Know Your Foe: Colorado

Colorado's inaugural Pac-12 season was quite the struggle, and unfortunately for the Buffaloes 2012 is becoming more and more of a cruel Déjà vu. What has plagued this program this year, and what can ASU fans expect from this Thursday night road match up?

Devils Digest invited Boulder Daily Camera's Buffaloes' beat writer Kyle Ringo to answer questions from Sparky's Huddle members about the Sun Devils' next opponent.

While the consensus seemed to be that Colorado was going to struggle this year, do you still find the current 1-4 record and the way they are playing disappointing and if so why?

"CU fans are absolutely disappointed with the way the season has gone. It's not because they thought CU was dramatically better this year compared with last. It's because the most winnable games were in the first month of the season and CU went 1-3 in those games, including ugly losses to Sacramento State and Fresno State. No one thought the Buffs would be very competitive in the Pac-12 this year because of how young the team is."

It's been well documented that Colorado was yearning to join the then Pac-10. With the program struggling last year and heading the same path this year, are they any regrets?

"Of course not. The school is better suited to the Pac-12 than the Big 12 in many ways but especially academically and in terms of being able to play in front of a greater percentage of alumni on a regular basis. CU has nearly 30,000 alums in Southern California alone. It has fewer than 20,000 in the entire Big 12 footprint as it existed when CU was in that league. Colorado is down right now for many reasons, but it still has a rich tradition of winning. It's one of only 24 schools to have won a national championship and a Heisman Trophy and it ranks 21st in terms of most wins in history at 675."

Granted Jon Embree is only in his second year as Head Coach, but is there some kind of deadline, so to speak, he has to turn the program around or is he been given a lot of leeway because of the tough situation he walked into?

"He has been given tons of leeway. I recently interviewed the president of the school, Bruce Benson, who said he wouldn't entertain the thought of making a coaching change this year and he doesn't know if he would do it next year or the year after. I think Embree knows he is going to have at least one more season to show he is turning things around. You can read that story on Buffzone.com."

The lone victory for the Buffaloes actually came on the road at Washington State, one of the harder conference venues to win at. What went well for Colorado that day and do you think they can duplicate that performance this week or down the road?

"They didn't allow the fact that they were playing from behind all day to get them down. They just kept playing hard and when momentum turned their way in the fourth quarter, they looked like a completely different team than they have most of the rest of the season. They made the comeback that day by running the ball effectively, which is key for them if they're going to be competitive against the Sun Devils."

Can you talk about the play of QB Jordan Webb and what are his strengths and weaknesses?

"He's a competitor and a leader. He generally makes smart decisions with the football and with pre-snap reads. He is playing with a lot of young guys around him but that is starting to be less of a factor as the season goes along. He doesn't have the best arm strength and sometimes struggles to be accurate when he is throwing on the run. He can make plays with his feet. He needs to do more of that."

Who are some of the key players to look for on offense?

"It's uncertain if freshman running back Christian Powell will play in this game, but he's a bruising, physical runner who was recruited as a fullback and earned the starting tailback job in Week 2. Wide receivers Nelson Spruce and Tyler McCulloch won't run by many guys, but they make catches when the ball is on time and on target. Freshman wide receiver Gerald Thomas does have speed and usually gets the ball 5-10 times a game. Freshman tight end Vincent Hobbs also has the athleticism to burn defenses. Senior tight end Nick Kasa has made some key plays for the Buffs, including a 70-yard catch and run for a TD in the comeback at WSU. Tony Jones was the starting tailback to start the season and he will get plenty of touches as well."

Giving up 36.4 points a game is that more a function of bad defense or an offense that struggles to score every week putting the defense in tough situations?

"Both are true. This defense has played most of the season without two seniors (safety Ray Polk and linebacker Doug Rippy). They should be back for this game. There have been times this season where six true freshmen have been on the field at the same time on defense. Buffs are going through some difficult growing pains here."

Who are some of the key players to look out for on defense?

"Polk and Rippy. Linebacker Jon Major, Derrick Webb and Paul Vigo. The two best defensive linemen are senior Will Pericak and junior Chidera Uzo-Diribe."

It's been reported that this week Colorado is about to get a lot of players back from injury. Can you talk about those players and their possible impact on Thursday's contest?

"The other guy of significance who should be back this week is starting center Gus Handler. It would be a big boost to the offensive line to get him back and have other guys move back to their normal roles. The deck has been shuffled here a bit that past few weeks."

What recruiting pipelines from the "glory years" of Buffalo football have eroded, leading to the rebuilding process currently underway? What will it take to rebuild those pipelines?

"When Colorado was good in the late 1980s, the 1990s and early 2000s, it recruited well in California and Texas. These coaches have pulled large numbers from those two states in their first two classes and that is an area of focus. They also seem to be establishing strong connections with a couple high schools in Washington D.C., and New Jersey."

What do you think are the key factors for ASU to beat Colorado?

"The Sun Devils should win this game pretty easily as long as they don't commit turnovers, give up game-changing plays in the kicking game and they shut down the CU running game. CU hasn't done well in those three areas for most of the season. So it appears to be a pretty simple recipe for an ASU road win."


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