A ranking of fifth may seem high for a team that was terrible last year and is breaking in a new starting quarterback.
However, the Rams should pose one of the best running attacks in the league with Gartrell Johnson III and Kyle Bell back full from his injury, along with the blocking of Kory Sperry—one of the league's top tight ends before he injured his knee early in the Cal game.
The coaching staff is new with Steve Fairchild taking over for long -time coach Sonny Lubbick. Fairchild was with the program during the team's great run during the '90s, when the team went to multiple bowl games and multiple conference titles.
The quarterback controversy finally came to an end, and the starter to replace Caleb Hanie will be senior Billy Farris. Farris has seen very little time on the field, as last year he attempted only 20 passes. The Rams should not have to rely heavily on Farris because the running game should be one of the strongest in the league.
Bell, who came back last year in 2007 after sitting out 2006 with a torn ACL, was good at times, but he was nowhere near his 2005 season, when he was considered one of the league's top runners. Johson III came on very strong and actually replaced Bell as the starter near the end of the season. If both backs can produce to their potential, then the running game could be dominant and, by doing that, the passing game will open up.
Sperry was a stud at tight end during his first game against Colorado and in his limited time against Cal before he injured his knee. Sperry was the most reliable target during his time on the field, and the same goes for him as it does for Bell in that, if he comes back from injury, he can be one of the league's elite at his position.
Football is all about defense, and the Rams struggled to stop teams last year by giving up 31 points per game. The six starters back should help, but only one of those is back on the defensive line in senior defensive end Tommie Hill, who led the team in sacks last year with 5.5.
The linebackers should be fine with all three starters back and their top backup, as well. The linebackers will need to help with the running game because the Rams had a tough time defending the run last year. If the linebacking corp can stay healthy, then expect this to be the best unit the team has.
Defensive backs are covered at the safety position, but the corners will be filled with new and inexperienced players. Both starting corners graduated, thus leaving two large holes for players to fill. The Rams only have one corner on the roster with any Division 1 experience, and that is DeAngelo Wilkinson, who suffered a shoulder injury and was limited in the spring. The secondary will have to grow up quick in this pass-happy league in order to keep the team competitive.
|Aug. 31||at Colorado|
|Sept. 6||Sacramento State|
|Sept. 20 ||Houston|
|Sept. 27||at California|
|Oct. 18||at Utah|
|Oct. 25||at San Diego State|
|Nov. 1||No. 16 Brigham Young|
|Nov. 8||at Air Force|
|Nov. 15||New Mexico|
|Nov. 22||at Wyoming|
Lock it up: Sacramento State
50/50: Colorado, Houston, UNLV, TCU, @San Diego State, @Air Force, New Mexico, @Wyoming
No Chance: @Cal, @Utah, BYU
Projected Record: 6-6