“T.I.P.S.” for Buffs v. Sun Devils

Colorado finished September with a 4-0 record, and has entered the polls as the No. 21 team in the nation (AP poll; No. 22 in USA Today/coaches’ poll).

Arizona State? Been there; done that.

After knocking off No. 15 Michigan State in Week Two, the 2-0 Sun Devils entered the poll at No. 23.

A week later, after losing to San Diego State, 28-21, Arizona State fell right back out of the poll (the Sun Devils had two votes in the most recent poll, tied with Appalachian State for 40th place).

If Colorado is going to be anything more than a “one week wonder” in the national spotlight, the Buffs are going to have to take out Arizona State this Saturday, before what cold be close to a full house (over 47,000 tickets sold as of Monday) …


This week’s “T.I.P.S.” for CU v. Arizona State … Saturday, 2:00 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Networks


T – Talent 

Colorado has faced two Power Five conference teams thus far in the 2018 season.

Both of those teams – Nebraska and UCLA – started true freshmen quarterbacks against the Buffs.

The CU defense won’t be so lucky Saturday, as Arizona State brings to town senior quarterback Manny Wilkins. Wilkins threw for 3,270 yards and 20 touchdowns last season, and has over 1,200 yards (with a 10-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio) so far this fall.

Wilkins’ favorite target wears No. 1 on his jersey, and will attract a great deal of attention from the CU secondary on Saturday.

Colorado may have a first-team All-Pac-12 wide receiver candidate in Laviska Shenault, but Arizona State has a preseason first-team All-Pac-12 wide receiver on its roster.

That wide receiver is the 6-foot-4, 215-pound N’Keal Harry. Last year, in ASU’s come-from-behind 41-30 victory Harry had six catches for 81 yards and a score.  This season, Harry has 31 catches for 419 yards and five touchdowns.

“He’s a big-time target,” defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said. “He’s one of those guys, even if you have him covered he finds a way to catch it. He uses his length and his size to body you up. You have to be ready for him.”

As good as the Sun Devils can be at the passing game, new head coach Herm Edwards wants to establish a team which first and foremost is known for running the ball.

“Wherever I’ve been, we run the ball,” said Herm Edwards at his press conference this week. “I grew up in an era when running the football is important … it travels well. It’s really hard to mess that one up. The ball’s not heavy – that’s my philosophy … I just like running. It’s fun to watch … Just run it, and see what happens …”.

Last week against Oregon State, the Sun Devils did just that. Eno Benjamin went for a school-record 312 yards on 30 carries as ASU handled the Beavers, 52-24.

Simply put, if the Buffs want to win Saturday, they must first stop the ASU rushing attack.

On defense, Arizona State plays an aggressive, attacking style. The Sun Devils are 18th in the nation in tackles for loss (8.2 per game) and they are tied for fifth in the nation in sacks, with 18. Five different Arizona State defenders have at least two sacks, led by three from freshman linebacker Merlin Robertson.

And yet, the Sun Devils are also susceptible to the run. While overshadowed by Benjamin’s efforts, Oregon State running back Jermar Jefferson went for 254 yards and two touchdowns against Arizona State last weekend.

Look for Travon McMillian to try and post his fourth 100-yard rushing game in five tries this fall, which would make him the first running back at Colorado to accomplish that feat since Rashaan Salaam in 1994.

I – Intangibles

Colorado is 4-0, the only team in the Pac-12 to emerge from September with an unblemished record.

The Buffs entered the national polls this week, coming in at No. 21 in the Associated Press poll; No. 22 in the USA Today/coaches’ poll.

And yet the Buffs and their coaches are down-playing the achievement.

Said Mike MacIntyre on being ranked: “I haven’t said anything to the team about it. And not one of the players has said anything to me about it … Honestly, we know if we take care of our next game and our next game, we’ll keep moving up … It is good for recruiting, though, because those kids look at that. But for this team and what we’re doing, no one has said a word about it.”

Quarterback Steven Montez was of the same mind set. When asked at the Tuesday press conference about entering the rankings, Montez said, “Shhhhh… we have to keep that real quiet. Only people in this room know we’re ranked. We have no idea. We’re just going to act like we’re not ranked and keep putting in the same work we’re been putting in. It doesn’t get us to our end goal.”

What the Buffs are willing to talk about, and are focusing their attention on, is the meltdown which occurred in Sun Devil stadium last November. Colorado had a 27-17 lead over Arizona State at the end of the third quarter, but, after a fourth quarter 24-3 blitzkrieg by the Sun Devils, walked out with a 41-30 loss.

“We are absolutely going to remember what happened down there last year,” said senior linebacker Drew Lewis. “We are taking this personal. We can’t let that happen again. We have to stay strong for all four quarters.”

A team which is not full of itself after joining the national rankings, and yet is playing with a chip on its shoulder after blowing a two-score lead to the Sun Devils last fall?

A good combination.

P – Preparation/Schedule 

Colorado and Arizona State have had divergent schedules to date.

The Buffs, as we know, had a bye week after finishing non-conference play. The Sun Devils, meanwhile, will already be at the midway point in their schedule this weekend, coming to Boulder with a 3-2 (1-1) record to date.

While the Buffs head off to Los Angeles to play USC next weekend, Arizona State finally gets its week off.

Advantage … Colorado … or Arizona State? Are the Buffs better off having had a week off since the start of Fall Camp (with the Sun Devils having gone non-stop since the 1st of August), or are the Sun Devils better off having a week off to look forward to?

Oh, and not for nothing … CU got an extra two days to focus on the Sun Devils. The Buffs played last Friday night, while the Sun Devils had to play on Saturday night. Arizona State also has to travel this week, while the Buffs are at home.

While the preparation advantages for the Buffs may be arguable, the Pac-12 schedule makers did – unwittingly – do the 2018 Colorado team a huge favor.

Last year, the Buffs struggled during non-conference play. Sure, Colorado was 3-0, but had a tough time putting away the likes of CSU (17-3), Texas State (37-3, but only 14-0 at halftime), and Northern Colorado (41-21, but 28-21 in the third quarter).

The first Pac-12 game of the 2017 season was billed as a rematch, with the Buffs taking on Washington. The Huskies had beaten the Buffs in the 2016 Pac-12 championship game, and the home game against the No. 7 Huskies was a chance at redemption.

Final score: No. 7 Washington 37, Colorado 10.


The Buffs never really recovered, losing the next two games in frustrating fashion (UCLA, 27-23; Arizona, 45-42), with the season spiraling down to a 2-7 conference record, 5-7 overall.

This season, the season offers the Buffs a stair-step approach to conference play. UCLA offered the easiest Pac-12 opponent not named Oregon State, followed by another home game against a mid-level team in Arizona State, before the Buffs head off to La-La land to try and break a 12-game losing streak to USC.

Get past Arizona State, and a bowl game is almost guaranteed … and the Buffs can set their sights on higher goals.

S – Statistics

CU sophomore wide receiver Laviska Shenault continues to lead the nation in both receptions per game (38, or 9.5/game) and receiving yards per game (581, or 145.3/game).

Colorado, with Steven Montez connecting on three-quarters of his attempts, continues to lead the nation in pass completion percentage.

Arizona State, meanwhile, is strong in a few disconcerting areas:

  • No. 3 in the nation in turnovers lost, with only two turnovers in its in five games of the season. ASU running backs have gone 24 straight games without a fumble);
  • No. 18 in tackles for loss (8.2/game), while Colorado is 114th in the nation in tackles for loss allowed (8.0/game);
  • No. 5 in sacks by (18), while Colorado is 95th in sacks allowed (11)

The 100+ numbers – Arizona State:

  • 115th in the nation in first downs allowed;
  • 105th in kickoff returns;
  • 104th in time of possession

The 100+ numbers – Colorado:

  • 114th in tackles for loss allowed;
  • 121st in schedule strength

But … in the stats that matters most: Colorado is 23rd in scoring (40.3 points per game) and 20th in scoring defense (17.8 points per game).

Prediction …

Colorado is listed as a 2.5-point favorite against Arizona State.

With home teams usually given a three-point bump, Las Vegas is basically saying that this game is a draw.

History (ASU 8-1 all-time v. Colorado) gives the nod to the Sun Devils.

Location (ASU 3-11 on the road since start of the 2016 season) gives the nod to the Buffs.

These may not be your 2016 Buffs, but they ain’t your 2017 Buffs, either. The 2017 team would not have found a way to win in Lincoln, and would have allowed UCLA to make a game of it late last weekend.

The 2018 doesn’t have the swagger of the 2016 team, but it may actually have something which will work out just as well … quiet confidence.

This team has players who can make plays, both on offense and defense.

This team has coaches who can design strong game plans, and make necessary adjustments during the game.

This team has out-scored its opponents 23-3 this season in the fourth quarter, and this feels like a fourth quarter game.

You have to believe in this team until or unless someone proves we should believe otherwise …

… Colorado 34, Arizona State 27 … 

Previous predictions … 

Prediction: Colorado 30, UCLA 21 … Actual: Colorado 38, UCLA 16

Prediction: Colorado 48, New Hampshire 10 … Actual: Colorado 45, New Hampshire 14

Prediction: Colorado 31, Nebraska 24 … Actual: Colorado 33, Nebraska 28

Prediction: Colorado 41, Colorado State 24 … Actual: Colorado 45, Colorado State 13


6 Replies to “CU v. Arizona State – A Preview”

  1. I believe this becomes a running game on both sides with the team that is able to stop their opponents running just a little bit better to come out on top. I will throw one caveat in there that if either team stacks the box to take the run away (think Nebraska) then it will be the team that can adapt better and use the holes that are created to create explosive plays. So our run d versus there run o. Until otherwise informed I have to give Landmen, Edwards and Johnson an edge here. I think they slow them down in the middle and we continue to struggle a bit on the edges. Expect Wilkins to do one of his hurdles 15 yards down the field. Man I hope landmen catches him doing that…… our run offense versus their run defense. They struggled versus Oregon State. I suspect we will run effectively until they throw everyone in the box and start run blitzing like Nebraska. The question is will Montez to Shenault Brown, macintyre and Nixon be enough. My bet is that it will be. Buffs win but it is a Grundy game with us taking a double digit lead at the beginning of the fourth period, giving up a last minute touchdown to bring it within 4 and then winning when we recover the ensuing onside kick. Buffs 28 – ASU 24.

  2. This game will come down to whether CU can successfully play defense from the inside out. Last year ASU basically ran through the heart of the defense in the second half. Hoping for a lot of payback for this on Saturday.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *