ASU vs. Colorado: Haber's Hunches

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Will the ASU offense avoid another slow start to Colorado? Can Osahon Irabor slow down Paul Richardson? How many sacks will Carl Bradford, Will Sutton and company post?

With Todd Graham at the helm, the term trap game seems irrelevant. Regardless of the clear talent advantage for Arizona State over Colorado, Graham requires the preparation to maintain status quo. Last year's battle between these teams wasn't supposed to be close, but before the eventual blowout, it was a nail bitter at half-time.

The Buffaloes come into Tempe practically desperate to win, because falling to 0-3 in conference may already signal the end of the road for 2013. The Sun Devils must approach the matchup with the same intensity.

Even though ASU fans are upset about the loss to Notre Dame, the 3-2 start could've been significantly worse. I wouldn't question the Sun Devils' ability to bounce back from adverse situations. The Sun Devils lost four straight games in 2012 and managed to turn it around to win three straight to close out the season. There will be no hangover effect against Colorado.

The famous Haber's Hunches went under .500 last week (1-2). Chris Coyle wasn't nearly as involved as I expected and Tommy Rees surprisingly outplayed Taylor Kelly. Conversely, the run defense play slightly better, making sure I avoided complete humiliation for the week. On the season, my Hunches are 10-5, which is a solid .667 winning percentage.

It's time for ASU and my Hunches to get back on track.

First Hunch: The ASU offense will avoid another slow start to Colorado (score at least 17 first quarter points)

Colorado has kept it close in the first quarter, getting outscored 39-30. I believe that statistic will appear much worse after Mike Norvell's offense gets its turn. Between the Sun Devils awful lingering taste of defeat and the Buffaloes struggles on defense, Taylor Kelly will guide his team to a plethora of points early and often.

The Oregon Ducks tallied 29 points against Colorado in the opening fifteen minutes last week. I'm not comparing the Oregon offense to the ASU offense, obviously Marcus Mariota and the second ranked team in the nation are more lethal. Yet if the Ducks accumulated 29 points, it's logical to assume the Sun Devils accumulate at least 17 points.

Playmakers like D.J. Foster and Chris Coyle are ready to break out. Meanwhile, the usual stars, Marion Grice and Jaelen Strong will continue to make routine trips to pay dirt. Kelly has plenty of weapons to chose from, which should overwhelm and confuse the Buffaloes defense.

Since the arrival of Norvell, ASU consistently sits around the top 15 offenses in the country. Combine that potency with Colorado surrendering an atrocious 38 points per game, and it will be very one-sided.

For the Sun Devils offense to prove me right, Evan Finkenberg and the linemen need to slow down Chidera Uzo-Diribe. The 6-foot-3 250-pound defensive end can wreak havoc in the backfield, so he will require extra attention.

Second Hunch: Will Sutton, Carl Bradford and the ASU defense will get at least 4 sacks

Colorado has allowed eight sacks to date, averaging two per game. Between Oregon, Oregon State and more, none of those defensive lines are as good as the Sun Devils. In addition, Paul Randolph brings more pressure than almost any coordinator in the nation, which should be troublesome for an okay Colorado offensive line.

We are all waiting for Will Sutton and Carl Bradford to sack quarterbacks like they did in 2012. Opponents are wisely getting rid of the ball quicker and turning to screen passes to slow down the ASU pass rush. Connor Wood isn't mobile enough to escape pressure, granting Sutton and Bradford plenty of chances for sacks.

Saturday should be the ideal chance for Sutton to shut down the negative talks about his weight gain. Bradford has been in the backfield often, yet quarterbacks are releasing the football slightly before he can bring them down.

It's reasonable to assume Connor Wood and the Buffaloes offense will be playing from behind. By doing so, they will be forced to become one dimensional and pass nearly every down. One dimensional offenses can't prevail against ASU, allowing the Sun Devils to pin their heels back and rack up sack after sack.

Final Hunch: Paul Richardson hauls in over 100 yards and at least one touchdown

Let's give credit where credit is due: Paul Richardson is clearly one of the best wide receivers in the country. Notre Dame's T.J. Jones posted eight receptions, 135 yards and one touchdown against ASU. Jones isn't as good as Richardson, meaning Richardson will have an excellent performance even if his team gets dismantled.

Richardson doesn't receive enough recognition because of the weak Colorado program. Through four games, he has 621 yards and five touchdowns. Richardson lacks the physical stature like Jaelen Strong, but makes up for his average 6-foot-1 170-pound frame with game changing speed and crisp route running.

The Los Angeles native should get stronger as the season progresses; as Richardson gains more trust in his knee after tearing his ACL last year. If the 2013 season ended today, his numbers would already be career highs. The old cliche about coming back stronger appears to be true for Richardson.

Osahon Irabor will matchup against Richardson on most snaps, but depending on the formation, Robert Nelson may be asked to take on the daunting responsibility. Irabor, the potential All-Pac-12 cornerback, will make Richardson earn every yard and nothing will be easy. On the contrary, anytime Nelson lines up across from Richardson, it'll be eerily similar to stealing candy from a baby. Okay, maybe not that easy, but Richardson will expose Nelson or Lloyd Carrington.

If ASU takes care of business and covers the 26-point spread, Richardson will be frustrated. The presumed score differential should create an abundance of garbage time. Therefore, Richardson will at least put up numbers once the Sun Devils begin playing prevent defense.

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