ASU FOOTBALL vs COLORADO is upon us. Here’s a fast review of where the Sun Devils stand.
The offense and special teams came alive against UCLA last week, and the team that Sun Devil Nation has been patiently waiting for showed up big in a 38-23 win. Due to Washington’s 17-12 upset of USC, ASU is now firmly back in the Pac-12 South race.
A huge game against undefeated Utah looms next week but first, Colorado descends upon Tempe in what many believe to be a trap game for the Devils.
It’s imperative for ASU to maintain their current momentum, work out a few kinks, and handle business in the annual “blackout” game.
Here are the four players/ positions that will play major roles in the outcome of Saturday’s game.
ASU on Offense: Sophomore RB Kalen Ballage
Last week Ballage had what may have been the play of the week in all of college football with a 4th quarter, rumbling 23-yard TD run (with the help of most of his teammates) to seal the victory for ASU. The sophomore RB had multiple runs throughout the game that highlighted his physical prowess, and gave us all a glimpse of what type of weapon he may be after his rebound from mononucleosis.
The two-headed RB monster of Ballage and Demario Richard clearly took a ton of pressure off of QB Mike Bercovici last week, and the Sun Devil offense now has a new dimension that we had yet to see until rolling in Pasadena.
Look for much more of the same this week with ASU wanting to wear down the CU front seven and open the play-action passing game for the Devils.
Colorado on Defense: CU Front Seven
The Buffaloes’ defense has (unexpectedly) become a turnover-causing machine.
The ability to slow down the ASU’s running game, a strength so far this season, will be key for any success that CU has in this game. The tandem of DE/OLB Derek McCartney, DL Justin Solis, and LB Addison Gillam will have to force ASU into long down-and-distance situations in order for the Devils to utilize their passing game which is just now coming into its own.
The Buffaloes’ defense has (unexpectedly) become a turnover-causing machine this season. If their front 7 can force ASU QB Mike Bercovici into several 3rd and long situations, Colorado’s secondary can key on the few reliable receivers that ASU has depended on.
It really comes down to the ASU OL vs the CU front 7 in determining if the Buffaloes can stay in this game as 16.5 point underdogs. I see the ASU running game being far too much for the Buff’s defense to handle, but ball security will still be a big key.
Colorado on Offense: Junior QB Sefo Liufau
The Buff’s QB has been nursing a shoulder injury, and CU will look to keep him upright after seeing the ASU Hell’s Gate defense consistently get to UCLA QB Josh Rosen last week.
ASU gave up over 500 yards of offense to CU last season, so we know that the Buffs understand their defensive scheme. The Buffaloes will try to exploit perceived weaknesses and get into favorable mismatches.
Liufau has RB Phillip Lindsay, an above-average receiver that will give him a much-needed safety-valve out of the backfield when under duress. Also, Liufau has his own ability to scramble and extend plays.
Keep close look on how CU blocks ASU’s front 7, and if Liufau responds well by executing some misdirection to keep the ever-aggressive Devils off balance. Trick plays may be a tool that Colorado’s offense employs against ASU’s pursuit and any lapses in coverage.
ASU on Defense: Junior LB Salamo Fiso
The front seven of the Sun Devil “Hell’s Gate” defense has handled business all season by stuffing any potential running game of their opponents. Fiso has matured into an ultra-physical “quarterback on defense,” and has become more of a student of the game. At the rate he’s going, we believe that he’s on target to earn All-Pac-12 honors.
With all that being said, if ASU forces Colorado into 3rd and long situations, the Buffaloes will need to test Fiso at his ever-improving ability to drop into coverage on short to medium routes. NOTE: CU is nicked up along their offensive line, which could provide more opportunity for ASU to keep QB Sefo Liufau uncomfortable. It’s certainly something to keep an eye on.
Although Colorado rolls into Tempe with a winning record for the first time since landing in the Pac, this still shapes up as a game that the Devils lack the energy they showed last week in Pasadena. After all, a big showdown with Utah is just seven days away.
At this point in the season, ASU needs to keep firm pressure on that proverbial gas pedal and pick up more momentum going down the stretch of the conference schedule.