Scouting Washington State's Week 1 opponent: Colorado State

Sep. 1—There is some thought Washington State might end up in the Mountain West Conference in some form or another in the future, making the Cougars' Week 1 football game against Colorado State a potential preview of a future league foe.

But before the conference realignment dust settles amid the ongoing collapse of the Pac-12, WSU is fully focused on what it can control — playing football.

Heck, the Cougars aren't even looking too closely at the green-and-gold clad Rams who will be on the opposite sideline at 4 p.m. Saturday (CBS Sports Network) in Fort Collins, Colo. They're more focused on themselves.

"Week 1 is about you," WSU coach Jake Dickert said. "Every week is about you, but more importantly, I don't know what they're going to do. I don't know if they changed every scheme possible. They could've done it.

"But at the end of the day, it's about us and what we can control."

Here are four things to know about CSU ahead of the season opener.

The Rams are in a rough patch

Colorado State hasn't had a winning season since going 7-6 three straight seasons in 2015-17. Each of those seasons ended with a loss in a bowl game, including the 2016 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl when WSU's border-neighbor Idaho famously beat the Rams 61-50 in one of the highest-scoring bowl games of all time.

CSU went 3-9 for the second straight year last season.

Revisiting last year's matchup

In last year's meeting at Gesa Field, WSU flew out to a 21-point lead in the first quarter and never looked back in a 38-7 beatdown Week 3.

The most surprising stat?

WSU racked up seven sacks against the overmatched CSU offensive line, including three by linebacker Daiyan Henley, who now plays on Sundays with the NFL's San Diego Chargers.

"I think it's one of those things you pick and choose spots to attack," Dickert recalled. "We did a good job of stopping the run and getting them behind the chains and allowing ourselves to go out there and puss rush. We'll need to do that again this year."

On offense, quarterback Cam Ward went 24-of-34 for 299 yards and four touchdowns, but he did throw one interception and was sacked four times.

CSU's Air Raid struggled to take flight

Coug fans became quite familiar with the Air Raid offense after the late coach Mike Leach's prolific passing attack produced record numbers for much of the 2010s.

As for the Rams, their Air Raid is still struggling to take flight under second-year coach Jay Norvell.

CSU's 13.2 points per game ranked 129th out of 131 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision last season.

CSU quarterback Clay Millen is back as the starter after being thrown to the wolves as a freshman.

The Snoqualmie, Wash., native completed 72.2% of his passes for 1,910 yards with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions, but he took a beating in the process. The Rams allowed a whopping 59 sacks for 399 yards a year ago.

Watch out for Horton

The bright spot for Millen is he has a top-notch target in senior wide receiver Tory Horton.

The preseason All-Mountain West honoree had 71 catches for 1,131 yards and eight touchdowns last season and finds himself on several prestigious award watch lists including the Biletnikoff, Hornung, Maxwell and Reese's Senior Bowl.

Keeping him in check will be a priority for the Cougars.

Wiebe may be contacted at (208) 848-2277, or on Twitter @StephanSports.