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Colorado vs. Arizona State Preview: Buffaloes must be prepared for tricky opponent

ASU’s Cam Skattebo is a massive wild card that the Buffs will need to overcome.

Arizona State v Colorado Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

The Buffaloes will make their way to the desert this Saturday to square off against Arizona State in Tempe. Coach Prime and his squad are currently pegged as four-point favorites, but the consensus online seems to be that Colorado should crush ASU.

Arizona State is currently 1-4 under new head coach Kenny Dillingham and are fresh off a 24-21 loss to Cal. ASU has gotten off to a rough start, but this team could be a tougher opponent than many CU fans are making them out to be.

There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Sun Devils offense at the moment. They have had a sort of QB carousel since Jaden Rashada was injured early in the season. It seems like junior Trenton Bourguet will start against the Buffs this week but that isn’t confirmed yet.

Despite not having a quarterback locked in for the week, the Buffs need take Arizona State’s offense very seriously. Dillingham has employed some unorthodox methods to pick up yards so far and it’s been working fairly well. Colorado’s defense can expect a good amount of plays out of the wildcat formation and some flea-flickers this week, but they really need to prepare to stop fullback Cameron Skattebo.

Skattebo is hands down the biggest threat to CU this weekend. The junior transfer from Sacramento State is essentially ASU’s entire offense at this point. He leads Arizona State in rushing with 318 yards and is their second leading receiver with 228 yards. Dillingham even has Skattebo lining up at quarterback multiple times per game, as the fullback has 60 passing yards this season.

Skattebo is big, physical and is fully capable of running defenders over. The Colorado defense’s job this week is simple: they need to stop Skattebo. If the Buffs can find a way to halt ASU’s fullback, their entire offense will stall.

Thankfully for CU’s defense, they’ll be getting two major components back this week. Shilo Sanders and Myles Slusher should return to safety and the star position, respectively, where they join a rotation with Trevor Woods and Cam’Ron Silmon-Craig. This gives Colorado’s defensive backfield a lot more versatility to blitz and try to confuse ASU’s backup quarterbacks. Cornerback Travis Hunter will still be out this week with a liver injury, but the Buffs should be just fine with Omarion Cooper and Cormani McClain filling in at corner.

As for Colorado’s offense, this week shouldn’t be too much of a challenge. Arizona State isn’t bad on defense by many means, but they’re nothing to write home about. ASU’s biggest weakness is in the secondary. The Sun Devils aren’t particularly strong in any kind of coverage. They’re relatively soft in the zone and are getting burned in man fairly often. They even let Cal, who is a team that is notorious for not throwing the ball, have a lot of success through the air last week.

Because ASU doesn’t defend well against the pass, Colorado’s receivers are poised for a big week. The biggest receiver that CU fans should keep an eye on is freshman Omarion Miller. Miller had a breakout performance against USC last week with 196 receiving yards. If Miller can keep up his momentum and play a big part against the Sun Devils, it will solidify him as a major player within this offense.

Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders has the talent to absolutely roast ASU’s secondary, but he needs time in the pocket. Unfortunately for Shedeur, Arizona State’s biggest strength on defense is getting to the quarterback. The Sun Devils sacked USC QB Caleb Williams eight times. Colorado’s banged up offensive line is going to need to step up to protect Shedeur this week if the Buffs want to come away with a win.

The Buffs’ rushing attack seemed to find their footing last week. Running back Anthony Hankerson led CU to have significant success on the ground for the first time this season. Hopefully, Hankerson can keep his momentum going against ASU. The Sun Devils’ defensive line is pretty big and capable of stopping the run. They held Cal’s prolific rushing attack to only 196 yards last week. This week is going to be a major test for Colorado’s run game. If they can hold their own against Arizona State, it would be a very encouraging sign for the unit.

The Buffaloes have their work cut out for them this week. If they can stop Cam Skattebo and protect Shedeur, Colorado and Coach Prime should come away with a decisive win. Arizona State is a bit of a wild card though, and you never quite know what Kenny Dillingham is going to throw at you. The Buffs will fight to come away with their fourth win of the season on Saturday, Sept. 7 in Tempe. CU fans can tune into the game at 4:30 p.m. MT on Pac-12 Network.