There’s certainly no shortage of drama as the first FBS game of the 2018 season approaches, with Colorado State reportedly working on a contingency plan in case head coach Mike Bobo won’t be on the sidelines when the Rams host Hawaii on Saturday evening. The 44-year-old Bobo was hospitalized on Aug. 12, a day after he was feeling numbness in his feet during a CSU scrimmage. He released a statement last Wednesday, which read, in part, “I am currently in the process of a multiple-day treatment for peripheral neuropathy, and continue to be encouraged by the results of the on-going medical testing. While I’ve been hospitalized, I have been able to remain in close contact with our staff and watch practice film in preparation for our season opener against Hawaii.”
Adding to the uncertainty surrounding Colorado State is the fact that sophomore quarterback Collin Hill, who is coming off a second surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee, has yet to be medically cleared to play. Hill started three of the five games he played in 2016 before tearing his ACL for the first time, which forced him to sit out the 2017 season as a redshirt, and he then tore the ACL again in a pickup basketball game this past March a few days before the start of spring practices. K.J. Carta-Samuels, a graduate transfer who spent the past three seasons as Jake Browning’s backup at Washington, will most likely be under center on Saturday.
Carta-Samuels and the Colorado State offense will face a Hawaii defense that underwent an overhaul after having ranked among the bottom-25 teams in FBS in several major defensive categories last season, including points (33.9, tied for 106th out of 129 FBS teams) and yards allowed per game (458.8, 114th). Three new defensive assistant coaches were brought in, including coordinator Corey Batoon, who was the special teams coordinator and co-defensive coordinator at Florida Atlantic in 2017. The strength of the defense will be a linebacking corps led by Jahlani Tavai, the team’s leading tackler from a year ago, and Solomon Matautia, whose three interceptions led Hawaii in 2017.
Colorado State’s defense was only marginally better last season, ranking 97th in FBS with an average of 431.6 yards allowed per game. The Rams brought in four new coaches on the defensive side of the ball, including coordinator John Jancek, who has implemented the same 4-3 base alignment he oversaw as Tennessee’s coordinator for a three-year period starting in 2013 (Colorado State ran a 3-4 base the past couple of seasons). His unit’s first test will be against the run-and-shoot offense Hawaii has brought back for the first time since 2011, as the Rainbow Warriors try to break their current streak of seven straight losing seasons.
Colorado State has won each of the past seven games these teams have played dating back to 1995, with Hawaii covering the spread only once in that span (in a 28-16 loss as a 13.5-point home underdog in 1996). The most recent meeting was last September, when Colorado State won 51-21 as a 6.5-point road favorite. The last game between the teams in Fort Collins resulted in a 49-22 Rams victory as a 20.5-point favorite in November of 2014.
If there’s been a time in recent reasons to bet on Hawaii, it’s been prior to the official end of summer—the Rainbow Warriors are 11-1 ATS over their first two games of the season since the start of 2012. None of those games have been against Mountain West Conference foes, however, and Hawaii has struggled mightily against conference opponents since joining the MWC prior to the start of the 2012 season. The Rainbow Warriors are 9-39 straight up and 12-35-1 ATS against MWC opponents since joining the conference, which includes a 5-19 record (4-20 ATS) against MWC foes since the start of the 2015 season. The average score in the four most recent meetings between Hawaii and Colorado State since the start of the 2012 season has been Colorado State 44.3, Hawaii 24.5, with all four games going over the total. Even with all of the uncertainty surrounding the Rams’ head coaching and quarterbacking situations heading into this one, there aren’t many reasons to believe Hawaii will be able to keep the final outcome to within a couple of scores. Given each team’s inexperience on the defensive side of the ball and the fact that the pace of Hawaii’s offense should increase with the implementation of the run-and-shoot, the wisest play here appears to be a wager on over 56.5 points.
Side Pick: Colorado State -14
Confidence Level: Moderate (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)
Total Pick: Over 56.5
Confidence Level: Very High