Editor's note: This is the 26th in a series previewing each opponent BYU, Utah and Utah State will face this season.


The matchup

Colorado State at Utah State, Oct. 3

Time, TV TBA

Maverik Stadium, Logan


Like Utah State, Colorado State's program is on the upswing.

The Rams have made the postseason the past two years and, like USU, finished with 10 wins in 2014. Combine that with first-team Associated Press All-American wide receiver Rashard Higgins returning, as well as 17 total starters, and there are plenty of reasons for Colorado State to be optimistic it can find success in 2015 as well.

One big wild card? How the arrival of new coach Mike Bobo will impact the program. Bobo replaced Jim McElwain after the latter took over as head coach at Florida.

Last year, Colorado State handed Utah State its only loss in an eight-game stretch that helped USU vault near the top of the Mountain West Mountain Division standings. The Aggies will have their chance for redemption when the Rams visit Logan in October.

The Deseret News caught up with Mike Brohard, who covers Colorado State football for the Loveland Reporter-Herald, to discuss the Rams' expectations for this season.

DN: How has Mike Bobo been received at Colorado State? How does he fit into the mold at the school?

MB: The hire of Mike Bobo was met with some excitement by Colorado State fans. It's too simple to say it's because he was an SEC offensive coordinator and it worked the last time. He took the CSU job without ever seeing the campus, intrigued by the upswing of the program and the talent on the roster. He said he'll remain true to his Georgia upbringing, making him a southerner in Fort Collins, and that's been the case. His style of offense is a bit different, but the main philosophy of a balanced attack is nothing new for the Rams.

DN: How has sophomore Nick Stevens looked, and how difficult will it be replacing Garrett Grayson at quarterback?

MB: Nick Stevens has looked good picking up Bobo's system. When he first came to CSU, he was pegged as a smart quarterback (he was already a sophomore in terms of credits), and that's proven out. He was just named the starting QB on Monday, with Bobo saying his consistent ability to make the right reads and keep the offense out of bad plays is the main reason. It's never easy replacing a record-setting quarterback, but Stevens is smart enough to be himself, not Grayson. It's also probably easier to do it under a new staff and system.

DN: What makes Rashard Higgins so dangerous, and who are some of the other players to watch on offense?

MB: Higgins is special because he uses his size and speed so well. He can not only run by a defensive back for a deep ball, but he can take a 3-yard bubble screen 70 yards for a score. He has strong hands and uses his body well. He's not alone at receiver, either. Joe Hansley has more than 100 career catches, and Xavier Williams is really starting to emerge. Running backs Dalyn Dawkins and Treyous Jarrells are not the big backs Bobo is used to, but they are quick and can make plays. Tight end may be the deepest spot for the Rams, with all-conference pick Steven Walker back, along with 2014 preseason pick Kivon Cartwright, Nolan Peralta and transfer Danny Nwosu.

DN: Who are some of the other players to watch on defense and special teams?

MB: The Rams return starting safeties Trent Matthews and Kevin Pierre-Louis, both of whom have been mainstays of the defense for three seasons. Cory James will move to the middle linebacker spot after recording 22 sacks in his career, fifth on the school's all-time list. Defensive end Joe Kawulok will start for the second straight year, and the switch back to a 4-3 should suit him well. Punter Hayden Hunt is one of the best in the Mountain West, and the return game is strong with Hansley returning punts and Deionte Gaines back after leading the MW in kickoff return average.

DN: What major question marks does the team need to solve in fall camp?

MB: How quickly will they adjust to the changes on offense and defense. Bobo's no-huddle, quick-tempo offense puts a lot on the quarterback, as well as the offensive line. Defensively, the Rams have to improve on stopping the run, giving up more than 200 yards per game last season.

Email: bjudd@deseretdigital.com; Twitter: @brandonljudd