Remember the kicking disaster that masqueraded as the Boise State-CSU game last November? Stud punter Ryan Stonehouse notwithstanding, the Rams’ special teams in 2020 were the joke of the Front Range.
Well, nobody’s laughing anymore.
A lot of hands have picked up the flag to help the Rams (3-3, 2-0 conference), who visit Utah State (4-2, 2-1) on Friday in a major Mountain West swing game, win three of their last four.
The arm of quarterback Todd Centeio and the Rams run game are, more often than not, in a pretty healthy sync. CSU’s two most notable NFL prospects, tight end Trey McBride (49 catches) and defensive end Scott Patchan (5.5 sacks, two fumbles forced), have matched the hype. And, yes, it hasn’t hurt that the backup quarterbacks at San Jose State and New Mexico ain’t much to write home about.
But we’ll tip our caps to coach Steve Addazio here on this point, too. The Daz vowed that CSU’s special teams would be vastly improved in 2021, his first full season at the helm. And halfway through the regular season, they’ve more than lived up to that promise.
Placekicker Cayden Camper, a Pueblo native, heads into this weekend leading all of the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision in field-goals made (17) and attempted (21). He’s on a pace to decimate the single-season school mark for field goals, the 24 notched by Jeff Babcock in 2002.
Stonehouse is doing Stonehouse things in his fifth season of eligibility, currently sitting at No. 2 nationally in average yards per punt (50.2). Punt returner Thomas Pannunzio leads the MW and ranks No. 13 nationally in average yards per runback (12.4).
Even the analytics wonks love Daz’s special teams. FootballOutsiders.com uses a formula to combine the efficiency of all facets of special teams into one rating, and the results usually match the eye test. In 2020, CSU ranked 127th nationally in games against FBS opponents. As of early Sunday, the ’21 special teams units ranked 26th — just behind Auburn and Virginia Tech.
The Rams’ special teams improvement is just one of the reasons why they also made one of the biggest jumps in The Denver Post’s Best of the West College Football Top 25, which posted Monday at DenverPost.com.
CSU shot up to No. 13, its highest spot of the season, after smashing the Lobos in Albuquerque this past Saturday, 36-7. The Rams checked in at No. 19 last Monday. The CU Buffs (2-4), 34-0 winners over Arizona at Folsom Field last weekend, moved up to No. 21, while Air Force (6-1) is up to No. 2 in advance of its showdown with unbeaten San Diego State on Saturday.
The Denver Post Best of the West College Football poll each Monday ranks the top 25 FBS programs from the Front Range to the Pacific Ocean, as culled from the Pac-12, the Mountain West and BYU.
Post columnist Sean Keeler (@SeanKeeler), Post deputy sports editor Matt Schubert (@MattDSchubert) and Post reporter Kyle Fredrickson (@KyleFredrickson) vote on the top 25.
The rest of the latest rankings follow, with in-state squads listed in bold:
THE DENVER POST BEST OF THE WEST TOP 25 POLL — OCT. 18
|1. Oregon (5-1) *(3)||1||at UCLA|
|2. Air Force (6-1)||8||vs. San Diego State|
|3. Utah (4-2)||5||at Oregon State|
|4. San Diego State (6-0)||4||at Air Force|
|5. Nevada (5-1)||6||at Fresno State|
|6. Arizona State (5-2)||2||BYE|
|7. UCLA (5-2)||7||vs. Oregon|
|8. BYU (5-2)||3||at Washington State|
|9. Fresno State (5-2)||12||vs. Nevada|
|10. Oregon State (4-2)||11||vs. Utah|
|▲11. Washington State (4-3)||18||vs. BYU|
|12. Utah State (4-2)||13||vs. Colorado State, Fri.|
|13. CSU (3-3)||19||at Utah State, Fri.|
|14. Stanford (3-4)||10||BYE|
|15. USC (3-3)||15||at Notre Dame|
|▼16. Boise State (3-4)||9||BYE|
|17. Wyoming (4-2)||14||vs. New Mexico|
|18. Washington (2-4)||17||at Arizona, Fri.|
|19. Hawaii (3-4) ||16||vs. New Mexico State|
|20. San Jose State (3-4)||21||vs. UNLV, Thu.|
|21. Colorado (2-4)||23||at California|
|22. California (1-5)||20||vs. Colorado |
|23. New Mexico (2-5)||22||at Wyoming|
|24. UNLV (0-6)||25||at San Jose State, Thu.|
|25. Arizona (0-6)||24||vs. Washington, Fri.|
*First-place votes in parenthesis
▲= Biggest climb of the week
▼= Biggest drop of the week
The next Best of the West poll will post Monday, Oct. 25.
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