The No. 22 Utah Utes (8-4) finish the 2014 season by taking on the Colorado State Rams (10-2) of the Mountain West Conference in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl this Saturday at 1:30 p.m. MT. The Rams are known to have a potent offense, as evidenced by their 10-2 record, but, make no mistake, they play football on the other side of the ball too.
The Colorado State defense allows 414.8 yards per game (84th in the nation) and 23.4 points per game (34th). This is a defense that bends and gives up a lot of yards but does not break and surrender a lot of points. When teams do get to the red zone, they are likely to score points against CSU's defense, which gives up a score on 86.1% of red zone trips (94th). Teams score a touchdown on 62.8% of red zone trips (79th).
The defensive line has not been a strength for CSU this season. The Rams allow 187.6 rushing yards per game (89th) and 4.68 yards per carry (91st). The CSU defense does not make many plays behind the line of scrimmage with only 54.0 tackles for loss (117th) and only 19.0 sacks (100th). A big part of this due to a lack of production from the defensive linemen. The Rams' D-line has only accounted for 5.5 of the 19.0 sacks for the Rams and only 13.0 of the 54.0 tackles for loss. By comparison, Utah defensive end Nate Orchard, the Ted Hendricks Award winner, has more production on his own (17.5 sacks and 20.0 tackles for loss).
Despite frequently running four down linemen, the linebackers make more plays in the backfield for the Rams. Linebackers Aaron Davis and Max Morgan lead the team in tackles with 110 and 96 respectively. Linebacker Cory James and Davis lead the team in tackles for loss with 8.5 and 6.5. James also leads the team in sacks with 6.5. Davis and Morgan have each intercepted a pass this season, and Davis has forced a fumble.
The CSU defense gives up 227.2 passing yards per game (66th). However, despite giving up yards, the defense does perform well against the pass, with quarterback efficiency of only 115.6 (30th). The Rams have only allowed 13 touchdown passes (17th) to 12 interceptions (45th). The numbers are a bit inflated by the fact that CSU has only faced one quarterback in the top 50 of quarterback efficiency (Boise State's Grant Hendrick who is 9th at 157.8), and CSU lost that game. Tyree Simmons and Trent Matthews lead the team in interceptions with three apiece. Bernard Blake leads the team with 11 pass break ups, and Matthews is second with eight. Preston Hodges leads the team with two forced fumbles, and Blake has also recorded one. Blake and Hodges both have 3.0 tackles for loss. Kevin Pierre-Louis has a sack.