The Colorado State football team is preparing for its toughest task of the season in traveling to Tuscaloosa to play No. 1 Alabama. Rocky Mountain Collegian sports editor Colin Barnard spoke with Matthew Speakman, sports editor of The Crimson White, to preview some of the biggest storylines of the game.
Colin Barnard: Jalen Hurts figures to be the most dangerous dual-threat quarterback the Rams will face this season. How does his rushing ability affect the entire Alabama offense?
Matthew Speakman: His ability to run the ball is what makes this offense go. This offense is almost built around his ability to run the ball. Alabama has always been a run-first offense and relied on balance. Hurts gives them a different dimension when it comes to the quarterback being able to run the ball. I think he’s a very intelligent runner on designed runs. He picks his holes really well, and his successful runs really open the offense up.
CB: With so much talent returning on offense, specifically at skill positions, do you think this is the most talented offense Nick Saban has coached?
MS: I would say from a purely talent stand point, yes. They go five deep in the backfield, and have about seven receivers that can come into the game at anytime. In fact, they’ve been doing an almost platoon shift with receivers so far. Robert Foster, Cam Sims and Calvin Ridley will play in three-receiver sets, while Ridley stays on and DeVonta Smith, Henry Ruggs III and Jerry Jeudy come on for four-receiver sets. Smith, Ruggs III, Ridley, Jeudy, Foster and Sims are all four or five star recruits. That’s pretty insane. Same goes for running backs. So, yes, I’d say from a purely talent standpoint it is.
CB: Mike Bobo said Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick is one of the best players he has seen on tape. Is he the biggest difference-maker on defense?
MS: Fitzpatrick, along with Florida State’s Derwin James, is one of the most versatile players in the country. Alabama can put him anywhere and he will perform at a high level. Freshman year, he played star in the nickel package. Then he moved to wide corner, and when Eddie Jackson went down, he moved to safety and didn’t skip a beat. I would say he’s the most consistent player on Alabama, and is also the most intelligent.
CB: Year after year, Alabama sends a plethora of players to the NFL. Who are some players you think could make an impact on Sundays?
MS: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Da’Ron Payne, Calvin Ridley, Rashaan Evans and Shaun Dion Hamilton all have the chance to be big players at the next level. All of them are very talented players who know their role, but also have versatile skill sets. A guy who is not getting a lot of attention is defensive back Anthony Averett. He’s in his second year as a starter and has been very consistent. At 6-feet, 185 pounds, he may be a little undersized, but makes up for it by being one of the fastest players on Alabama.
CB: I’m curious about what fans in Tuscaloosa think of Colorado State. Do they view this as a tune-up leading into conference play?
MS: I think most people think Alabama will win comfortably, but Colorado State’s performances this year have made Alabama recognize that they are not a push over. They destroyed Oregon State and played Colorado closely.
CB: Does Alabama have an added chip on their shoulder this year after coming so close to winning a national championship last year?
MS: Even if they don’t have a chip on their shoulder, they will manufacture one. Last season before Washington, they posted fake quotes about the national media disrespecting Alabama, which is kind of ludicrous. So, yeah, I’d say they have an extra chip on their shoulder.
CB: What is your prediction? Are the Rams any contest for No.1?
MS: I think the Rams’ passing game could present some trouble for Alabama, but I don’t think the game will be that close. I have Alabama winning 35-5.
Collegian sports editor Colin Barnard can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @ColinBarnard_.