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ASU Football: Storylines to watch against Colorado

One big development we are all watching

NCAA Football: Arizona State at Stanford D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

There are no more excuses for interim head coach Shaun Aguano.

No, that is not an indictment of his job performance, but after stepping into the position to face three-straight ranked opponents, Aguano and ASU (2-5, 1-3 Pac-12) travel to Colorado (1-6, 1-3 Pac-12) as favorites for the first time in conference play this year. If he wants to remain a competitive candidate, the Colorado game is a must win.

Last week’s loss to Stanford opened up the door for a quarterback competition between Emory Jones and Trenton Bourguet. As of Saturday morning, the team knows who is starting, but it is yet to be reported. All eyes are on the quarterback.

On top of that, the Buffaloes are the worst team in the conference. There is no putting it lightly. This is a measuring stick game for the Sun Devils. Here are all the storylines we are watching in Saturday night’s game.

How drastically is the offensive game plan going to change? How much of that is dictated by quarterback?

In Aguano’s weekly presser on Monday, he said he would be “very, very, very involved with the offense going forward in regards to play calling and everything else.” Sun Devil Source of reported Tuesday that Aguano will be taking over offensive play calling duties against Colorado. Until this point, offensive coordinator Glenn Thomas was in charge of the script.

During media viewing in Monday’s practice, the quarterbacks split reps with the first team and ran similar combinations. In the short team-period during Wednesday’s practice, Jones took the starting reps, and Bourguet worked with the backups.

It is worth noting again that this was only during the open-portions of practice, and the coaching staff knows that those sessions are heavily-reported by local media. Deception could be in play here.

It makes more sense to tailor the offensive game plan to the quarterback, especially when they offer two different skillsets. Bourguet ran Thomas’s offense well in the Washington game when he threw for three touchdowns. If he starts, how drastically do you change that playbook? If it is Jones, what does Aguano see in him that is currently untapped?

UPDATE: Per the pregame radio broadcast, Trenton Bourguet will get the start.

It will also be interesting to see how Aguano, the former running backs coach, utilizes X Valladay and Daniyel Ngata. Will Ngata finally earn the carry-share increase to match his 5.9 yards per-carry? I see Ngata having a massive day.

Can Ed Woods solidify himself as the No. 2 base corner?

Ro Torrance proved he is the No. 1 corner after re-entering lockdown mode after returning from injury a few weeks ago. The veteran Timarcus Davis has been less-than-impressive in a handful of starts. Isaiah Johnson, who was one positive defensively in the 34-13 loss to Utah, can’t seem to stay in good enough standing with the coaching staff to stay on the field. Keon Markham is no longer with the program.

This opened the door last week for Ed Woods to make his second start of the season. Woods made nine tackles (seven solo), sacked Tanner McKee, and broke up a pass.

“When people go down, you got to get somebody else to step up,” defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson said. “You know the whole cliche about the next man up. So, obviously, this is probably one of the better game they’ve played performance-wise. I was thrilled to see how they played as a group really when they came down to play on those bigger receivers and how physical the game was.”

The six-foot, 180-pound corner is a former three-star recruit from Oakland that held his own against receivers four inches taller than him, all taking place in his home region of the Bay Area. It’s a cliche, but nothing short of a breakout game for Woods.

How will he follow it up against Colorado?

What does “win at all costs” mean for Aguano?

“This one,” Aguano said, “It is win by all costs.”

Aguano knows that this game is a must-win, both for the program’s legitimacy, and for his own as a future head coaching candidate. He mentioned Monday that ASU was going to go for the conversion on the fourth-quarter 4th-and-11 at Stanford before committing a delay of game penalty. Expect some conservative calls on third-downs to set up more manageable fourth-down attempts should ASU get behind the chains.

Are onside kicks in the equation? What about going for two? It is tough to justify keeping special teams off the field when they are controlling the field-position game, and are a threat from most field goal distances. Special teams is this team’s best phase, no matter how much it hurts to watch for fans.

Maybe, just maybe, fullback and captain Case Hatch is on the positive end of some trickery that puts him in the end zone for the first time in his career.