ASU sits atop the Pac-12 South, but it would be premature for anyone to classify them as heavyweights. However, the Sun Devils roll into Colorado on Thursday night favored by 23 points. The projected score discrepancy can be attributed to the Buffs awful 1-4 start, yet is also a reflection of Taylor Kelly and his troops' successful five-game run.
In prior weeks, Ben's Breakdown consists of stopping certain players, scoring early, strategically tactics and more. Today's edition features a slight twist in philosophy. ASU is the clear favorite in Boulder, so I am not going to waste your time and dive into every niche regarding Colorado's mediocre personnel. To be clear, the previous statement does not mean I am overlooking Jon Embree's squad, but rather exemplifying confidence that ASU will take care of business.
This Colorado match-up has been classified as a standard trap game, with the second-ranked Oregon Ducks coming into Tempe on October 18th. Coach Graham was adamant during Monday's press conference that ASU is solely focused on Colorado. I am going to call shenanigans. Even media members are looking ahead, small talk before practice is often regarding Oregon or how much ASU will destroy Colorado by.
I am already coming up with a convoluted master plan for ASU to beat Oregon. The recipe will likely require more than three points, but let's not share all of my secrets. Although, any hype about ASU-Oregon will die off unless the Devils follow my basic guidelines to beat Colorado.
1. Play Fundamentally Sound
ASU has not turned the ball over in two games; successfully applying Coach Graham's own the ball mantra. In ASU's five contests, the results show four wins, an underlying theme between every game is the necessity to win the take away battle.
ESPN broadcasts a show called Numbers Never Lie, and all the numbers indicate ASU should handle Colorado easily. CU averages an anemic 21.6 points per game; conversely the Devils stout defense allows a mere 13.6.
Beyond the statistics, FBS athletes should not be granted additional opportunities. Colorado's sole bright spot may be their extremely efficient red-zone offense, going 12-14. Therefore, if ASU coughs the rock up or throws a pick, Buffs quarterback Jordan Webb commonly cashes in.
The Sun Devil faithful has grown accustomed to big time performances all season long. ASU's C-game is about equivalent to Colorado's A-performance, but a failing performance won't cut it.
After talking with numerous ASU's coaches during the bye, most expressed a consistent priority on fundamental principles.
"More than anything we've focused on the fundamentals of us getting better," Graham said. "And us making sure we execute our plan, that's 100-percent ball security and no penalties."
2. Take Advantage of the National Audience
Once upon a time, somebody created the phrase: A win is a win. The previous statement should not be contested, yet does not factor in some important aspects.
Because the ASU-Colorado duel is on ESPN, potential recruits across the country may be watching. The network is carried in approximately 100-million homes across the U.S.A.
According to Graham, tight ends are expressing more interest as they witness Chris Coyle's magic. People need to realize something specific like that may go unnoticed without a platform to tune in on. That is just one simple example of how ASU has benefited from national exposure.
Families in California and Texas obviously do not get Fox Sports Arizona. As a result, nights like Thursday are valuable and rare.
Regardless of facing a lousy opponent, ASU should make themselves look good by channeling their inner Harlem Globetrotters. I am not condoning going "off the heezy" but would not mind a flashy "high octane" performance.
3. Leave Colorado Healthy
The back half of the Sun Devils schedule is daunting: at Colorado, vs. Oregon, at Oregon State, vs. UCLA, at USC, vs. Washington State and at Arizona. Besides CU, WSU and maybe UCLA, every other game is a coin toss at best.
Depth continues to be ASU's biggest issue, adding extra importance on remaining healthy. Other top programs are blessed with amazing four and five-star backups. ASU practically has a fighter's chance weekly, but one torn ACL or broken arm could derail their surprising season.
On the bright side, ASU is optimistic and deservedly so. Ideally, the Sun Devils jump out to a big lead, enabling Graham to pull starters before fourth quarter action begins.
Prediction Time: ASU over Colorado 52-10