This is the third installment our breakdown of Alabama Crimson Tide football opponents throughout the 2013 campaign. Today, we look into the Tide’s home opener against Colorado State.
WHEN: Saturday, September 21st; TBA
WHERE: Bryant-Denny Stadium
LAST SEASON: 4-8 (3-5 Mountain West Conference, 7th place in conference)
CURRENT PRESEASON RANKING: consensus – unranked
CURRENT BETTING LINE: Alabama by 41
RADIO: Crimson Tide Sports Network, affiliates listed here.
SERIES HISTORY: First meeting. (Colorado State has faced SEC teams 8 times and has won one of those games, against LSU in 1992. Alabama is 0-1 against Mountain West teams; the only meeting was the Sugar Bowl against Utah in a 31-17 defeat.
OFFENSE: Nine starters return for Colorado State for the 2013 year, with the only missing positions being a wide receiver slot and a tackle. Last year, the season started with now-junior Garrett Grayson heading up the Rams offense. After he got injured in the game against Air Force, M.J. McPeek took over the starting job until he got injured against San Diego State two weeks later. Then-freshman Conner Smith started at QB for the rest of the season (except against Boise State) and became the most effective QB points-wise (17.8 PPG).
Otherwise on offense, they return most of their offensive line and most of their receiving core. Their O-Line is big and experienced however, with the smallest guy being Weston Richberg, who weighs in at 297 pounds and most of the line being seniors this year. Their strong point is their passing game, bringing in over 2,500 yards last season and rushing for about 1,500.
Conclusion: Offense needs to be productive against an Alabama defense that will be ready. Whoever does end up being the quarterback will need to force quick passes and try to produce the short game. The problem will simply be getting wide receiver to get open as I’m sure the defensive playbook will contain deep linebackers and safeties.
DEFENSE: More than half of the defensive starters return this year, but four players who made at least four starts last year will also return to the team in 2013. Their strongest point is at the linebacker position, with the majority of their starters coming back in Shaquil Barrett, Cory James and Aaron Davis. They also have reserves that saw significant playing time, so they are quite deep in that position.
The Rams will need to replace three starters on the defensive line, but they shouldn’t have any issue with that, as they received a bunch of junior college talent this offseason. They will need to be concerned in the secondary however, where the positions are not as deep and they will likely have one, if not two, inexperienced players get some starts this season.
Conclusion: Colorado State could be outmatched in this area due to a lack of an experienced secondary and a defensive line that might have trouble adjusting to the new faces. If they will be successful anywhere, I’d say maybe Alabama’s rushing yards could be kept to a minimum with a strong presence in the linebacker corps.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The only loss here is punter Pete Kontodiakos, who started four years and was selected to the all-conference team three of those years. But the Rams do welcome back kicker Jared Roberts, who started his career last year with 56 points from 9-10 field goals made and 29-31 extra point attempts. He was selected second team all-conference last year. They also return long snapper Tanner Hedstrom.
Conclusion: Colorado State needs Roberts to make sure he’s as accurate as ever in order to get points on the board. Any miscues from the special teams unit could completely keep the Rams from having any shot of winning this game.
COACHING: Last year was the first for Jim McElwain as a head coach. Alabama fans will recognize the name quite well, as he was offensive coordinator from 2008 til 2011 under head coach Nick Saban and led them to the 2009 and 2011 BCS Championships. Despite his 4-8 record last year, McElwain has the Rams heading in the right direction. He’s a fantastic recruiter of both a coaching staff and players alike, and his offensive schemes have shown success. Maybe Colorado State gets the conference championship in a few years. This year, he will be trying to implement his system more.
Conclusion: Nick Saban facing down his former co-worker? Should be interesting. Saban definitely has the upper hand on this end, but expect McElwain to have a few tricks up his sleeve that the coaching staff may or may not catch.
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