2008 New Mexico Bowl Preview - CSU vs. FSU

Posted Dec 19, 2008

Colorado State vs. Fresno State - The 2008 New Mexico Bowl Preview & Prediction

2008 New Mexico Bowl

Colorado State (6-6) vs. Fresno State (7-5)

Dec. 20, 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Not Available   Location: University Stadium, Albuquerque, N.M.

2008 New Mexico Bowl History, Player Profiles, Best Bowl Moments, & More

- 2006 CFN New Mexico Bowl Preview | 2007 CFN New Mexico Bowl Preview

National Rankings
Colorado St Fresno State
Total Offense
47th  377.25 ypg 43rd  383.33 ypg
Total Defense
95th  408.08 ypg 88th   393.5 ypg
Scoring Offense
76th  23.92 ppg 40th  29.17 ppg
Scoring Defense
88th  29.83 ppg 90th  30.33 ppg
Run Offense
78th  129.75 ypg 35th  176.83 ypg
Run Defense
99th  185.25 ypg 104th  197.33 ypg
Pass Offense
30th  247.5 ypg 66th  206.5 ypg
Pass Defense
83rd  222.83 ypg 50th  196.17 ypg
Turnover Margin
50th  0.17 109th  -0.92
Colorado State
Colorado L 38-17
Sac. St W 23-20
Houston W 28-25
at California L 42-7
UNLV W 41-28
TCU L 13-7
at Utah L 49-16
at SDSU W 38-34
BYU L 45-42
at Air Force L 38-17
New Mexico W 20-6
at Wyoming W 31-20
Fresno State
at Rutgers W 24-7
Wisconsin L 13-10
at Tol W 55-54 2OT
at UCLA W 36-31
Hawaii L 32-29 OT
Idaho W 45-32
at Utah St W 30-28
at La Tech L 38-35
Nevada L 41-28
NMSU W 24-17
at SJSU W 24-10
at Boise St L 61-10
Position Ratings
relative to each other
C 5 highest
1 lowest
3.5 Quarterbacks 3.5
4 RBs 4
3.5 Receivers 4
3 O Line 4
2 D Line 2.5
2.5 Linebackers 3
2.5 Secondary 3
2.5 Spec Teams 3.5
3.5 Coaching 3.5

One team’s New Mexico Bowl is another team’s, well, New Mexico Bowl.
Colorado State is happy to be in a bowl, any bowl, in the first year of the Steve Fairchild era. After things had dipped drastically under former head man Sonny Lubick, getting to 6-6 was a nice accomplishment after beating New Mexico and Wyoming in the last two games of the year to make this happen.

One the other side of the equation is Fresno State, who had dreams of being a BCS buster before losing at home in overtime to Hawaii. The Bulldogs were able to start out their season with a big win at Rutgers, but it didn’t do anything impressive the rest of the way, including a win at UCLA, and ended the year with a thud getting blasted by Boise State 61-10 in the regular season finale. 
Pat Hill’s program continues to shoot for the stars, but it keeps missing everything as it’s having a hard time just being in the WAC race year in and year out. This was supposed to be the season when it all came together with a veteran team full of talented athletes, but the run defense struggled throughout, injuries became a bit of a problem, and the offense failed to get better as the year went on. This was supposed to be a physical team, and it wasn’t.
Fairchild started out talking about how he wanted the Rams to be a pounding, tough team, and it wasn’t. Even with a great year from RB Gartrell Johnson, the passing attack was more effective, while defensively, the line did next to nothing. There was little pass rush, no consistency against the run, and too many points allowed to the better teams. Even so, the Rams were able to just barely skim by and will now look to take advantage of the extra practices and the extra game to prepare to be more of a player in the Mountain West next year.
Colorado State won three of its games by four points or fewer, and the only win over anyone with a pulse with an early victory over Houston, but that’s not going to damper the program’s spirits considering it hasn’t been to a bowl game in three years and hasn’t won a post-season game since beating North Texas in the 2001 New Orleans Bowl. Last year, New Mexico represented the Mountain West well by pulling one of the shockers of the bowl season in a 23-0 win over a high-powered Nevada team, and now the Rams will look to do the same to the WAC. 
If Fresno State shows up with the right attitude it should be able to pull off the win. It was fired up last year in the Humanitarian Bowl against Georgia Tech, who had just lost its head coach, and pulled off the win. The Bulldogs lost to Tulsa in the 2005 Liberty Bowl, but beat Virginia in the 2004 Humanitarian Bowl. In the last few years, they have another bowl win over Georgia Tech, a win over UCLA, and played well in a loss to Michigan State, but lost to Air Force in the 2000 Silicon Valley Bowl and to Utah in the 1999 Las Vegas Bowl. The point? Under Hill, the team always gets up for the name teams from the big conferences, but against the teams from the non-BCS conferences when the spotlight isn’t on, there are problems.

The WAC and the Mountain West have split the first two New Mexico Bowls, and while this game won’t cause much of a ripple on the national scale, for two leagues looking to make big statements this bowl season, the winner will be able to add to the overall tally. This is more important for the WAC considering Fresno State is a bigger star than the mid-level Colorado State team, but if the Rams win, this might be the launching pad for the Fairchild era. For Fresno State, a loss would mean it’s back to the drawing board, while a win would settle things down after the disappointing year.
Players to watch: Colorado State RB Gartrell Johnson is a tough runner who carried the offense over the second half of last season and ran for 1,191 yards and 10 touchdowns this year. When the team needed him the most, he came through with four 100-yard games in the final five. Of the team’s six wins, Johnson ran for 100 yards ore more in four of them while the team lost once when its star went over the century mark.
Looking to stuff Johnson is Fresno State sophomore LB Ben Jacobs, who game up with a fantastic season leading the way with 106 tackles and was one of the team’s few disruptive defensive forces. One of the shockers in the program over the last few years, he was supposed to be nothing more than a decent reserve last year before ending up making 81 tackles. He has the speed to go sideline to sideline and he’s tough enough to handle himself against what power CSU has.
Offensively, this was supposed to be when Fresno State QB Tom Brandstater was going to grow into a star. He has the NFL size, the NFL arm and started for two years before coming into the season. While he was fine at times, he only threw 17 touchdown passes with 11 interceptions. He failed to throw a touchdown pass in the team’s final three games, bottoming out with a 5-of-18, 71-yard, one interception performance in the win over San Jose State. He’s not going to be under pressure, Colorado State can’t get to the quarterback, so he needs to be calm, cool, and mistake-free. 
Colorado State senior QB Billy Farris wasn’t supposed to carry the offense, but at times he did the job. He threw for 235 yards or more in each of the last five games, along with 11 touchdown passes, and while he has a problem with interceptions, he doesn’t have a problem throwing the ball 35 times if need be. A big passer with a live arm, he has the NFL measurables and could get a little bit of a look from someone if he closes with a big game.

Colorado State will win if... the running game gets rolling. The Fresno State defense was a bit bizarre when it came to stopping the run this year. It was ripped up by teams like Toledo, UCLA and Idaho, but was a wall against Wisconsin and Rutgers. Late in the year, Fresno State was run over by Nevada for 472 yards and four touchdowns, and then it held New Mexico State to -9 yards and San Jose State to -5. The more Gartrell Johnson can control the game, the more Fresno State’s offense will have to press. The Bulldogs haven’t been strong under pressure.
Fresno State will win if
... Brandstater is lights out. While there have been problems on both sides of the ball for the Bulldogs, the offensive line has been one of the major positives. The pass protection has been strong, the running game has been decent, and the front five has been relatively consistent. Colorado State doesn’t just struggle when it comes to getting to the quarterback, it’s dead last in America in sacks. Brandstater will have all day to throw, so if he can use his experience to make the right reads and if he can consistently find his second and third receivers without a problem, the Bulldog passing game should dominate.
What will happen: Fresno State will get punched in the mouth early on, but the passing game will be too much for the mediocre Colorado State secondary. The stars will end up being on the Bulldog offensive line as it’ll control the game by keeping the Ram defensive front on its heels. Colorado State will have to be nearly perfect, and Fresno State will have to sulk for this not to go to the WAC.

Line: Fresno State -2.5 ... CFN Prediction: Fresno State 31 … Colorado State 17    

2008 New Mexico Bowl History, Player Profiles, Best Bowl Moments, & More