Here we are, folks. Here is the first game on the Pac-12 slate, against a team that's given us all sorts of trouble. Since we have joined the "Conference of Champions", we have lost to ASU by a combined point differential of 153-44 the past 4 games. I expect that trend to continue, but I think the Sun Devils will not find it as easy this time around.
I'm gonna keep this short, as I did a review of the UMass game here. I recently watched this game again, and the 1st quarter was a dismal affair. We missed plays, our blocking (especially the right side, including the tight end) was rough, and it was just an all around uninspired performance. The 2nd quarter was an automatic improvement, and save the drive from hell at the end of the half, both units played reasonably well. It's like Coach Baer and Lindgren both figured out at the same time that playcall variation is a good thing. They really turned it on at the end of the game. The 4th quarter, when the game looked out hand, is when the Buffs took it to UMass. The defense looked live, the offense looked creative, and the players looked like they were having fun.
This is one of the best offenses we will face all year. They are led by dynamic quarterback Taylor Kelly, and they have stars at each skill position with D.J. Foster and Jalen Strong. This already struggling defense will have its hands full. I predict that ASU will go option heavy, at least at the start, to test the Buffs weak edges on the defensive front, and as we all know, a strong running game opens up everything else. Our own Patrick Ghidossi did a wonderful breakdown of our defensive front's job here. Greg Henderson will have to step his game up to stop Strong. Disappointing through the first two games, Henderson should look this elite test of his ability and step up big. However, there's a lot of "should" and "if" on this team. This is a sticky situation for the Buffs, this offense is big time. This offensive line came along a lot better than most expected, and Colorado's own Kalen Ballage has found his place as a goal line back. Excuse me while I go sob, put on some Dido, and think about what could've been.
More ASU Coverage
Colorado is not the only team that has a plethora of youth on defense. ASU has almost as many underclassmen starters/contributors that we do, and we should be able to attack this unit early. They lost Will Sutton, along with a ridiculous amount of senior starters, so the Buffaloes should be able to push them around a little bit easier. Looking for a big name on this defense is hard to do, as most of the players haven't been out on the field long enough to gain a reputation. However, almost every other team in the Pac-12 replenishes talent faster than Colorado does, so this defense could cause some problems. They haven't done too horribly in their first two games, giving up an average of 18.5 against some pretty low ranked teams (Weber State and New Mexico). Then again, Colorado is a pretty lowly regarded team itself. I trust Sefo to move this offense against the Sun Devils.
CU's Oline vs. ASU's Dline - Advantage: Push. CU's offensive line has been doing well this year, but now they face their first true test. ASU is no Stanford or Washington, but this defensive line is an athletic bunch and the "Devilbacker" may cause some problems.
ASU's Oline vs. CU's Dline - Advantage: ASU. The Sun Devils' offensive line has come together very well so far, and CU's defensive line has not. Expect our guys up front to be pushed around a little bit. I hope that Tim Coleman and De'jon Wilson get most of the snaps for us at DE, they brought energy and stoutness to a unit that desperately needs both.
CU's QB vs. ASU's DB's - Advantage: Slightly CU. Sefo Liufau is coming up against a young secondary, and through the first two games it looks like he should be able to move the ball at will. I'm hesitant to completely give the advantage to No.13, because it seems like CU should not be able to win any matchup with ASU with ease.
ASU's QB vs. CU's DB's - Advantage: ASU. Taylor Kelly should be able to abuse this disappointing unit. Unless he has an off day, expect a big numbers day for the leader in Tempe.
CU's Skill Players (WR, TE, RB) vs. ASU's Back 7 (LB's and DB's) - Advantage: CU. This is the one matchup I'm confident that the Buffs will win. Spruce should have another nice day, Fields may top the 100-yard mark, and Bryce Bobo should build on his UMass play. And that's just the wide receivers. Tony Jones, Christian Powell, and Michael Adkins should be able to find ample yards.
ASU's Skill Players vs. CU's Back 7 - Advantage: ASU. It's not close to close. Foster and Strong should have excellent days against Colorado, and Ballage (*sobs*) should get a lot of play infront of his family.
Special Teams - Advantage:Slightly ASU. Neither of these units have been impressive, but only one has been absolutely awful. Special shout-out to Darragh O'Neil, who is leading the nation in punter tackles. That should tell you everything you need to know about this team.
This game needs to be about a moral victory for the Buffs. This game should be handily won by ASU, but Mike MacIntyre has to show his fans (and a large contingent of big name recruits) that this team can be competitive in the Pac-12. I'll say the final score is 37-20 ASU, which is actually a fairly big improvement over earlier installments of this series. CU needs to show growth, and if that happens, I'll be happy with this game.