Football Pick: Hawaii vs Colorado State Rams
Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (2017: 3-9 SU, 3-8-1 ATS) vs. Colorado State Rams (2017: 7-6 SU, 4-9 ATS)
Date/Time: Saturday, August 25th, 7:30 PM
Where: Canvas Stadium, Fort Collins, CO
By Mike Mann., NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: HAW +14 / CSU -14
Over/Under Total: 58
The opening of the college football season kicks off in Colorado with the Colorado State Rams hosting the Hawaii Rainbows in the first game of a light initial slate of NCAA games. There are just three matchups involving FBS teams.
Under head coach Mike Bobo the Rams have been the modicum of consistency after finishing each of the past three seasons with a 7-6 record, though he will look to improve on their postseason success with bowl losses in three straight. One area Colorado State backers will hope they improve on is their against-the-spread success after finishing just 4-9 last season versus the number after closing out 2016 with the reverse 9-4 mark.
Offensively there will be new faces abound for Colorado State with just four starters returning back from last year’s’ squad that finished the season ranked 11th in yards per game. A major off-season addition was the signing of quarterback grad transfer KJ Carta-Samuels out of Washington, which should a go a long way in helping to replace the departed Nick Stevens. Carta-Samuels has already impressed his teammates and especially the coaching staff with his studious hard work and looks to already be passed the growing pain humps that come with transferring to a new squad.
Samuels is far from alone in the offense. He will be protected up front by a veteran line that includes four seniors as part of their starting five. Experience reigns throughout the Rams offense as their skill position players will be led by two players in their final year of eligibility, running back Izzy Matthews and wide receiver Olabisi Johnson. Both will be relied upon early to set the tone for the rest of their position mates. They look to parlay the talent at QB spot with their experienced O line and continue their offensive success from a season ago.
Facing off against the Rams offense will be a Hawaii defense that returns just five starters and will be missing six of their top nine in tackles from 2017. Linebacker Jahlani Tavai is the best of the returning bunch and was the team leader with 124 tackles a season ago in addition to putting up 5.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles. Unfortunately there is not much else there, especially in the defensive backfield where unexpected transfers leave a gaping hole in the safety position. Not a good situation to begin the year for Hawaii, as this leaves them incredibly short handed in their quest to improve on last years’ finish of ranking 106th nationally in scoring, 111th against the run and 115th in total yards allowed per game. To make matters worse for the Rainbow Warriors, transferring players affect their offense even more and leave major question marks throughout the other side of the ball.
Similar to Colorado State, Hawaii returns just four starters to their offense. The big difference is at the quarterback position, where the Rainbows were left scrambling after expected starter Dru Brown suddenly left the team, which leaves a gaping hole at the position. Leading wide receiver Dylan Collie also up and left so the team will now turn to senior wideout John Ursua to be relied on as the focal point of their offense. Inexperienced sophomore Cole McDonald is expected to take over the reins at quarterback with Brown departed. How effective he can be remains to be seen with a lack of weapons at his disposal.
Colorado State may not return many starters to their defense (5), but thankfully those that are back were some of their better players last season and should provide a solid foundation for the upcoming year. Senior linebacker Josh Watson is the best of the bunch, and was last years’ leader in both tackles with 109 and pass breakups with seven. Fellow senior Jordan Fogal is back after finishing second in tackles and is the teams’ best safety and leader of the defensive backfield. Up front are lineman Richard King and Emmanuel Jones, both who are underclassman with ample potential to be Mountain West stars. The group as a whole could not have picked a better jumping point on the season than versus a depleted and near feeble Hawaii offense.
After a promising 6-2 start to their 2017 season, Colorado State faltered down the stretch with a 1-4 streak to end their season, which included their third consecutive bowl loss. Redemption will be on their minds as they look to rebound and start their year off on the right foot. They certainly benefit from getting Hawaii first, a team they have dominated in recent history with seven straight wins including a 4-0 mark over their last six years with an average win by 20 points per game. Both teams may return the same amount of starters (9), but those back for the Rams are significantly better and have the additional benefit of having an experienced quarterback on their side. The game will also be hosted in Colorado, and the Warrior’s perennial road issues are well known having gone just 5-31 over the last six years away from home. Every sign points to a Rams victory and I believe they will come away with a resounding one to start their season against a lackluster Hawaii squad.
College Football Pick: Colorado State -14