Don’t look now, but Colorado State head coach Mike Bobo is in the midst of the best offensive coaching season of his career.
The 2017 Rams have a top-tier offense in college football, and that is far from an exaggeration. The team ranks fourth in the NCAA in total yardage and 14th in yards per game (506). On top of that, they are one of only 15 schools in the nation to average north of 500 yards per game.
Should those numbers hold up, Bobo will post career-highs in total offense. Yes, even better than the most talented teams he coached at Georgia.
In 2008 as the offensive coordinator for the Bulldogs, Bobo worked with three future top-12 picks in the NFL Draft in Mathew Stafford, A.J. Green and Knowshon Moreno. Despite the bevy of next-level talent, the Bulldogs failed to crack the top 20 in terms of offensive production, ranking 22nd in yards per game (426).
Bobo’s best statistical season at Georgia came in 2013. Though the Bulldogs finished 8-5 that season, the offense boasted former NFL players Todd Gurley, Aaron Murray and Chris Conley, among others. Still, they ranked outside of the top 15 in yards per game.
Though there is a clear talent gap between the defenses in the SEC and Mountain West, the production of the 2017 Rams’ offense is extraordinary. Even against the nation’s premier defense in Alabama, the Rams posted 391 yards and 23 points. As a comparison, in the 5 games Bobo coached against Alabama while at Georgia, the Bulldogs eclipsed 390 yards just once.
CSU’s performance against the Crimson Tide in 2017 still represents the best any offense has played against No. 1 this season.
While Bobo won’t compare his time at Georgia to CSU, his experience there has indubitably affected the success of the 2017 Rams’ offense. A former quarterback himself, Bobo has worked with three quarterbacks who were drafted in the NFL, including the aforementioned first overall pick, Matthew Stafford.
Bobo knows what greatness looks like at the position, and he expects nothing less than that from current CSU quarterback Nick Stevens.
“(Bobo) has high expectations. He’s worked with a lot of great college quarterbacks, and some that are great NFL quarterbacks,” Stevens said. “I think that coaching those guys has increased his expectations of his quarterback. Having success with those guys allows him to have more confidence in his quarterback, and his confidence in me this year has really helped out a lot.”
In turn, the confidence Bobo puts in his quarterback has enabled Stevens to become a true signal caller. Bobo trusts Stevens to make adjustments on the field and check opposing defenses himself, allowing the senior to control the tempo of the game with more ease.
That tempo is apparent in the Rams’ ability to generate explosive plays, one of the defining characteristics of a nationally ranked offense.
“Our quarterback has been very efficient…we’re taking advantage of opportunities, and we’ve been able to get chunk plays,” Bobo said. “Now we still need to get better. But the ability to make those explosive plays has helped us be able to move the ball.”
But it’s not just experience at quarterback that Bobo brings to the table. Wide receivers A.J. Green, Chris Conley and Mohamed Massaquoi are just some in a long list of Georgia receivers to go on to the NFL.
Again, the offenses these players were a part of failed to produce at the level the 2017 Rams are. As a unit, wide receiver Olabisi Johnson recognizes what this receiving core, and offense as a whole, is capable of.
“We get the ball distributed to everybody, and coach Bobo coaches us all individually,” Johnson said. “I think we’ve got a really good group and we’re really confident. So, yeah, I think we can be up there with the A.J. Greens and all those guys because we have a really solid core.”
As the season wears on, players have become more confident in the offense’s ability to move the ball with ease. This production allows fans to see what the team already knows, that they are one of the best offenses in all of college football, not just the Mountain West.
“We all believe as an offense that we can hang with anybody in the country,” senior offensive lineman Zack Golditch said. “That starts in the beginning of the season with playing Oregon State, and I thought guys really started to see what we can do when we played Alabama. I think that says something towards the players we have on offense, our coaches, our preparation.”
While Stevens relayed the pride that the offense takes in seeing itself atop national rankings, he realizes the tremendous room for growth. But what’s different about this offense than in years’ past is their quick start.
The nation took notice of the dynamic offense in the second half of 2016, but at that point it was too late for the team to stake its claim atop the MW. In 2017, the offense has produced at an elite level since week 1, and continued to improve since then.
“Coach says it all the time, the best teams are the ones that get better from week 1 to week 2, week 2 to week 3 so by the time you’re in week 8, 9, to the end of the season, you’re firing on all cylinders,” Stevens said. “We’ve hit that point much earlier this year. That’s given us that momentum and confidence to continue to improve early on.”
And at the helm of said confidence is Bobo, enjoying the most productive offense he has ever coached.
Collegian sports editor Colin Barnard can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ColinBarnard_.