The Colorado Buffaloes (3-2, 0-1 Pac-12) are still searching for Coach Mike MacIntyre's second conference win. After being shutout in Pac-12 play last season the Buffs haven't tasted a victory since defeating California 41-24 in 2013. This week's meeting with the Arizona State Sun Devils (3-2, 1-1 Pac-12) will be a tough test on the road. The two teams met in Boulder last year and CU's offense couldn't capitalize after squandering multiple second half opportunities en route to a 38-24 loss. After ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly left with a foot injury, the Buffs outgained the Sun Devils 523-204 in the last three quarters of the contest.
CU hits the road across the four corners this year to Sun Devil Stadium, a venue that has not been kind to the Buffaloes. The heat index factor alone can take teams out of their element and force good teams into making mistakes. Arizona State has a 27-10 record at home over the past five years including seven wins against Top 25 foes and no more than two losses each season. This equals the fifteenth best winning percentage in college football over the last 50 years with a overall record of 276-100-3.
Colorado's winless all-time against the Sun Devils in six tries and has been outscored by a total of 245-85 with an average margin of victory of 43.3 points. Another loss for the Buffs would be the second longest active winning streak for ASU against a conference opponent. Head coach Todd Graham has led Arizona State to a 19-5 record at home since taking over in 2012.
Even though Colorado kept the contest close against Oregon last week, nothing could contain the Duck's ground game on the way to a 41-27 loss. On the other hand, Arizona State went toe-to-toe on with the No. 7 UCLA Bruins and pulled off upset on the road 38-23.
Sun Devils quarterback Mike Bercovici has taken over for Kelly this season and ranks 19th among passers in FBS with 1344 yards, 9 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. ASU's offense averages 438 yards per game along with 27.6 points this season mostly behind Bercovici's efforts. He's assisted by running back Demario Richard and wide receiver D.J. Foster, who are both have breakout play-making ability. Richard has eclipsed 100-yard all-purpose yards in every game. He has 508 rushing yards, 240 receiving yards on 111 touches so far this season. The back currently trails Stanford's Christian McCaffrey for the 2nd most productive output in the Pac-12.
Foster may be the Sun Devils most unique option offensively. The wideout rushed for 1,081 yards last season combined with 688 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns total. Over the course of his career as a senior at ASU, he's accumulated a total of 4,310 yards and 30 touchdowns. Many draw similarities between Foster and former CU WR Mike Pritchard for their ability to line up in the backfield.
The Buffs will need to get quarterback Sefo Liufau active in the passing game early against Arizona State's defense, who has allowed an average of 212.6 yards per game through the air. Neither Nelson Spruce or Shay Fields have tallied a 100-yard receiving game this season. The trend should continue and It's unlikely that a CU receiver will break the century mark against the Sun Devils. Compared to last year CU's offense has taken a step back through the air, except for interceptions. Liufau has made better decisions thus far in the season with the turnover total decreasing from 2014.
Sefo Liufau on the number through 5 games: 2014 to 2015
|2014 Passing Yards||2014 Touchdowns||2014 Interceptions||2015 Passing Yards||2015 Touchdowns||2015 Interceptions|
Arizona State's led on defense by senior defensive backs Jordan Simone and Lloyd Carrington, making up a top-tier secondary unit. The duo's joined on the interior by linebacker Salamo Fiso, who leads the Pac-12 in tackles for loss this season. As a whole the Sun Devils rank 59th on defense and allow an average of 369.4 total yards per game. Considering ASU is stronger in pass coverage than stopping the run, expect CU's offense to utilize the rushing attack with running backs Christian Powell and Phillip Lindsay. The Buffs currently rank 19th in the nation on the ground and average 233.0 yards per game.
Another point of emphasis for CU will be taking advantage of the turnover battle. Arizona State ranks 91st nationally in turnover margin and second to last in the Pac-12. Minus applying pressure to the quarterback, the Buffs defense has done an outstanding job forcing turnovers, averaging two per game. For CU to set themselves up in a position to win, the offense needs to construct lengthy drives and the defense needs to control the line of scrimmage.
The Colorado Buffaloes travel southwest to take on the Arizona State Sun Devils at 8 p.m. mountain and will be broadcast nationally on the Pac-12 network. The predicted conditions at game time are set at scorching 96 degrees and relatively no wind in the forecast.