The five-point spinky: CSU vs Utah State

This Saturday, the CSU football team takes on the Utah State Aggies in Logan. Take a look at what football beat reporters Cali Rastrelli and Katie O’Keefe gleaned this week to decide who has the extra edge in Saturday’s game:

5 reasons CSU will win:

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[Katie O’Keefe] Balance. While the Rams will be facing one of their toughest defenses of the season—and toughest test in the Mountain West—the Rams present a balanced offensive attack. Last week against New Mexico the Rams rushed for 347 yards while quarterback Garrett Grayson threw for 302 yards. With an explosive player like Kapri Bibbs who has rushed for ten touchdowns and more than 600 yards in the last two games and quarterback Garrett Grayson playing the best football of his career. If the Rams can maintain balance they have a shot to win this game.

[KO] Motivation. This is something that makes the list each week and that is because CSU should have plenty of it. The Rams needs one more win to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2008.While CSU will have another chance to get a win against Air Force next week, the Rams would love to clinch a spot in the postseason this week instead of letting all the pressure ride on the last game of the season.

[Cali Rastrelli] Mac attack.We all know who coach Jim McElwain is, but Bold New Era aside, this man has done wonders for this team — he has made them a family. Each and every player on his squad wants nothing more than to make him proud. Finishing with a winning season in just his second year as head coach, and heading to a bowl would certainly put that mega-watt smile on Mac’s face.

[CR] Shaquil Barrett. Utah may boast the best defense in the Mountain West, but middle linebacker Barrett and his outsides, Max Morgan and Aaron Davis, have made a splash in the conference, too. Barrett is currently leading the MW in sacks with 10.5; causing us to rename the play a “Shaq.” As in, Garrettson got SHAQUED on third-and-two.

[CR] No-slip November. After starting off the month left high and dry by Boise State, the Rams have picked up the pace to take two straight from Nevada and University of New Mexico. CSU has put 134 points on the board this month; they scored a total of 245 points in all of last season. If the Rams 2013 season was a game of chutes and ladders, they’re hitting three big ladders for every little chute.

5 reasons Utah State will win:

[KO] Linebackers. The Rams offensive line will have their hands full with the Aggies’ three physical defensive weapons in linebackers Jake Doughty, Zach Vigil and Kyler Fackrell. Both Doughty and Vigil rank top five in the Mountain West Conference in tackles for loss, with Doughty averaging 10.8 per game and Vigil 9.2. “I think the biggest thing is they are big and they’re physical and they play with power, and they control the line of scrimmage, both in pass and run,” said Rams head coach Jim McElwain.

[KO] Stopping the run. While Bibbs owns the No. 1 spot in the nation in rushing touchdowns with 25, the Utah State defense has allowed only eight rushing touchdowns in ten games this season. The Aggies rank No. 1 in the Mountain West in rushing defense giving up an average of only 127.3 yards per game and have allowed only two opposing running backs to hit the 100-yard mark this season.

[KO] Extra rest. The Aggies will have fresh legs coming off of a bye week and perhaps even extra time to prepare for the Rams. CSU will be traveling for the second week in a row so the Aggies may have the energy advantage towards the end of the game.

[CR] Element of surprise. Even though Utah’s star QB Chuckie Keeton went down over a month ago, their offense is still relatively new for the opposing MW coaches to analyze. Freshman QB Dare Garrettson has assumed most of the quarterbacking duties for the Aggies, and has performed well. The Aggies have gone 3-1 since Keeton’s injury and Garrettson has thrown for 6 TDs. Add in the extra bye-week and you can bet Utah has an extra trick or two up their sleeve.

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[CR] Pride. The Aggies dropped two straight home games to BYU and Boise State in October, something they would like to erase from their minds. With their loyal Loganites cheering them on, the Aggies will want to put on a good show for their fans. Last week’s victory in Vegas means they are bowl-eligible for the third straight year; something that has never happened in Aggie history. With so much on the line for each team, the winners will have to put mind over matter.

When it comes down to it:

Rastrelli’s pick: CSU 24 USU 21

O’Keefe’s pick: CSU 31 USU 28

Football Beat Reporters Cali Rastrelli (@c_rasta5) and Katie O’Keefe (@KatieLOK) can be reached at sports@collegian.com