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Colorado opens conference play against ASU: Buffaloes vs. Sun Devils: Week Four Preview

Colorado looks to break over .500 in Pac-12 openers on Saturday night

NCAA Football: Colorado at Arizona State Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado Buffaloes head coach Karl Dorrell took the disappointment of a 30-0 shutout loss to Minnesota and vowed to “wipe the slate clean” going into the Pac-12 schedule. A lot can be said about the Buffs lack of movement on offense in the past two weeks. However, what sticks out is 63 yards of total offense in sixty minutes of play against the Gophers— a near low point in CU history.

Regardless of the result from last Saturday adjustments should be on Dorrell’s mind ahead of the match up with Arizona State. The Sun Devils (2-1) suffered their first loss of the season against 15th-ranked BYU on Saturday— a 10-point defeat and third straight win for the Cougars, who took down Arizona and Utah in prior weeks to assert their dominance over the Pac-12’s middle tier.

The Buffs (1-2) haven’t scored in seven consecutive quarters, relying on some outstanding defensive efforts to stay in the games (to a point). Despite not having much success on offense, Colorado was within striking distance of upsetting then No. 5 Texas A&M behind some early success from QB Brendon Lewis. The freshman has relied more on his dual-threat ability and less on his arm in clutch situations. Even though he has struggled significantly over the last seven quarters, Lewis still has the backing of offensive coordinator/play caller Darrin Chiaverini, who knows it’s all part of the “growing pains” when developing an inexperienced QB as the starter.

Lewis will once again lean on running back Jarek Broussard for help to spark the Buffs offense. The reigning Pac-12 offensive player of the year had eight yards against Minnesota after getting beat up by Texas A&M. Colorado needs a healthy rushing attack to calm Lewis’ nerves and keep the defense off the field. It's a tough task considering the Buffs go up against All-Pac-12 defensive backs Chase Lucas and Evan Fields, who’ve forced five interceptions this season. The key will be for Lewis to reestablish some confidence after getting wrecking by the Gophers last week.

Arizona State hasn’t played mistake-free and it could be costly down the stretch. Two of the most dreaded categories for a team to be high on are penalties and turnovers— both are the Sun Devil’s Achilles heel to start the season. Six turnovers, including four of those forced by BYU last week, along with 106.3 yards per game in penalties (128th, FBS). They are some of the lowest marks for Herm Edwards during his renewed coaching stint at ASU.

If Colorado’s defense can force errors then it will make for an interesting evening in Tempe. The Sun Devils will be looking for explosive plays from Jayden Daniels, who has completed 73 percent of his passes so far this season. He’s a competent passer known for taking over with his legs, torching UNLV two weeks ago with 13 carries for 125 yards on the ground. It’s not just Daniels getting into the act. Rachaad White leads ASU with 225 yards and five touchdowns, ahead of Daniyel Ngata with 183 yards and three touchdowns. Overall, Arizona State has run for at least 150 yards in eight straight games, dating back to 2019.

The Buffs linebackers can’t afford to let Daniels set the tone early. It was two years ago the then freshman threw for 345 yards and two touchdowns, despite the Buffs taking home a 34-31 upset win. One of the best things CU’s defense can do will be having Daniels throw the ball 30+ times on Saturday. He has only a 2-3 record all-time when surpassing that mark. However, as much as Edwards loves to run the ball, he wants Daniels to be more balanced in his approach which could be good news for CU.

“I think that’s how you have to move the ball at times, you have to hit some big explosive plays,” Edwards said earlier this week. “We know we can have some explosive runs but we need some explosive plays in the passing game. That always helps you and it gets the offense excited as well.”

But Colorado, with a top 20 defense, has the ability to stop ASU from breaking off huge plays out of the backfield. The effort means very little if the Buffs offense can’t produce substantial drives with points to show for it.

From the desk of Dave Plati:

The Race to 1,000, Part 2. “Tailback Alex Fontenot became the 55th player in school history to rush for 1,000 career yards when he finished the Minnesota game with exactly that figure. Jarek Broussard is right behind, in 57th with 966 (technically he is over 1,000, but CU won’t count bowl stats until the NCAA mandates that ALL bowl games count, not just those from 2002 on); FB Willie Beebe is in-between the pair with 967.

“Colorado is sixth all-time with the 55 1,000-yard runners, 19 of whom have gone to run for 2,000 (12th-most). Broussard can set the school mark for quickest number of games to 1,000 career yards if he gains 34 or more at Arizona State this week; he’s played in eight regular season games. Charlie Davis holds the mark, doing so in 10 games in 1971”

In-season rebound? “The 63 yards of total offense against Minnesota were the eighth-fewest in school history, the lowest total since being held to 46 against Oklahoma in the 2004 Big 12 Championship game. It was the lowest in a regular season game since USC held the Buffs to 61 yards in 2002. That year, No. 17 USC waltzed into Boulder and left with a 40-3 win over No. 18 CU, but Colorado turned it around and won the following week at No. 20 UCLA, 31-17, gaining 410 more yards (471) than against the Trojans.”

Colorado hits the road for the first time in 2021 to face Arizona State. Kickoff for the Pac-12 After Dark special is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. MT.

TV: ESPNU

Radio: 850 KOA (Mark Johnson & Gary Barnett)

Odds: -14.5 ASU

Weather: 83°, cloudy