NCAAF Odds, Picks for Washington State vs. Colorado State
Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Clay Millen (Colorado State)
Washington State vs. Colorado State Odds
There's a lot of optimism in Fort Collins ahead of Jay Norvell's second season at the helm. Listeners of the Action Network’s Group of 5 Deep Dive podcast will know that Mike Calabrese and I are both on the Colorado State win total over this year.
Washington State is heading into its second year under Jake Dickert, although with slightly different circumstances. Dickert had a six-game head start after taking over as the interim midway through 2021. He finished the year 3-3, but was able to improve that mark to 7-6 last season.
The Rams will have a quick test in the opener as Washington State comes to town. Will the offseason hype be enough to put the Cougars on upset alert?
Excitement was high for transfer quarterback Cameron Ward after he threw for over 4,600 yards with 47 touchdowns at Incarnate Word. He was viewed as one of the top transfer quarterbacks on the market, but didn’t quite reach the ceiling people hoped.
He wasn’t bad, but his 23 touchdowns ranked seventh in the Pac-12. He also averaged 248.5 yards per game, as the Cougars' offense ranked 128th in Passing Explosiveness.
Ben Arbuckle was hired from Western Kentucky — which should help this Air Raid offense take a step forward — but he’ll have to work with new wide outs as Washington State's top four receivers are all gone.
Transfer pieces like Kyle Williams (UNLV) and Josh Kelly (Fresno State) will help, but this is a step up in competition for them. Running back Nakia Watson was effective, but Washington State ranked just 132nd in Rushing Rate and that isn’t likely to increase much with Arbuckle.
Washington State should be solid up front with edge rushers Ron Stone Jr. and Brennan Jackson. The Cougars also have stability in the secondary with cornerback Chau Smith-Wade and safeties Jaden Hicks and Sam Lockett III.
However, the Cougars have a bunch of questions in the middle of the field. They need to replace all of their linebackers, including All-Conference star Daiyan Henley. Washington State ranked 112th in Rushing Success Rate on defense and could again have issues against the run.
Adjusting to an Air Raid scheme takes time. We saw that last year as the Rams sputtered out of the gate. They averaged just 196.8 passing yards per game, but that doesn’t exactly tell the whole story.
Through the first six games, Colorado State averaged 247.3 total yards of offense. They didn’t average more than 5.0 yards per play in a single game over the first half of the season.
Well, the Rams finished the year averaging 324.2 yards per game over their final six contests and averaged more than 5.0 yards per play in five of those games.
Freshman Clay Millen led the country with a 72.2% completion percentage. He threw just 10 touchdowns, but four of them came in the final two games, and he battled injury throughout the season.
Eight of the team’s 12 passing touchdowns went to star receiver Tory Horton. He dominated the Mountain West with 71 catches and 1,131 yards and is one of the best receivers in the Group of 5.
— Mountain West (@MountainWest) November 25, 2022
Similar to the Cougars, Colorado State doesn’t run the ball often, but leading rusher Avery Morrow is back to help balance the offense a little bit.
The biggest issue facing the Rams is their offensive line, which surrendered the most sacks in the nation last season. Colorado State reworked the line through the transfer portal and added four new pieces to help protect Millen.
The defense was inconsistent last season, but didn't allow big plays. This unit was terrific against the pass and returns four of its five starters in the secondary, led by All-Conference safety Jack Howell.
In total, the Colorado State defense returns eight starters and Norvell hasn't hidden the fact he thinks this unit can be one of the best in the Mountain West.
Corners Chigozie Anusiem and Ron Hardge III are both former Power 5 transfers, and Mohamed Kamara headlines a deep defensive line.
Washington State vs. Colorado State
Betting Pick & Prediction
I expect to see this offense continue the improvements it made down the stretch last year. While it didn’t result in wins, it was evident how much better the Rams were playing. If this reworked offensive line can protect Millen, he has the potential to be one of the best quarterbacks in the Mountain West.
Colorado State’s defensive strength is its secondary, which should be able to handle the Cougars' passing attack.
Washington State had to replace both of its coordinators for the second straight season. The Cougars lack weapons on the outside who can rack up big plays, and that plays right into the strength of Colorado State's defense.
Additionally, the Rams ranked 11th in the country in Passing Explosiveness and should have a field day against a Cougars defense that was 102nd in preventing Explosiveness. If you’re in a state that allows betting on college player props, take the over on Horton’s receiving yards.
On the other side of the ball, Colorado State was fourth at preventing Explosiveness through the air. Washington State was 128th in Passing Explosiveness.
Since 2007, Colorado State has hosted a Power 5 team on six occasions. The Rams have gone 5-1 against the spread in those games and won three outright. They're 3-0 ATS and 2-1 straight up against the Pac-12 at home.
When Norvell was at Nevada, the Wolf Pack went 3-9 in his first season, then improved to 8-5 in his second year. I think we'll see a similar jump up from the Rams this season.
Colorado State can absolutely win this game. I like the Rams getting 11 points, and I would play them down to +10.