Colorado State (7-1) at San Jose State (3-4) (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Spartan Stadium (30,456) -- San Jose, California. Television: CBSSN. Home Record: CSU 4-0, SJSU 2-1. Away Record: CSU 2-1, SJSU 1-3. Neutral Record: CSU 1-0, SJSU 0-0. Conference Record: CSU 3-1, SJSU 2-1. Series Record: San Jose State leads, 4-3.
GAME NOTES: On the outside looking in when it comes to the AP Top-25, the Colorado State Rams try to make a strong push towards inclusion this week as they clash with the San Jose State Spartans in Mountain West Conference action.
The most recent AP Poll finds the Rams ranked 26th in the nation, ahead of USC and Wisconsin, but more importantly, the team is already bowl eligible and is tied for first place in the Mountain Division of the MWC with Boise State at 3-1. Since falling to the Broncos in the second game of the season, 37-24, the Rams have rattled off six straight victories and have begun making plans for the postseason.
Last weekend, the team took down neighboring Wyoming in the annual Border War by a score of 45-31. The six-game win streak for CSU is the longest in more than a decade, and the 7-1 start its best since 2000.
As for the Spartans, they took a break from conference play last weekend and traveled to the other side of the continent to challenge the Navy Midshipmen in Annapolis. While SJSU entered the meeting with the top pass defense in the country, it was the run defense that was exposed in a 41-31 loss. The defeat snapped a brief two-game win streak by the Spartans and dropped the team a game below .500.
According to SJSU sources, the Spartans lead the all-time series by a count of 4-3, thanks to a 34-27 victory last season in Fort Hughes, Colorado.
Garrett Grayson completed all but three of his 21 pass attempts for the Rams in the win over Wyoming, resulting in 390 yards and five touchdowns. Yet again, his favorite target was Rashard Higgins who caught five balls for 174 yards and a pair of TDs.
Higgins, one of the top receivers in the nation, is the first FBS player in five years to have four straight games with at least 170 yards receiving.
Also catching TD passes from Grayson were Joe Hansley, Xavier Williams and Dee Hart, the latter adding a team-best 87 yards rushing on 13 carries.
Defensively, the Rams held Wyoming to just three points on the first seven possessions. Colorado State let the Cowboys off the hook somewhat by surrendering four touchdowns in the last four possessions, but still the Rams had a lead comfortable enough to enjoy the double-digit victory at home.
In terms of yards allowed in 2014, the Rams have been a bit lax in giving up 424.9 ypg, ranking them 80th in the nation this week, but all of that activity has resulted in just 22.6 ppg, 37th-best in the country. Aaron Davis is the top tackler for the group with 75 stops, but three spots behind him with 38 is Trent Matthews who not only leads the program with a pair of interceptions, he is also first with two blocked kicks.
Obviously, the Rams are thriving with Grayson at quarterback, as he has thrown 21 TDs and just five INTs, while completing 65.3 percent of his attempts. Higgins has become one of the nation's leaders on the other end of those passes with his 59 catches for 1,137 yards and 12 TDs, averaging more than 19 yards per reception.
The addition of Hart to the lineup, following his transfer from Alabama, has been crucial because he has accounted for another 690 yards and six scores on the ground, which means Grayson and Higgins don't have to do it all by themselves.
San Jose State may have scored the first points of the game against the Midshipmen in enemy territory last Saturday, but the Spartans ended up on the wrong side of a 10-point decision after allowing 24 points in the second quarter alone. The top-ranked pass defense permitted a mere 56 yards through the air, but what else would you expect from a Navy squad that ran for a staggering 423 yards and five touchdowns.
Joe Gray tried to keep SJSU in the mix as he completed 33 of his 46 pass attempts for 322 yards and three touchdowns, as well as one interception, but it wasn't enough. Tim Crawley caught eight passes all by himself, leading to 102 yards and a score, while Tyler Ervin pitched in with 72 yards and a TD on the ground.
With plenty of stops to be made, Vince Buhagiar and Christian Tiago finished with 14 and 11 tackles, respectively, while Cedric Lousi made the lone stop behind the line of scrimmage.
After being blasted by Navy, the Spartans now find themselves with the 119th- ranked run defense in the country, giving up 247.7 ypg. Those opponents have scored 19 times on the ground. The pass defense is still the tightest in the nation, giving up a mere 89.0 ypg and just a single TD over seven games.
Strangely enough, it is not as though opponents have been scared off by the SJSU secondary, because the Spartans have just three interceptions. The group has but five sacks, compared to 11 for the opposition, while its 25 tackles for loss are barely half the 45 TFL that previous foes have piled up.
Gray is completing his passes at an impressive 70.1 percent, but he has only six TDs to show for his efforts. Factor Blake Jurich into the equation and the SJSU passing attack has 11 TDs, versus eight INTs.
Chances are, the San Jose State pass defense is going to be tested this weekend like never before this season. Grayson and Higgins are one of the more formidable passing combinations in all of college football which spells potential doom for the hosts.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Colorado State 34, San Jose State 17Game Date and Time
Saturday, November 1, 7 p.m. (ET).