Creative run play and RPO (Run/Pass Options) will be ASU’s staple in this game
ASU is in a three-way tie for first place in the Pac-12 South Division with Utah and this week’s opponent, Colorado. In what has become a recurring theme during the Todd Graham era, the Sun Devils bounced back after a blowout loss to upend a favored team the following week.
Today, someone is going to emerge as a favorite to win the division.
ASU on Offense
Coach Graham has stated that he expects starter Manny Wilkins to play tonight, but expect to see true freshman Dillon Sterling-Cole take the field as well. Having suffered a high ankle sprain just two weeks ago, Wilkins’ mobility will be affected when he takes snaps.
Expect to see a simplified game plan in order to account for Wilkins’ injury and Dillon Sterling-Cole’s inexperience. Although the ASU rushing attack has stalled over the past two weeks, Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage will be leaned upon to carry the offensive attack.
Creative run play and RPO (Run/Pass Options) will be ASU’s staple in this game. Much like last week, the Devils will count on bubble screens, slip screens, slants, and RB wheel routes to gain several yards on first and second downs. Success on these early downs will keep ASU out of 3rd and long situations.
More so than ever, the offensive line must earn their keep in this game by opening holes for the running backs. Expect to see some Sparky formation looks with Ballage taking snaps and getting run lanes to the outside. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a few trick plays come out of the vault if the run/short pass game stalls.
ASU on Defense
The Devils gave up over 400 yards through the air against UCLA last week and continue to rank dead last in the country in pass defense. However, the Hell’s Gate defense limited UCLA to just 1 yard rushing. Open field tackling improved, but still, the Bruins had a few explosive plays.
One key to ASU’s strides on D was the insertion of Marcus Ball at the Bandit Safety position (as addressed in our UCLA pre-game article). Ball was an intimidating force with 10 jarring tackles and an interception, garnering him Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week.
Emerging pass rush superstar, Koron Crump, was a menace at UCLA, and will be counted on again against the Buffaloes to wreak havoc in the backfield. The “bend, but don’t break” ASU defense will have to contain either QB Sefo Liufau or Steven Montez, both of which are very athletic. The Sun Devils will employ their usual zone cover shells and attempt to keep everything in front of them.
CU on Offense
Knowing that ASU’s front seven is an elite run-stopping group, the Buffalos will use a lot of play-action to keep the Devil linebackers honest in their reads. This could leave ASU vulnerable to slants and intermediate routes behind them. Whichever athletic QB is at the helm for Colorado, a lot of bootleg and misdirection plays will be called upon in an attempt get a fast and aggressive ASU defense going in the wrong direction.
Big plays have been the staple of Colorado so far this season. The Buffs are hoping to exploit the inexperienced ASU secondary with longer pass plays, and they have the athletes at WR to take advantage of coverage breakdowns.
CU on Defense
Expect the Buffalos to stack the box with 8-man fronts to force ASU to throw the ball. Led by two senior cornerbacks who can both be left in man-to-man coverage, Colorado has this ability. Massive Nose Tackle Josh Tupou will do his part to shut down many potential running lanes for ASU today. This game does not set up to be the high-scoring shootout that we’ve seen this year.
— The Denver Post (@denverpost) September 29, 2016
After having been the conference doormat since joining the Pac-12, CU is loaded with experience and talent that is now coming to fruition. This Colorado team is a legitimate contender for ASU.
Who’s ready for battle?