Key matchups in CSU football’s Saturday home-opener against UC-Davis

Steven Jacobs and Micky Rastrelli

Two weeks into the season, the Colorado State football team is sitting on a metaphorical see-saw. They flew up with a win against Colorado, plummeted down again with the loss to Boise and now are horizontally stable, poised for the tie-breaker against UC-Davis.

The Rams will host the Aggies for Saturday’s 1:04 p.m. home-opener kickoff, marking the first time the two teams will meet.

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The Aggies are sitting at .500 as well, suffering a 45-0 thumping by Stanford in week one, and then returning the favor with a 52-17 win against Fort Lewis. An FCS team, UC-Davis plays in the Big Sky Conference, so despite this game carrying no weight conference-wise, CSU is hunting for another win.

Football beat reporters Steven Jacobs and Micky Rastrelli compiled a list of key matchups to look for Saturday at Hughes:

CSU Defense vs. UC-Davis Offense
0912_footballKeyMatchUps

1. CSU linebackers vs. UC-Davis running backs

Tackling was a problem for CSU when they played Boise State, and if it’s not improved it will continue to be a problem for the Rams defense. The strength of the Rams defense is linebackers, but if they can’t stop running backs from reaching the second level of the defense, and picking up large yardage, the linebackers will struggle to get the Aggies off the field.

2. CSU cornerbacks vs. UC-Davis receivers

Rams cornerbacks DeAndre Elliott and Bernard Blake will have their hands full Saturday when they matchup against Aggies receiver Corey Galindo. Galindo will be full of confidence coming off of a three-touchdown performance against Fort Lewis, and alongside a good running game, will be able to find space in the Rams defense anytime the Aggies choose to go play-action. If the Rams cornerbacks get fooled by the Aggies running game, they will have difficulty stopping the Aggies’ passing game.

3. CSU defensive line vs. UC-Davis offensive line

Gap protection and run-stopping will be some of the biggest things the Rams defense wants to improve on in this game, and that all starts with the defensive line. Boise State’s Jay Ajayi left a bad taste in the mouth of Rams linemen, so they’ll be looking to get after Aggies running back Jermale Jefferson early and often. Also, CSU would like to get some sacks in this game and get their defense off of the field. The Rams had two sacks against Boise State last week, and would hope to at least double that figure against UC-Davis.

CSU Offense vs. UC-Davis Defense

1. CSU offensive line vs. UC-Davis defensive line

Last week against Fort Lewis, the UC-Davis front seven recorded five sacks. Redshirt freshman defensive linemen Brandon Weaver leads the team with two sacks on the season. But it’s senior free safety Charles Boyett who the Rams offensive line will have to look out for. At 6 foot, 205 pounds, he has a lot of muscle packed into a relatively small frame. As a result, he has 11 tackles across two games, nine of which came against Pac-12 heavyweight Stanford.

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2.  CSU QB Garrett Grayson vs. the UC-Davis secondary

The Aggies defense has quick eyes and quicker hands. After throwing two detrimental interceptions against Boise, Grayson will have to “throw to the guys wearing our color-jerseys” as head coach Jim McElwain says. Safety Keleen Culberson picked off Stanford’s Kevin Hogan, while corner Shamawn Wright, linebacker Russell Reeder and DB Darryl Graham each intercepted Fort Lewis’ Jordan Doyle.

3. CSU rushing offense vs. UC-Davis defensive line

In week one, CSU rushed for 270 yards and three touchdowns. Last week against Boise, CSU couldn’t even squeak out 30 yards, and running back Jasen Oden’s touchdown came on a pass from Grayson. The disparity in the two performances is obvious, and if McElwain could choose – he’d pick right in the middle. The Rams want to debut a balanced offense for the first time all season. Facing a big and talented Aggies defensive line, the Rams would do best to rotate the quick feet of Dee Hart and Treyous Jarrells with the bigger presence of Oden in order to keep UC-Davis on their toes.

Collegian Sports Reporters Micky Rastrelli (@c_rasta5) and Steven Jacobs (@steven_jacobs_) can be reached on sports@collegian.com.