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Colorado Buffaloes vs. Arizona State Sun Devils: Enemy intel & 3 key stats

Ralphie Report talks with Josh Nacion of House of Sparky about the game with the Buffaloes.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Well, at least CU is on the road. PAC-12 road teams are 9-2 in conference play so far, and hopefully it's the Buffs' turn to spoil the party. However, Tempe in October is still way too hot, and this Sun Devils team is still way too good. Todd Graham's squad is coming off a convincing win against a good UCLA team, and their physicality up front looks to wreak havoc with CU's depleted front lines on both sides of the ball. So, because this is a crazy conference, the best thing CU has going for it is the fact that it's on the road. Logically. I talked with Josh Nacion of House of Sparky to get a closer look at this Arizona State team.

You can check out our answers to their questions over at House of Sparky.

Mike Bercovici was talked about before the season as an upper-echelon quarterback in the conference. Has he lived up to the billing? How does he compare to Taylor Kelly?

So far, not really, but he's improving. The problem with Bercovici is he's a pocket-style quarterback. Offensive coordinator Mike Norvell's scheme is a quick, uptempo style with read-option elements that requires the quarterback to be mobile in order for the offense successful. Up until UCLA last week, Bercovici had failed to establish himself as a runner and create a rhythm on the offense, but most of the fans and media blamed Norvell for those problems.

Kalen Ballage hails from the great state of Colorado and was a near-miss on the recruiting trail for the Buffs. He has been making recent headlines with his monster run against UCLA. Are ASU fans excited about his potential and how bad should CU fans feel about losing him?

Sorry, Buffs fans, but Ballage has a chance to be one of the best running backs in the country in about a year. Ballage recently returned after missing the first three weeks of the season due to mononucleosis, and he finally started to show his potential with that "moonwalk" touchdown run against UCLA. He was trucking over his own teammates in fall camp before he got sick, and his combination of power and speed has been extraordinary. Oh, by the way, ASU is also looking to turn him into a pass rusher on defense, as well as being a filthy running back and a dangerous returner on special teams.

Todd Graham’s defenses are always uber-attacking and create a lot of havoc. What’s the best way to attack this defense?

Run a quick play that could go for 15 yards or more whenever he sends an all-out blitz. Graham loves to blitz, and he seems to not call anything else on third-and-long. It's how Texas A&M and USC kept their offenses on the field when they beat ASU.

Who’s a name CU fans should know on offense? What about defense?

Tim White has been ASU's biggest surprise on offense at wide receiver so far. He's a JUCO transfer who joined the team late in fall camp and didn't play in the Sun Devils' season opener against Texas A&M, but he's caught touchdowns in three of his last four games. Linebacker Salamo Fiso has been easily the Sun Devils' most consistent player on defense. He's not a flashy player at all, but he gets the job done by always being around the ball and making excellent tackles. Phillip Lindsey, Christian Powell and Michael Adkins III will likely see him a lot on Saturday.

How do you see this game playing out in Tempe and what is ASU’s perception of the Buffs this year?

I think ASU will win by at least three touchdowns, but I'd be surprised if the Sun Devils blow out Colorado right from the start. They might have some problems establishing a rhythm in their first couple of series, but they'll eventually figure it out. As for the team itself, Graham said he highly respects Mike MacIntyre, and no one on the team will say this is an easy win. As for media and fans, they've actually been giving Colorado a little bit more credit in the past, especially after the Buffaloes gave Oregon a lot of fits last week. Sun Devil Nation was hitting the panic button before the UCLA game because ASU wasn't playing nowhere near its potential (and still isn't, yet), so not many fans are calling this an easy blowout over the Buffs.

Three Key Stats

Stat profiles- ASU and CU. S+P Ranking: CU-104th. Arizona State-51st.

1.CU Rushing IsoPPP (explosiveness)-0.96 (ranked 106th)

ASU LB Havoc Rate (The percentage of plays in which a linebacker either recorded a tackle for loss, forced a fumble, or defensed a pass (intercepted or broken up))- 4.7% (ranked 9th)

CU LB Havoc Rate- 1.3 (ranked 113%)

ASU Rushing IsoPPP- 1.2 (ranked 22nd)

2. ASU Passing IsoPPP (Explosiveness)- 1.83 on defense (ranked 120th)

CU Passing IsoPPP- 1.34 on offense (ranked 98th)

3. ASU Finishing Drives (one of the Five Factors)-  4.18 on offense (ranked 103rd)

CU Finishing Drives- 3.96 on defense (ranked 35th)

As you can see, the first stat bodes terribly for our mighty Buffaloes. ASU's linebackers are very good at making plays behind the backfield, and CU's running backs are very bad in the second level and beyond. This equals a pretty ineffective running game for the Buffs. There will be very little in the way of chunk plays, and even less so in game-breakers. Not a good start for an upset.

Now, let's look at the semi bright side. According to these advanced stats, ASU is not great at preventing big plays through the air, and while CU isn't great, they have shown the ability to go deep. Sefo Liufau is going to need to use his better shoulder to really launch some bombs, and launch them well, because an ultra-attacking defense like Graham needs a reason to pause sometimes. They will give up the big play, it's part of the defense, CU just has to make sure they do it more often than not. Finally, some hope for Buff nation. Leavitt's squad has proven surprisingly stout in the red zone, bumping up their Finishing Drive stat to 35th in the country. They know how to prevent points. On the other side, it seems like the Sun Devils drop a few every chance they get. Get a few turnovers, make a few long touchdowns, and watch CU roll (it won't happen).