The Colorado State Rams (0-0) will see their first action of 2020 Thursday night in a Mountain West Conference clash with the Fresno State Bulldogs (0-1) who have one game under their belt, a 31-19 home loss against Hawaii on Saturday. Both teams begin the season with new head coaches and will play a shortened season -- Fresno State with eight games and Colorado State with just seven.
The Rams scheduled game last week in New Mexico was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns. They also had a snow blizzard roll through Fort Collins Sunday and Monday limiting their practice time on game week.
Kickoff: Thursday, Oct. 29, 10 pm ET
TV: CBS Sports Network
Spread: Colorado State, -1, total: 59
Circa Sports posted the first number on this game on Sunday afternoon and opened Colorado State -1.5 and it was immediately bet to -2.5, but then bet down to -2, -1 and then pick ‘em. By the end of Sunday night, after other books had opened their college numbers, the spread settled at Colorado State -1 where it’s remained since. The total got as high as 60 on Monday but settled at 59 on Tuesday.
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Las Vegas oddsmaker Kenny White has Colorado State rated as the No. 90 team (94.5) with Fresno State dropping to the No. 111 team (92.0) for a neutral field rating of the Rams being 2.5-point favorites. The home edge is non-existent since COVID-19 precautions don’t allow fans, family, bands, or cheerleaders at any California sporting event. Let’s give the inconvenience of travel for the Rams a value of a half-point. White’s ratings have Colorado State -2 and a total of 60.
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It’s going to be a perfect 79 degrees with 5 mph winds Thursday night in Fresno with 28% humidity which makes it ideal football weather. No chance of rain, either.
Neither team had spring practices which is an uneasy situation for new coaches trying to get their message to the team, but coming in, Fresno State does have at least one game of play. Is that an advantage, as some may claim? Colorado State hasn’t played yet so there’s a school of thought that the Bulldogs may have a cohesion edge. But what about the notion that Fresno State has no film to game plan off of against a new coach, while the Rams have film of the Bulldogs loss last week to prepare for? It’s something to think about before wagering.
Steve Addazio takes over as head coach after solid stints as head coach at Temple and Boston College where he took those squads to Bowl games in seven of his nine seasons. He gets six starters returning on offense and eight returning on defense from a team that went 4-8 last season. The early good news was that he has senior leadership at quarterback with Patrick O’Brien who completed 61.8% of his passes for 2,803 yards, 13 TDs, and 7 interceptions in 2019, but Temple transfer Todd Centeio has been impressive and getting equal reps with the starters during practices. Who starts Thursday is still unknown.
“They’re both doing a great job, working hard, and we’ll probably settle in here in next 24 hours as a staff (and choose the starter), but they’ve taken equal reps and had a great deal of prep time and both have excelled in different areas,” Rams head coach Steve Addazio said Tuesday regarding the starting QB Thursday night. “It’s a good, healthy competition.”
The bad news for the Rams is that last season’s leading receiver, Warren Jackson (1,119 yards) declared for the NFL Draft in August. Fortunately for O’Brien, his next four leading pass catchers from 2019 are still on the team. The defense returns seven of the top-10 tacklers from last season. Addazio has some good tools to work with here.
Kalen DeBoer gets his FBS first head coaching job but did go 67-3 as the Sioux Falls head coach from 2006-09. He was the Fresno State offensive coordinator from 2017-18 when the Bulldogs went from double-digit losers in 2016 (1-11) to double-digit winners in 2017 (10-4) and 2018 (12-2) which elevated him to the same job at Indiana last season. He knows his offense, he just needs the players to execute it. He has eight starters returning on offense, including feature back Ronnie Rivers (948 yards rushing, 13 TDs) who was also their second-leading receiver with 43 catches. Four of the five offensive linemen return, and they have junior QB Jake Heaner transferred in from Washington.
Heaner's first start didn’t go so well last week, throwing for 3 TDs and completing 54% of his passes for 289 yards. But overall, DeBoer called a balanced game with a 37 run, 31 pass split in play selection. Unfortunately, the Fresno defense that returned seven starters allowed 552 yards on 84 plays and were gashed for 323 yards on the ground.
Colorado State has won 10 of the 15 meetings and six of the last seven (5-2 ATS). Last season the Rams were getting +14 at Fresno and won 41-31, one of four wins for the Rams in 2019. The last four meetings in Fresno have gone over the total.
The Rams have covered their last five games as the favorite and also the last four against losing teams.
The Bulldogs have failed to cover their last four home games, however, they’re 9-1-1 ATS in their last 11 as home underdogs. They’ve stayed under the total in five of their last six Thursday night games.
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