Coming off one of the best seasons in program history in 2016, the Colorado Buffaloes (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12) got off to an equally hot start this season. The Buffs won their first three games easily, but not one of those opponents was in a power five conference.
Upon entering conference play in week four of the season, Colorado embarked upon a three game losing streak dropping consecutive games to Washington, UCLA and Arizona.
Since that losing streak, the Buffs have looked decent at times and abysmal at others with a tight win over Oregon State, a 28-0 thrashing at the hands of Washington State, and a sound win over California.
Head coach Mike MacIntyre and his Buffaloes will look to keep their momentum rolling from last week’s home win over Cal this week in Tempe, and if they are to do so, here’s who you might want to keep an eye on:
Steven Montez - Sophomore QB
Last season it was Colorado standout quarterback Sefo Liufau that was supposed to take the spotlight but after injury troubles it was Steven Montez who made something of a name for himself as a freshman. Although he only started three games, he played in nine and went 2-1 as a starter. Last season Montez completed just shy of 60 percent of his passes for 1,078 yards and nine touchdowns. This season he has somewhat flown under the radar but is having another good year. He has increased his completion numbers completing 63.3 percent of his passes this season, and he has eclipsed 2,000 passing yards and has just shy of 250 rushing yards good for 15 touchdowns through the air, two more on the ground and one receiving touchdown. The El Paso native didn’t see any playing time in last year’s matchup against ASU, but will likely be a huge factor for the Sun Devil defense to keep an eye on. Coming off last week’s domination at the hands of Sam Darnold the secondary will need to have a bounce back week or Montez will make them pay as well.
Phillip Lindsay - Senior RB
Colorado has a relatively balanced attack on offense, but tends to lean a little bit more on the run. A weapon like Phillip Lindsay allows them to do so and do so successfully. Lindsay has already rushed for 1,254 yards this season, good for two more than he rushed for all of last year on just 240 attempts, which is four less than last season. He has scored 10 times on the ground and once through the air showing his versatility out of the backfield for the Buffs. Over his four years at Colorado, Lindsay has rushed for 3,550 yards on 703 carries good for just over five yards a carry in his career. The Aurora, Colorado native has also scored 35 touchdowns in a Colorado uniform, making him one of the all time greats in Boulder.
When ASU met up with the Buffs last season in Colorado’s 40-16 home win, Lindsay rushed for 219 yards and three touchdowns, a trend the Sun Devil defense would like to avoid this time around. However, after the havoc Ronald Jones Jr. wreaked last week with his 216 yards and two touchdowns it raises questions about ASU’s ability to effectively stop the run. The Devils will need to tackle much better this week or Lindsay will gladly pick up the torch Jones left last week and run all over the Phil Bennet’s defense.
Evan Worthington - Junior DB
After sitting out the entire 2016 season for breaking team rules, Evan Worthington has come back with a vengeance this season. Worthington has racked up 62 total tackles to this point including the 12 he got against Oregon State. The Aurora, Colorado native also has a team-leading three interceptions on the season and seven pass breakups. ASU quarterback Manny Wilkins did manage to throw for 259 yards and a touchdown last weekend against USC, but 117 of those yards came on two passes between his 70-yard hook up with N’Keal Harry and the half-ending 47-yard Hail Mary to Kyle Williams. Worthington will likely be keeping his eye on Sun Devil standout wide receiver N’Keal Harry this weekend, and if Wilkins wants to succeed this week he’ll need to keep his eye on Worthington.
With both teams on the cusp of bowl eligibility heading into the home stretch of the season, this weekend’s matchup should prove crucial for both programs.