The fifth-ranked Boise State Broncos get ever meeting between the two programs in Fort Collins.
Boise State, which dominated the Western Athletic Conference for so many seasons, has easily dismissed all five of its non-conference opponents in 2011 by at least two touchdowns, and from here on out is set to contend against a new group of conference foes. The Broncos, who can make themselves bowl eligible with a win this weekend, are coming off a resounding 57-7 win against the Fresno State Bulldogs on October 7, a decision which was one of the worst in FSU history at home.
As for the Rams, they've already got one MWC victory under their belts thanks to a 14-10 triumph over New Mexico in the season opener, one of three victories for the program thus far. Last weekend, Colorado State caught a break in the action after dropping a 38-31 decision to San Jose State, a team which at one point this season had the longest losing streak in the nation.
"Well it's certainly a disappointing outcome, but when you turn the ball over three times like we did, you're going to let anybody in the game and obviously we dug ourselves a huge hole right off the bat at 24-7," CSU head coach Steve Fairchild said of the loss.
Last season, the Broncos completely destroyed Fresno State in Idaho, 51-0, and at that point it was easily the worst loss for FSU head coach Pat Hill, but getting trounced at home in front of your own crowd may have even topped last year's dismal display.
"We work so hard for these types of games and we just never got on track," coach Hill said of the outcome. "I give a lot of credit to Boise State, they came in here and took it to us in a tough football game."
Taking it to the Bulldogs might have been an understatement given that Kellen Moore, who was named the MWC Offensive Player of the Week on Monday for the third time this season, converted 23-of-31 passes for 254 yards and three touchdowns before exiting early in the third quarter once the outcome had already been decided. Just back off suspension, Geraldo Boldewijn caught three passes for 33 yards and a pair of touchdowns which means the Broncos are even stronger now that he's been allowed back.
Doug Martin accounted for a game-high 94 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries and D.J. Harper hit the end zone on a pair of runs as well for the Broncos while their defense held the Bulldogs to just 270 yards and allowed just one touchdown on a punt return early in the fourth period. The effort on both sides of the ball led Boise State head coach Chris Petersen to thinking that, thus far, it was probably the best game played by the Broncos.
"I think our defense played well and kind of set the tone. Got a few turnovers to get those short fields. Makes it an easier game."
Outside of the Fresno State matchup, the Broncos really haven't had the sort of blowout games that they enjoyed last season and that probably has a lot to do with coach Petersen giving some of his backups a chance to perform so he know what he can expect of them in the near future and next season. Obviously Moore is still the focal point on offense, having thrown multiple touchdown passes in 18 straight games for a team that has led at the half in 45 straight outings. Even though he continues to fly under the national radar for the most part, there's no denying that Moore commands an offense like few others in college football with his 17 touchdowns, against just four interceptions over five games, and 74.0 percent completion rate.
Getting Boldewijn acclimated quickly is only going to make the Boise State passing attack that much tougher to stop as already 15 different players have caught passes for the squad and seven individuals have double-digit receptions to this point. Throw someone like Martin (422 yards, five TDs) into the mix with what he can accomplish on the ground when Moore changes up the rhythm, and there's no telling how opponents will try and keep the Broncos down.
While the Boise State offense runs wild, it is important to remember that there are few defenses in college football that are as accomplished as this group of Broncos, a team which is 12th in the nation in yards allowed (293.0 ypg) and 10th in scoring defense (14.8 ppg).
Colorado State does have the potential to put up strong offensive numbers, scoring at least 31 points in three games so far this season, but at the same time the Rams can also play down to the competition, which is something that happened in the opener against New Mexico, a team which has already dismissed its head coach and is tied for the longest losing streak in the nation entering play this week.
Last year the concern for CSU was keeping quarterback Pete Thomas standing upright and this season that continues to be an issue with the offensive line permitting 2.6 sacks per game which is sixth in the conference and 91st nationally. Like Moore, Thomas is completing his pass attempts at a high rate (67.1 percent), but unlike his counterpart Thomas has almost as many INTs (five) as he does TDs (six) and that's simply not a good trade-off when separating yourself from the competition has been such a struggle in recent years.
Running back Raymond Carter and Chris Nwoke have tried to shoulder some of the load, combining for 491 of the team's 596 rushing yards and six of their eight ground scores, but against a defense like the Broncos those two will have a lot of trouble finding holes at the line of scrimmage to exploit and that will in turn put the burden back on Thomas who will be in for a very long afternoon.