New Mexico Bowl preview
Colorado State (7-6) vs. Washington State (6-6)
December 21, 2 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Colorado State Players to Watch:
Kapri Bibbs, RB—An outstanding force despite his average size (5-11, 200), Bibbs anchors the Rams’ strongest aspect of the team, which is the backfield and holds an NCAA-best 28 rushing touchdowns.
Shaquil Barrett, LB—Always a huge threat to reach the backfield and blow plays up, Barrett finished the regular season with 12 sacks (No. 9 in the country) and 20.0 tackles for loss (No. 10).
Washington State Players to Watch:
Connor Halliday, QB—He might be a beneficiary of Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense, but that doesn’t take away from how much he’s improved throughout his career. This guy can sling the football, and that’s exactly what Washington State will do against CSU.
Gabe Marks, WR—The sophomore is Halliday’s favorite target, grabbing 20 more receptions than any other member of the receiving corps.
Colorado State Keys to Victory:
Run the ball down the throat of Washington State’s 84th-ranked rushing defense. Kapri Bibbs carried the ball 38 times for 291 yards and six touchdowns in a 66-42 win over New Mexico, and while I don’t expect this game to be as high scoring, that’s what the game plan will have to be to keep the Cougars’ passing game off the field. Bibbs is capable of taking the workload and helping the Rams sustain long, agonizing drives.
Washington State Keys to Victory:
An efficient, turnover-free performance from Connor Halliday. Washington State simply doesn’t run the ball and will attack Colorado State’s depleted secondary (which ranks 111th in the nation). The Cougars have a tendency to put themselves in holes with being careless on offense, and the Rams will take advantage of them with a powerful running game that will chew out the clock. If Halliday performs at a high level and has a clean game, Wazzu will win its first bowl game since 2003.
Line: Washington State (-3.5)
Prediction: In five of Colorado State’s six losses this season, the Rams’ secondary allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 70.1 percent of their passes for an average of 324.0 yards per game, and gave up 16 passing touchdowns while forcing just three interceptions. Washington State has no choice but to add to the misery.
Washington State 34, Colorado State 27