Written by Justin Prince.
When the Marshall Thundering Herd and the Colorado State Rams meet in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 16, it will be the first ever gridiron matchup between the two programs. To help Herd fans get familiar with the Rams here are the top five things to know about Colorado State.
- The Rams are Offensive Minded – Colorado State enters the game with the 10th ranked offense in the nation in terms of yardage. The Rams average more than 500 yards per game and score nearly 34 points a match up. CSU has scored 40 or more in five games and have hit the 50-point mark in three. By contrast the Marshall offense hasn’t scored more than 38 points in a single game all season and has hit the 500 yard mark just once this season in a 41-30 loss to Florida International back in October. Like most good offensive teams the Rams are balanced, averaging more than 200 yards a game on the ground and just less than 300 yards per game through the air.
- The Rams Defense Has Holes – In many ways this bowl game will be a game of contrasting styles. The Rams play outstanding offense and lousy defense while the Herd boasts a strong defense but a below average offense. Colorado State’s defense gives up 425 yards per game which ranks 90th in the nation alongside the Rice Owls. In three of CSU’s five losses the Rams defense has given up more than 40 points. Still the defense isn’t without playmakers, Linebacker Josh Watson racked up 103 total tackles this season but most impressively 63 of them were solo. In comparison Marshall’s Chase Hancock, an All-Conference USA first team selection has made 120 total stops so far this year but only 32 of them were solo tackles.
- Colorado State is Familiar with Albuquerque – Colorado will be making its second trip to Dreamstyle Stadium this season. Back on October 20 the Rams defeated the New Mexico Lobos in Albuquerque 27-24, but the Rams have also played in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl two other times as well. CSU defeated Fresno State 40-35 in 2008 and won the bowl game again in 2013 with a thrilling 48-45 victory over Washington State from the PAC-12. This will be Marshall’s first ever Gildan New Mexico Bowl appearance as well as the Herd’s first game in the state of New Mexico.
- CSU Has Been Inconsistent– The Rams started the season off with back-to-back games against PAC-12 teams, Oregon State and in state rival Colorado. CSU split those contests blowing out Oregon State 58-27 but lost to the Buffaloes 17-3. The Rams then got a win over FCS Abilene Christian before taking on its third Power Five foe of the year, the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Rams lost that game 41-23 but did outscore the Tide in both the second and fourth quarters. Colorado State would then win four straight against Hawai’i, Utah State, Nevada and New Mexico before dropping its next three contests to Air Force, Wyoming and an exciting overtime shootout with Mountain West power Boise State. The Rams then rebounded with a 42-14 drubbing of a bad San Jose State team to end the regular season. In some ways this is similar to the Herd who started out 6-1 before stumbling down the back half of the schedule to finish 7-5. Both CSU and Marshall enter the game having only won once since October.
- WR Michael Gallup is one of the Best in the Country – Recently Gallup was named a first team All-American by the Walter Camp Foundation and was a second team selection on the Associated Press’s All-American team. Gallup was also one of the three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award given to the best wide receiver in all of college football. He was beaten out for the trophy by Oklahoma State’s James Washington who leads the nation in receiving yards but finished second in the voting just ahead of the third finalist, WVU’s David Sills V. On the season Gallup ranks third nationally in receptions with 94 and his 1,345 yards rank fifth. The 6-1 senior will present by far the toughest challenge the Marshall secondary has faced all year.