just a sophomore, Bibbs finished the season second in the FBS in rushing TDs (thanks to Navy's Keenan Reynolds destruction of Army last week). Bibbs is going to get the ball often (he had 30 or more carries in three different games) and he needs to help the Rams set the tone early.
Key Player (Washington State): Connor Halliday, QB. Halliday threw the ball 54 times a game this season. He's going to be a big reason the Cougars win or lose this game. In wins this season, he has 18 TDs vs 7 INTs. In losses, he has 10 TDs vs 14 INTs.
Key Stat: Washington State attempted the most passes in the Nation this season (698). Colorado State's defense is 111th in passing yards per game.