4 things to know, key matchups and predictions – The Denver Post

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Colorado State (1-3) vs. San Jose State (3-2)

1:30 p.m. Saturday, at Canvas Stadium

TV/Radio: FS1/1430 AM, 98.1 FM

Line: CSU -2.5

Weather: 15% chance of thunderstorms, 74 degrees

What to know

Mixed bag. Will the real Rams please stand up? CSU begins Mountain West play this week and it’s hard to know the true identity of this team. The Rams flopped in season-opening losses to FCS South Dakota State and Vanderbilt. Then CSU upset Toledo on the road and led No. 5 Iowa at halftime (before a narrow 10-point defeat). Give head coach Steve Addazio credit for not allowing early-season letdowns to define this team. But it’s anyone’s guess which direction the Rams go from here.

Stop the run. The key for CSU’s recent success? A suffocating run defense with the statistics to back it up. The Rams limited Toledo’s offense to 0.5 yards per carry (28 for 13). Then CSU’s front seven proved equally dominant at Iowa with the Hawkeyes running 32 times for 54 yards — a meager 1.7 average. If that trend continues, CSU has a real opportunity to make noise in the Mountain West this season. The secondary is often a liability. But there is no questioning the strength of this team is run defense.

QB mystery. CSU’s defense has the challenge of facing an unknown quarterback against San Jose State. Spartans’ senior starter Nick Starkel — after leading SJSU to a 7-1 record last season — went down with a non-throwing arm injury in Week 4 at Western Michigan. His replacement, junior Nick Nash, made his first college last Saturday and led the Spartans to a 37-31 victory over New Mexico State. SJSU head coach Brent Brennan declines to share injury news with the media. CSU must prepare for either QB.