From Pullman — It's not official yet but all signs say Washington State will take on Colorado State in the New Mexico Bowl. So let's take an early look at WSU's opponent. Like WSU, a second-year coach has led the Rams to their first non-losing season in years. Under former Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain, CSU (7-6, 5-3) is headed to its first game since 2008, when it defeated Fresno State, also in the New Mexico Bowl.
Follow the jump for some statistics that should shed some light on the Rams.
True to McElwain's offensive background, the Rams finished 28th nationally in scoring with 35.3 points per game and are the only school in the country with a 3,000-yard passer and 1,500-yard rusher. CSU's offense is built around a strong run game, highlighted by Kapri Bibbs who easily led the Mountain West Conference with 1,572 rushing yards this season to go with 28 rushing touchdowns — 11 more than anyone else in the conference. Backup running backs Donnell Alexander and Chris Nwoke each chipped in just under 400 yards on the ground.
In the passing game a pair of underclassmen receivers lead CSU. Freshman Rashard Higgins is quarterback Garrett Grayson's primary target with 64 receptions for 795 yards and six touchdowns, while sophomore Joe Hansley has caught 48 balls for 557 yards and a touchdown.
Grayson completes 62.1% of his passes and averages 7.8 yards per attempt. He has a 21-10 touchdown/interception ratio and has thrown for 3,327.
Defensively the Rams appear to be a favorable matchup for the pass-happy WSU offense. While the Rams rank fourth in the Mountain West with a run defense that gives up 152 yards per game and just 3.95 yards per carry to opposing rushers, their pass defense is 10th in the conference and has allowed opposing quarterbacks to throw for 265 yards per game. CSU has suffered 27 touchdowns through the air while picking off just nine passes.
However, WSU quarterback Connor Halliday will have to account for senior linebacker Shaquil Barrett, who is third in the country in both sacks (12.0) tackles for loss (20.5).