2012 Record: 4-8 (3-5 in MWC)
Head Coach: Jim McElwain (second year head coach)
Last Bowl Game: 2008 New Mexico Bowl: beat Fresno St 40-35
Stadium: Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium in Fort Collins, CO (capacity = 34,400)
Home Field Advantage: ranked 31st out of 55 mid-major teams
2013 Schedule Link
Out of Conference Games: 9/1 vs Colorado, 9/7 at Tulsa, 9/14 vs Cal Poly, 9/21 at Alabama, 9/28 vs UTEP
Toughest Conference Home Game: 11/2 vs Boise State
Toughest Conference Road Game: 11/23 at Utah State
2012 Statistics Link
Stat to Fear: converted on just 34.84% of third downs (9th in MWC)
Stat to Cheer: scored on 87.50% of red zone trips (2nd in MWC)
Advanced Stats (Football Outsiders 2012 FEI Ranking): 121st out of 124 teams
Phil Steele's Returning Starters: Offense: 8, Defense: 8, Special Teams: 1
Key Defensive Returnees: LB Aaron Davis (84 tackles), LB Max Morgan (80 tackles), LB Cory James (53 tackles, 6.5 sacks), SS Trent Matthews (71 tackles)
Key Offensive Returnees: QB Garrett Grayson (946 yds rush, 7 TD, 3 INT), RB Donnell Alexander (587 yds, 5.02 ypc), RB Chris Nwoke (570 yds, 4.91 ypc), WR Charles Lovett (35 rec), TE Kivon Cartwright (26 rec)
As a rookie head coach, former Alabama offensive coordinator, Jim McElwain increased Colorado State's win total by one win over the previous season. In 2011, the Rams started out quickly by winning three of their first four but then lost eight straight. In 2012, it was an opposite effect as the Rams won their opener but then lost six straight. They rebounded by winning three of their final five. Can McElwain and the Rams keep that momentum going into 2013?
Last year, the Rams played three different QBs and this year it looks like junior Garrett Grayson will be the man that gets the rock. Grayson suffered a collar bone injury in late September last season that for all intents and purposes ended his season. Rising sophomore Conner Smith will be waiting in the wings if needed. At RB, the Rams return their top three rushers from last season. They lose a couple of targets from last year at receiver but should be fine. The OL is deep with experience. They lose just one starter and return four players with double-digit starts and a fifth that has started seven games.
The Rams had a middle of the pack defense last season in the MWC. There will be a big changeover on the DL as the Rams lose Tanyi Lanston (3 sacks) and a couple of other contributors. The good news is that they weren't that great along the line of scrimmage in 2012 so those slots might not be that hard to fill. The Rams did recruit well along the line and the newcomers will have a chance to contribute early. The Rams return all of their key contributors at LB and in the secondary so the back seven should be improved this year.
Last year the Rams won four games but they did so against weak competition with their most impressive win (in terms of opponent winning percentage) coming against the New Mexico Lobos. The out of conference schedule this year is up and down with a game against defending National Champion Alabama but then they also play Cal-Poly. The games that will turn the schedule one way or the other are the Colorado and UTEP games. In conference, it could be a lot worse for the Rams. They manage to avoid Fresno State and San Diego State (two of the top three teams in the league). I think this team will continue to improve under second year coach Jim McElwain but I would be surprised if they made a big leap in the win column. I think they will have another four win season.
Previous 2013 Pre-Season Previews:
C-USA- ECU, FAU, FIU, Louisiana Tech, Marshall, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Rice, Southern Miss, Tulane, UTSA