Hawaii at Colorado State

Editor’s Note: Brian Edwards has started hot in college football the last three years. He has raced out to 14-8 starts (63.6%) in back-to-back seasons and went 5-1 to start 2015. Bettors can get signed up for Saturday’s pay-if-it-wins-only selection or go all in with Brian’s season package!

UPDATE: Shortly after filing this preview on Wednesday, news broke that Mike Bobo had been released from the hospital Tuesday night. In fact, he made it to the office by 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday and has been at practice since then. Due to his lack of mobility, however, he'll coach Saturday night from the press box. As of Friday afternoon, the Rams were favored by 14.5 points with the total at 56.5.

Although it might be without its fourth-year head coach Mike Bobo for Saturday’s season opener on Sonny Lubick Field at Colorado St. Stadium, Colorado State will nonetheless be in a double-digit ‘chalk’ role when it welcomes Mountain West Conference rival Hawaii into Ft. Collins.

As of Monday afternoon, most betting shops had Colorado State installed as a 14-point home favorite with a total of 57.5 or 58. The Warriors were +425 on the money line (risk $100 to win $425). As of Wednesday, the side hadn’t budged off the key number.

By Tuesday afternoon, however, the number for ‘over/under’ wagers started to slide down. The total was 56 at most Vegas books by late Tuesday night, but a lot of globals were at 55.5 and few had settled at 55. Then on Wednesday morning, the total had jumped back up to 57 or 57.5 at most spots. For first-half wagers, William Hill had the Rams as eight-point favorites with a total of 29.5. Hawai’i was +300 to lead outright at intermission.

Bobo, the 44-year-old former quarterback and offensive coordinator at Georgia, has been hospitalized since Aug. 11 when he was admitted after experiencing numbness in his feet for weeks. He is undergoing tests and treatment for peripheral neuropathy, a condition described by the Mayo Clinic as the result of damage to your peripheral nerves, which send information to your brain and central nervous system, causing weakness, numbness and pain in the hands and feet.

Bobo has been in contact with his staff and players daily, sending text messages after evaluating practice film. As of early this week, it was unclear if Bobo would be on the sidelines Saturday night. If not, the expectation is for quarterbacks coach Ronnie Letson to call the plays.

Senior K.J. Carta-Samuels has been named CSU’s starting QB. Carta-Samuels is a grad transfer from Washington, where he played in a back-up role behind Jake Browning for three seasons. He completed 57 percent of his passes for 310 yards with a 3/1 touchdown-to-interception ratio for the Huskies.

Colorado State returns only four starters on offense and five on defense from a squad that finished 7-6 straight up for the third consecutive campaign. The Rams, who went 4-9 against the spread last year, lost 30 lettermen.

CSU will no longer have the services of QB Nick Stevens, who is second in school history in career passing yards (8,550) after throwing for 3,799 yards with a 29/10 TD-INT ratio in 2017. Star RB Dalyn Dawkins is also gone after finishing his career third in school history with 3,185 rushing yards.

Bobo’s team will be fine in the backfield despite the loss of Dawkins, however. Senior RB Izzy Matthews has amassed 1,937 career rushing yards and 26 TDs in his first three years on campus. Matthews also has 24 receptions for 239 yards and one TD. As a freshman last season, RB Rashaad Boddie ran 44 times for 254 yards and four TDs with a 5.8 yards-per-carry average.

However, Boddie and reserve RB Marvin Kinsey are listed as ‘questionable’ due to possible suspensions for undisclosed reasons. Kinsey (4.8 YPC) rushed for 124 yards and two TDs on 26 attempts as a sophomore last year.

Colorado State lost its best WR and four of its top-five pass catchers. Michael Gallup hauled in 100 receptions for 1,413 yards and seven TDs as a senior last year. He had produced 1,272 receiving yards in 2016. Olabisi Johnson will become the No. 1 target for Carta-Samuels. Johnson has started 18 career games, finishing ’17 with 41 catches for 595 yards and two TDs. He is a preseason second-team All-MWC pick in Phil Steele’s magazine.

Preston Williams was a 5-star recruit for Butch Jones at Tennessee in the 2015 class. He played in eight games as a true freshman, producing seven receptions for 158 yards and two TDs. Williams had nine catches for 80 yards while starting two of six games in 2016. As his playing time diminished, however, he elected to transfer and chose CSU in November of ’16. Williams sat out last season.

Warren Jackson is expected to be the third starting WR, while fellow sophomore Cameron Butler will get the nod at tight end. Jackson had 15 receptions for 265 yards and two TDs in ’17, while Butler brought down 12 grabs for 171 yards and three TDs. Nikko Hall, a true freshman WR, was the prize of Bobo’s 2018 recruiting class.

Steele’s preseason magazine ranked each MWC team’s units. The Rams are ranked seventh at the QB position, sixth at RB, fourth at WR and sixth on the offensive line. This year’s o-line had just 22 career starts until the addition of Louisville grad transfer Toriano Roundtree, a 6’7” 330-pound offensive tackle. The Rams lost a pair of first-team All-MWC performers in OT Zak Golditch and center Jake Bennett.

Steele’s MWC Unit Rankings has CSU at No. 7 on the defensive line, ninth at LB and seventh in the secondary. The Rams bring back their top two tacklers in senior safety Jordan Fogal and senior middle LB Josh Watson, who had 109 tackles, seven passes broken up, three tackles for loss, two sacks, two interceptions and one QB hurry in ’17. Fogal recorded 71 tackles, four PBU, two interceptions, two QB hurries and one TFL last year.

Junior DB Braylin Scott redshirted last year due to an injury. Although he’s ‘questionable’ vs. UH due to a potential suspension, his return should help the CSU secondary. As a sophomore in ’16, Scott started seven games and produced 39 tackles and three interceptions.

During Bobo’s tenure, Colorado State has compiled a 6-6 spread record in 12 games as a home favorite. But the Rams went 1-4 ATS in five such spots last season. In addition, they failed to cover in all four games as double-digit ‘chalk’ with one outright defeat in a 45-28 loss to Air Force as 10-point home favorites.

Hawai’i won just 11 games during the Norm Chow Era from 2012-15. Therefore, when first-year head coach Nick Rolovich finished 7-7 in ’16 and the Warriors beat Middle Tennessee by a 52-35 count in the Hawai’i Bowl, it was viewed as a remarkable accomplishment.

Those positive vibes carried over to a 2-0 start last year with a 38-35 season-opening win at UMass and a 41-18 home win over Western Carolina. From there, however, things went South in a major way with nine losses in the next 10 games.

Rolovich’s second season ended with a 3-9 SU record and a 3-8-1 ATS mark. Hawai’i returns just three starters on offense and five on defense. The biggest losses are QB Dru Brown and RB Diocemy Saint Juste, who finished second in school history in career rushing yards (3,102). Brown had a 37/15 TD-INT ratio the last two years, but he elected to leave for Oklahoma State as a grad transfer.

With Saint Juste the last two seasons, Rolovich got away from the run-and-shoot offense he ran as the QB at Hawai’i in 2000 and ‘01 to get more touches for his workhorse RB. But in ’18, the offense will get back to its run-and-shoot ways that were its identity during the glory days of the June Jones Era during the 2000s.

The offense averaged merely 22.8 points per game last season. This unit was hurt by the mid-season loss of star WR John Ursua, who had 47 catches for 667 yards and five TDs before tearing his ACL six games into the year. Ursua returns for his senior campaign, but WR Dylan Collie (56 receptions for 636 yards and four TDs in ’17) transferred to BYU.

As of Wednesday, Rolovich was still playing coy on who will be his starting signal caller Saturday night. Cole McDonald, a third-year sophomore, has been considered the front runner for the job. He completed merely 5-of-9 throws for 22 yards and one TD without an interception last season. McDonald rushed for 138 yards and one TD on 16 attempts, which makes him the team’s leading returning rusher. True freshmen QBs Jeremy Moussa (was in for spring practice) and Chevan Cordeiro have been pushing McDonald for the gig.

According to a Wednesday report from Rob DeMello, the Sports Director at KHONews in Honolulu, Cordeiro has moved ahead of Moussa in the pecking order. Rolovich told DeMello, “We got Chevan (Cordeiro) and Cole (McDonald) slashed right now on the depth chart. We’ll see from there. Moussa’s got probably the most talented arm. Cole and Chevan are better athletes. But I think there will be multiple QBs playing this year.”

Cordeiro led local Saint Louis HS to a state title as a prep senior last season, garnering the Cover2 Marcus Mariota Award as the state’s Player of the Year.

Steele’s MWC Unit Rankings don’t provide much optimism for the Hawai’i offense. The QBs are ranked 10th in the 12-team league, while the RBs are 12th, the WRs are eighth and the offensive line is 11th. The o-line will be without senior OT Asotui ‘Tui’ Eli, who has 34 career starts to his credit. Eli is out for the 2018 season with an injury.

The Hawai’i defense gave up 33.9 PPG in ’17. This unit returns its two best players in LBs Soloman Matautia and Jahlani Tavia, who was a first-team All-MWC selection in ’16 and a second-teamer last year. Tavia recorded 124 tackles, 5.5 TFL’s, 5.5 sacks, five QB hurries, one interception and one PBU. Matautia had 85 tackles, 3.5 TFL’s, three interceptions, one sack and one QB hurry last season.

Steele’s MWC Unit Rankings have the Warriors at 12th on the defensive line, fifth at the LB position and 12th in the secondary.

During Rolovich’s tenure to date, Hawai’i has posted a 5-5 spread record in 10 games as a road underdog. When listed as double-digit road ‘dogs, the Warriors have gone 2-4 ATS with one outright win at Air Force by a 34-27 score in double overtime two years ago.

CSU has won seven games in a row in this rivalry, including a 51-21 win as a 6.5-point road favorite last season. The Warriors, who are 2-9 in 11 visits to Ft. Collins, haven’t won at CSU since 1988 and haven’t beaten the Rams at any venue since 1995. They hold a 15-9 edge over Hawai’i in the rivalry that started back in 1925.

With Hurricane Lane bearing down on the Hawai’ian islands and expected to wreak havoc from Thursday through Saturday, the football team was scheduled to make a direct flight to Denver on Wednesday evening.

As for the weather in Ft. Collins on Saturday, the conditions should be perfect. During the first half before the sun sets, temperatures will probably be in the 70s. Weather.com’s forecast calls for a low of 58 on Saturday night, with mostly clear skies and winds blowing at 5-10 miles per hour.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Eastern on the CBS Sports Network.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

-- CSU’s Matthews is a fourth-team All-MWC RB in Steele’s preseason mag. The only other offensive player honored for the Rams is center Colby Meeks, a senior center. CSU’s defense has three players on Steele’s All-MWC teams, including Watson (second-teamer), junior DT Richard King (third-teamer) and Fogal (fourth-teamer).

-- Steele ranks CSU fourth in the MWC on special teams and fourth in chemistry. The Rams are 30th on special teams in Steele’s National Unit Rankings. Punter Ryan Stonehouse is a preseason first-team pick after averaging 45.9 yards per punt last season as a freshman. Stonehouse had 24 punts that left foes inside the 20 and his punts prompted 12 fair catches. Johnson is a fourth-team selection as a punt returner and place kicker Wyatt Bryan is also a fourth-teamer. Steele’s mag ranks Bryan as the 20th-best kicker available for the 2019 NFL Draft.

-- [...] has the Warriors’ win total at 3.5 shaded to the ‘over’ at a -125 price. Remember, season win totals are for regular-season games only, and Hawai’i get 13 of those instead of the 12 that most FBS teams play.

-- I see two likely home wins for Hawai’i vs. Rice and vs. Duquesne. I’m confident that five of the Warriors’ six road assignments are going to end in defeat. The one road game that’s winnable comes in a horrible situational spot on Sept. 29 at San Jose State. For starters, the Spartans will get two weeks to prepare, while Hawai’i will be playing its sixth game in six weeks. Worst of all, the Warriors travel to the East coast to play Army at West Point on Sept. 15. After returning home to take on Duquesne, they fly back to the main land again to take on SJS. The best chance for MWC home win comes on Nov. 17 vs. UNLV when the Warriors have two weeks to prepare and will have been back on the island since returning from an Oct. 27 game at Fresno State. The Rebels will be playing their seventh game in as many weeks. In addition, they’ll be in a back-to-back road situation after going to San Diego State. the previous weekend and they’ll be on the road for the third time in a four-week stretch.

-- CSU’s season win total is 5.5 (‘over’ -120, ‘under’ -110) at Sportsbook. The Rams play Colorado in Denver next Friday night before facing back-to-back SEC opponents. They host Arkansas on Sept. 8 and travel to Gainesville to take on Florida on Sept. 15. Bobo’s team gets two open dates ahead of road assignments at San Jose State. and at Nevada. However, the Wolf Pack also have two weeks to prep for the Rams.

-- TCU will be without sophomore nose tackle Ross Blacklock after he suffered a season-ending knee injury at practice earlier this month. Blacklock started all 14 games as a true freshman and garnered Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year honors.

-- Georgia lost two of its top RBs in school history in Sony Michel and Nick Chubb. However, with D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield coming back along with the addition of the nation’s No. 1 prep RB, Zamir White, the Bulldogs figured to be fine in the backfield. Now depth is an issue and injury to Swift could be catastrophic because White tore his ACL on a non-contact play covering a punt at practice last Saturday. White, who tore the ACL in his other knee back in November, will miss all of 2018.

Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.