The last of the so-called warm-up games is Saturday night against Colorado. The game also marks the beginning of Pac-12 play for the Sun Devils.
Todd Graham has never had to worry about the Buffaloes, easily defeating them in both contests since arrive at Arizona State. Here are five keys to a similar outcome this weekend.
1. Protect the football: Arizona State has done a good job of this so far, and it will need to continue on Saturday. The easiest way for an underdog to pull off an upset is to force the other team into mistakes, or worse yet have them make unforced errors. The Sun Devils have turned the ball over just once this season, and continuing that trend will make life easy this weekend.
2. Pressure the quarterback: Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau has had a relatively clean pocket so far this season, being sacked just three times through two games. The Sun Devils have also had a problem getting to the quarterback, although part of that could be blamed on playing such a run heavy time like New Mexico. Still, Arizona State needs a pass rusher or two to emerge before the UCLA game.
3. Contain on special teams: It's no secret that the Sun Devils coverage units have once again been porous this season. That can't happen against Colorado, a team with far better athletes than either Weber State or New Mexico. This could be the game were bad kick coverage comes back to haunt Arizona State.
4. Force turnovers: The Sun Devils had a streak of 29 straight games forcing a turnover snapped in week one against...Weber State. Talk about a huge letdown. Things are better now since Arizona State started a new streak against New Mexico, recovering three fumbles. Hauling in an interception or two in the thin Boulder air would be a nice confidence booster for the secondary.
5. No mental mistakes: The Sun Devils have managed to be called for four penalties totaling 30 yards in each of the first two games. They seem to get most of the penalties out of the way early, but four is right around the average since Graham arrived in 2012, and you shouldn't be playing average football against New Mexico and Weber State. Time to play a disciplined game against an inferior opponent from start to finish.