Note … Previews for CU’s opponents will be posted each week leading up to the start of Fall Camp … Previously posted: Colorado StateNebraskaAir Force

2019 Game Four – Colorado at Arizona State – September 21st

Related … “Herm Edwards laying foundation at Arizona State” … from the Daily Camera

From the Daily Camera … Not many expected Arizona State to be in contention for a bowl game, much less the Pac-12 South title a year ago.

With the uncertainty of Herm Edwards’ first season as a college head coach and some talent losses from the year before, many pundits penciled the Sun Devils into last place in the division.

ASU didn’t win the South, but did surprise many with a winning season that included a trip to the Las Vegas Bowl. This month, is previewing each of Colorado’s opponents, with this installment focusing on ASU, which will host the Buffaloes in Tempe, Ariz., on Sept. 21.

Despite no experience at quarterback, losing a first-round NFL draft choice at receiver and having some holes to fill on the defensive line, expectations are a bit higher this year for the Sun Devils, who finished a game behind Utah in the South.

Continue reading story here

Last game between Colorado and Arizona State – October 6, 2018

… No. 21 Colorado 28, Arizona State 21 … 

Game Story … Laviska Shenault scored four touchdowns, with two scoring receptions and two scoring runs, leading No. 21 Colorado to a 28-21 win over Arizona State. For the game, Shenault had 13 receptions for 127 yards, to go with five carries for 13 yards.

Quarterback Steven Montez went 24-for-33 for 328 yards and two touchdowns, while Travon McMillian had 30 carries for 136 yards, becoming the first CU running back since Rashaan Salaam to post four 100-yard rushing games in the first five games of the season.

The game was tight throughout, with Arizona State taking 7-0, 14-7, and 21-14 leads, with the CU offense responding each time. Late in the third quarter, the Buffs took their first lead of the game on a Montez-to-Shenault three yard score. The Sun Devils appeared ready to respond, but cornerback Delrick Abrams, Jr., knocked away a Manny Wilkins pass on fourth-and-goal from the CU three yard line to preserve the lead.

“When you are the underdog you have to try and steal a possession and go for it even more”, said first-year head coach Herm Edwards of his decision to go for it on fourth-and-goal in the fourth quarter. “That is the logic behind it … If you do not you feel like you have nine minutes left—you hold them they punt, you can hopefully get the ball on the fifty and you get another shot. So it just didn’t work out.”

Continue reading story here

… Essay for the game … “Nothing to Say … A Lot to Prove” … can be found here

2018 Arizona State results – 7-6 (5-4 in Pac-12 play)

– 2018 Arizona State National Rankings (Offense)

— Scoring – 59th … 29.9 points per game  (Colorado scoring defense – 70th … 27.3 points per game)

— Rushing – 50th … 184.0 yards per game   (Colorado rushing defense – 44th … 145.6 yards per game)

— Passing – 66th … 232.7 yards per game   (Colorado passing defense – 74th … 234.7 yards per game)

— Total – 51st … 416.7 yards per game  (Colorado total defense – 52nd … 380.3 yards per game)

– 2018 Arizona State National Rankings (Defense)

— Scoring – 50th … 25.5 points per game  (Colorado scoring offense – 79th … 27.1 points per game)

— Rushing – 74th … 170.5 yards per game (Colorado rushing offense – 99th … 143.0 yards per game)

— Passing – 71st … 233.8 yards per game (Colorado passing offense – 45th … 249.6 yards per game)

— Total – 73rd … 404.4 yards per game  (Colorado total offense – 74th … 392.6 yards per game)

Arizona State storylines … 

– Herm Edwards, Year II … 

Arizona State finished the 2017 season with a 7-6 record (6-3 in Pac-12 play), and head coach Todd Graham got fired.

Arizona State finished the 2018 season with a 7-6 record (5-4 in Pac-12 play), and head coach Herm Edwards was heralded as a genius.

Perception is a fickle master.

“We got the makings, but there is a lot of work to be done,” said Edwards. “We got a good football team, and it will be fun to watch them grow”.

What to expect from the Sun Devils in 2019?

Like CU … and most of the Pac-12 South … the Sun Devils are expected to be a fair-to-middling team this fall

– Lindy’s has ASU as the No. 46 team in the nation, picking the Sun Devils to finish third in the division: “Herm Edwards’ squad exceeded expectations in Year 1 … and could again in Year 2”;

– Athlon’s has ASU as the No. 45 team in the nation, picking the Sun Devils to finish fourth in the division: “Edwards has a better first season that most pundits expected, and there’s reason to believe it could happen again if the Sun Devils get serviceable quarterback play.”

It’s not too much of a stretch to see Lindy’s and Athlon’s making similar statements about the CU program next spring, with Year Two of the Mel Tucker era on the horizon.

Players make plays

Last season, Arizona State was the only Power Five program in the nation with a 1,500-yard rusher, a 3,000-yard passer, and a 1,000-yard receiver (though as a team, the Sun Devils failed to break into the top 50 nationally in rushing, passing, scoring or total offense).

Replicating the 1,500, 3,000, 1,000 trifecta will be a challenge for the ASU offense, as two-thirds of the players who produced those numbers, quarterback Manny Wilkins and wide receiver N’Keal Harry, have departed.

The star who is left is running back Eno Benjamin, who set a school record with 1,642 rushing yards last season, earning first-team All-Pac-12 honors. Benjamin will have an offensive line to run behind which may include five – count ’em, five – senior starters.

The problem for Benjamin and the line is that the passing game is a question mark. The only returning scholarship quarterback, junior Dillon Sterling-Cole, has 17 career pass attempts. If Sterling-Cole doesn’t pan out, there are three – yes, three – freshman quarterbacks to challenge him, including heralded freshman phenom Jayden Daniels.

With wideout N’Keal Harry a first-round NFL draft pick, senior Brandon Aiyuk, with 474 receiving yards and three touchdowns last season, is the next man up.

Arizona State’s defensive line is much like CU’s, in that there is plenty of potential, but also plenty of question marks. Only three players who saw action last year return.

The Sun Devils have three sophomore linebackers, which sounds like they are an inexperienced group. That isn’t the case, however, as the trio all started as freshmen. The team’s top two tacklers, Merlin Robertson and Darien Butler return, with Robertson the reigning Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year.

The secondary is led by two returning starters at cornerback, Kobe Williams and Chase Lucas, who have helped turn Arizona State’s pass defense from one of the worst in the conference to one of the best.

How the Buffs fit into the Sun Devils’ 2019 schedule

The Sun Devils made a splash early in their first season under Herm Edwards by upsetting Michigan State, 16-13, in Tempe last September. That win catapulted Arizona State into the Top 25 nationally (only to fall right back out with a 21-20 loss to San Diego State the following week).

This season, the focus of September is again on the Michigan State game. After opening the season with two wins – ASU’s first two games, both at home, are against Kent State (2-10 in the MAC last season) and Sacramento State (2-8 in the Big Sky Conference last season) – Arizona State will travel to East Lansing for a rematch against the Spartans.

Michigan State was the No. 15 team in the nation last year before the stumble against Arizona State in the desert. The loss to the Sun Devils sent the Spartans into a spiral which ended with a 7-6 final record.

Michigan State also has an easy time of it before it faces Arizona State (Tulsa; Western Michigan), so the September 14th ASU/MSU game will very likely be between two 2-0 teams looking for national respect.

Can Arizona State pull off another upset of Michigan State? It should be a tough battle.

And the outcome will tell the CU players, coaching staff, and fans just how good the Sun Devils are in Year Two of the Herm Edwards era.

Bottom Line

The 2019 season will be a parade of “firsts” in the Mel Tucker era.

The first Recruiting Class. The first set of spring practices. The first Fall Camp. The first (and last) game in Denver.

The Arizona State game will represent the first Pac-12 game of Mel Tucker era, as well as the first true road game.

In CU’s last five games of the season, the Buffs will have three home games, taking on USC, Stanford, and Washington. The Cardinal and the Huskies are in the Top 25 in most preseason magazines, and the Trojans are, well, 13-0 all time against the Buffs.

So, if Colorado is to go bowling this December, it’s not a stretch to say that the Buffs will have to win a few games on the road to earn that bowl bid. The Arizona State game represents just such an opportunity.

The game time won’t be set until September, but hopefully it will be a night game, as Tempe tends remain in the 100’s during the day well into the fall.

The Sun Devils will open with a 2-0 record (Kent State, Sacramento State) before getting their first real test on the road against Michigan State. Arizona State will bring a strong rushing attack to the CU game, with some questions about the passing game. On the defensive side of the ball, the Sun Devils figure to be more susceptible to a strong running team than a passing team.

Enter Mel Tucker and his Buffs.

Colorado under Mel Tucker is slated to be more physical on offense, with a greater emphasis on the running game.

Colorado under Mel Tucker is slated to be more physical on defense, with a greater emphasis on dominating the line of scrimmage.

The Arizona State game will be a litmus test on how far the Buffs have come in reshaping their image …

… not to mention how far they can go in Pac-12 conference play this fall.


2 Replies to “Scouting the Opposition – Arizona State”

  1. Stuart, I am enjoying reading these previews. Although I cringe a little at your sub-headline “Players make plays”. It is too much a reminder of you know who. I always finish it in my mind with, “Coaches lose games.” Happy Independence Day to the Buff faithful!

    1. Happy 4th, 83Buff. I hope your day was filled with family, food and you favorite cold beverage.
      That goes for all the Buff fans as well.

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