CU at Arizona State: “T.I.P.S.” for CU’s trip to the desert

… Related … If you prefer your predictions verbally (and from more than one voice), “CU at the Game Podcast: “T.I.P.S.” for CU at Arizona State, can be found at Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or pretty much wherever you download your favorites. Or, if you would prefer, you can listen to the podcast here .

It was a September to remember. Even those who felt that Colorado was going to be improved from the disastrous 1-11 team CU fielded in 2022 weren’t sure how well the new roster would deal with the gauntlet which was CU’s September schedule.

If the Buffs had UCLA’s non-conference schedule (Coastal Carolina; San Diego State, and North Carolina Central), or perhaps Oregon State’s preseason (San Jose State, UC-Davis, and San Diego State), the narrative for the 2023 season would have been much different. Instead, pundits looked at CU’s September and decided that the Buff roster, thrown together this summer, wouldn’t come together well enough to be competitive against a tough non-conference slate and a sadistic opening Pac-12 schedule.

Five games and some 42 million sets of eyeballs later, the 3-2 Buffs are the talk of not only college football, but all of sports. An unlikely upset over TCU, an unexpected domination of Nebraska, a surprising comeback against CSU, and and an impressive rally against USC later … expectations have been ratcheted up.

The Buffs are now expected to play as favorites. The Buffs are now expected to win on the road.

The Buffs are now expected to defeat Arizona State in Tempe, for just the second time in school history (1-6).

Can Coach Prime and his team, a 4.5-point favorite, pick up Victory No. 4 of the 2023 season?

Let’s find out …


This Week’s “T.I.P.S” for Colorado at Arizona State – Saturday, 4:30 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks

T – Talent

Arizona State has an identity problem on offense.

More specifically, the Sun Devils have a quarterback problem.

First year head coach Ken Dillingham thought he had his quarterback issues solved when Jaden Rashada fell into his lap. You may remember Rashada as the highly-recruited high school quarterback who committed to Miami last summer, then flipped late to Florida … for a reported NIL deal worth $13 million. Rashada signed with Florida in December, but then asked to be released from his Letter of Intent when the NIL deal didn’t work out.

Rashada started as the No. 3 quarterback for Arizona State in Fall Camp, but quickly rose to the top of the depth chart. Rashada started the first two games of the season, but was injured, and has been out since. Game Three was the low point for the Sun Devils, when Arizona State lost to Fresno State 29-0. Trenton Bourguet started, but was injured after two drives. Former Notre Dame quarterback Drew Pyne took over, but was also injured, leaving it to sophomore Jacob Conover to finish the game.

Drew Pyne started for the Sun Devils in their 42-28 loss to USC two weeks ago, with Bourguet taking over for the 24-21 loss to Cal last weekend.

How big a mess is the ASU quarterback room? Jaden Rashada has missed the last three games … and is still ASU’s leading passer for the season.

Bourguet went 26-for-41 for 344 yards against Cal. He may or may not keep his starting position, but the real threat from the Arizona State offense is running back Cameron Skattebo.

Skattebo is not only leading the Sun Devils in rushing (318 yards and four touchdowns), he is also the second-leading receiver (14 catches for 228 yards and a touchdown), and is also a threat to throw the ball. Skattebo has thrown four halfback passes this season, completing three for 60 yards. The lone incompletion came in the first half against USC, and would have been a touchdown if the pass hadn’t been overthrown.

Stop Skattebo, and you have largely stopped the Arizona State offense. The Arizona State rushing attack, as hard as it may be to believe, is even worse than CU’s. The Sun Devils come into the game averaging 77.5 rushing yards/game (122nd in the nation). With the 196-yard outburst against USC, the Buffs are now up to an average of 83.2 rushing yards/game – 120th).

When the Sun Devils throw the ball, Elijah Badger is the main threat, with 21 receptions for 288 yards and two touchdowns. For ASU, though, the problem hasn’t been the receiving corps, it’s settling on someone to throw the passes.

The Arizona State defense, while not great, is still better statistically than what Colorado has allowed. The Sun Devils are allowing only 348.2 yards/game, while the Buffs are allowing 480.2.

CU’s schedule, when compared to ASU’s schedule, though, may provide some insight. While CU has played three ranked teams, ASU’s list of opponents – Southern Utah, Oklahoma State, Fresno State, USC and Cal – isn’t quite as daunting. (For example, the Sun Devils held the Thunderbirds of Southern Utah to only 226 yards of total offense, which skews ASU’s yards/game average by over 30 yards).

For the first time since the CSU game, the Buffs have a talent advantage on both side of the ball.

But Buff fans will certainly remember how the game against the Rams unfolded …


I – Intangibles

It’s been a month now, but you can be forgiven if you don’t remember the bombshell Arizona State administrators dropped on the Sun Devil roster just before the season started. While the abuses and NCAA violations committed by the Herm Edwards staff have been well documented, no punishments have to date been imposed, so the ASU administration decided to self impose a bowl ban this fall in hopes of getting out ahead of any sanctions which may be levied.

While a bowl bid was a longshot for this year’s team anyway, it had to be a blow to the seniors and graduate transfers, who were left with nothing to play for in their final campaign.

Did that have anything to do with the Sun Devils starting 1-4, despite not having to leave Tempe for the first time until last weekend? We’ll never know.

Era of good feelings … Arizona State has lost four straight games, and eight straight games against FBS competition dating back to last season.

The last FBS team the Sun Devils beat? You guessed it – CU.

Arizona State beat Colorado, 42-34, last October. The quarterback for the Sun Devils for that game? None other than Trenton Bourguet, the likely starter for ASU this weekend. Last season against the Buffs, Bourguet went 32-for-43 for 435 yards and three touchdowns.

So, in a season of struggle, the Sun Devils will have a number of reasons to have confidence that they can stay with … and defeat … the Buffs.


P – Preparation/Schedule

I don’t know if it’s an NCAA rule, a Pac-12 rule, or just common sense, but Arizona and Arizona State are not allowed to play day games in September. It’s hot enough in Tempe and Tucson late in the fall, much less in late summer.

It’s now October, however, and the CU game at Arizona State is set to kickoff at 3:30 p.m., local time. At present, the forecast high for Saturday afternoon in Tempe is … 100-degrees. And the game will be in late afternoon, the hottest time of day (sunset won’t occur until the second half, around 6:00 p.m., local time).

The Sun Devils are certainly used to playing in hot weather this fall. Despite late night kickoffs, ASU’s four home games this September were played in hot weather (Southern Utah kickoff: 102-degrees … Oklahoma State: 104 … Fresno State: 95 … USC: 88. ASU’s first road trip of the season came against Cal last weekend, and the Sun Devils must have been putting on the sweatshirts with a temperature at kickoff of 66-degrees.

Yes, the Buffs played a hot weather game in Ft. Worth to open the season. The temperature for the 11:00 a.m., kickoff was 86-degrees, which certainly rose throughout the game. Since then, temperatures at kickoff were quite reasonable: (Nebraska: 72-degrees … CSU: 63-degrees … Oregon: 66-degrees … USC: 67-degrees).

It’s going to be hot in the desert this weekend … Hopefully, the Buffs will be able to adjust.

Win now or else … Just like it was important for CU to survive September in order to have hope for a winning season, so too was it necessary for Arizona State to get off to a hot start if a winning record was to be a realistic goal.

Now 1-4, the Sun Devils are facing a game against Colorado … and then it gets tough.

ASU’s second half schedule … at No. 7 Washington … v. No. 13 Washington State … at No. 18 Utah … at UCLA … v. No. 8 Oregon … v. Arizona.

See any gimme wins in there? Neither do I.

For the 1-4 Sun Devils, and first-year head coach Kenny Dillingham, the CU game may be the last best chance for a Pac-12 victory, despite it just being the third conference game. The ASU coaches and players, whether or not they would be willing to say so in public, may see this as a must win game.

And that means pulling out all of the stops Saturday afternoon.


S – Statistics 

There are some good news stats … and some bad news stats …

— Colorado had 564 yards of total offense against USC. How impressive is that total? The 564 yards represent CU’s highest total yardage output since the 2018 opener (CSU), is the most by the Buffs in a Pac-12 conference game since 2016 (WSU), and represents the fifth-most in a conference game in the last 20 seasons;

— All you need to know about how well the CU offense is doing this year (or as a reminder of how bad the offense was last year): Touchdowns scored by Colorado in the first five games of 2023: 22 … Touchdowns scored by Colorado in all of the 2022 season: 21 for the whole season;

Will the trends continue? … Colorado is a healthy +1.4 in turnover margin for the season (7th in the nation), while Arizona State is a whopping -2.4 (130th – dead last). Sun Devil quarterbacks have thrown a combined eight interceptions, while the ASU secondary has none. The Sun Devils have also recovered exactly one fumble, while losing five. So, yes, the turnover ratio for ASU is 13 turnovers lost … and one gained;

— Discipline … While ASU has been loose with the ball, the Sun Devils have been far more disciplined than the Buffs. CU is committing an average of 8.8 penalties/game (125th in the nation), while ASU is committing only 4.8 penalties/game.

Shedeur Sanders stats watch … Shedeur Sanders had thrown 15 scoring passes through five games. That number was already tied for the 13th-best single season total in Colorado history and more than halfway to breaking the CU single season record of 28 … Oh, and here is where Shedeur Sanders already ranks among the career leaders in Colorado football history: Passing yards: 22nd … Completions: 20th … Passing touchdowns: 14th;

— Clutch … In the fourth quarter this year, Sanders is 38-for-48 for 582 yards and six touchdowns;

Omarion Miller makes a splash … On his way to being named as the Pac-12 Freshman of the Week, wide receiver Omarion Miller had seven receptions for 196 yards and a touchdown against USC. His 196 yards were the most in the first game for an FBS player since 1996, and the most by a true freshman in any game in Pac-12 play since 2011.


Prediction … 

Arizona State is fifth in the country, and first in the conference, in fourth-down conversion attempts (16). Against USC, the Sun Devils tried an onside kick (which failed), a fake punt (which succeeded), and threw two halfback passes (one complete, one overthrown – which would have been a touchdown if completed) … and that was all in the first half.

With CU’s struggles on special teams, it would make sense for Arizona State to try and exploit that known weakness with an all-out effort to block a kick, or run a reverse on a return. If successful, the underdog Sun Devils could create some momentum and excitement for the expected sell out crowd.

CU fans should cheer for the Buffs to lose the coin toss, or to go against convention and take the ball if they win the flip of the coin. If ASU wins the coin toss, and defer, that would put the CU offense on the field first. After winning the last two coin tosses, CU deferred against Oregon and USC, and Buff fans had to watch as the opposing offense marched down the field to take an early lead. With the Buffs needing a fast start – for a change – putting their best unit on the field to start the game would be in the best interests of the Buffs … and their fans.

Get the ball. Show the Sun Devils that the Buff offense of the second half of the USC game was not a fluke, but a sign of things to come the rest of the season.

The betting world seems to be losing faith in the Buffs. CU started out as a 6.5-point favorite, but the line has moved down to 4.5. Does Las Vegas know something we don’t?

The Buffs should win this game. Colorado has better running backs and wide receivers. Colorado has a defense which is getting some players back (Travis Hunter? Not yet. But Shilo Sanders, Myles Slusher, and Carter Stoutmire should be back to bolster the defense).

And CU has Shedeur Sanders … and that should be the difference.

Prediction … Colorado 31, Arizona State 21

2023 Predictions: Straight up: 4-1; Against the Spread: 4-1

  • Prediction: No. 17 TCU 33, Colorado 21 … Actual: Colorado 45, No. 17 TCU 42
  • Prediction: No. 22 Colorado 34, Nebraska 21 … Actual: No. 22 Colorado 36, Nebraska 14
  • Prediction: No. 18 Colorado 42, Colorado State 17 … Actual: No. 18 Colorado 43, Colorado State 35, 2OT
  • Prediction: No. 10 Oregon 40, No. 19 Colorado 17 … Actual: No. 10 Oregon 42, No. 19 Colorado 6
  • Prediction: No. 8 USC 45, Colorado 24 … Actual: No. 8 USC 48, Colorado 41

  • 2022 Predictions … (Straight up: 10-2; Against the Spread: 9-3) …
  • 2021 Predictions … (Straight up: 9-3; Against the Spread: 7-5) … 


9 Replies to ““T.I.P.S.” for CU at ASU”

  1. After the Buffs performance vs. CSU, and watching parts of the last 2 ASU games, this matchup scares me. ASU isn’t very good but they play with reckless abandon and pull out all the trick plays. I want to see a Buffs squad that takes care of business, 42-21 (2x).




    1. I am not sure I agree with this. I think that Lewis will scheme against the specific defense but I really doubt he is holding anything back. Love the optimism, just not sure I agree. If he has it and he would think it would work he has called it.

      1. I agree – in part – to what you’re sayin’ Rob, however part of coaching is the capability of a coach to adapt to situations and I’m sure Lewis has some plays we haven’t seen that he has seen or has used in the past.

        One thing we are not seeing, however, is the RB up the middle on “3rd and 17” Type of plays that were popularized by several previous coaches….(which drove me crazy).

        GO BUFFS

  3. CU 34 ASU 31. Hope it’s not this close but expecting ASU to play with nothing to lose attitude. CU still has to play a complete game on both sides of the ball, start to finish. This will hopefully be that game and Buffs cover the spread and then some.

  4. Ya they looked pretty good in the second half against USC.

    As prime keeps talking about, they have to figure out how to start fast like they did against TCU.
    They played hyper-fast. Haven’t seen that since.

    Figuring they fixed that.

    Buffs 42 ASU 21

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