Colorado Preview

On paper, a home game versus Colorado should be what the doctor has ordered for an Arizona State team that just completed a grueling four-game stretch and coming off of a 37-34 frustrating loss to Notre Dame. But as we all know, the seemingly easiest match ups can often become downright dog fights, if not upsets. How do the Buffaloes stack up against the Sun Devils? Joe Healey analyzes the game.

Offense Preview

Following a transfer and a season-ending injury to the other two viable candidates to start at quarterback, former Texas transfer Connor Wood became just about the last man standing for the Buffaloes.

After not seeing game action in 2010 or '11, Wood appeared in seven games with one start last season—though in that start he threw four interceptions.

Largely due to college experience and severely limited alternatives, Wood has been the unquestioned starter this year and has mixed results, leading Colorado to a 2-2 record with a stat line of 54.4% passing for 1,092 yards with eight touchdowns and six interceptions while also being sacked eight times.

In the backfield, three runners have seen stable time for Colorado, including Christian Powell, Tony Jones and Michael Adkins.

Powell, a 6-foot-0, 230-pound fullback by trade, caught attention for his play last season as a true freshman and this year has team-bests of 163 rushing yards on 51 carries. Jones, five inches shorter and 40 pounds lighter than Powell, ranks second on the squad with 32 carries and has totaled 112 yards on the ground. Adkins, a true freshman, came into play the week before last in Colorado's Pac-12 Conference opener and in two games has totaled 116 yards on 20 carries.

In all, Colorado's run game has struggled mightily as the group in total averages a little over 110 yards-per-game and has yet to register a rushing touchdown.

The clear headliner of the entire Buffalo team is wide receiver Paul Richardson, one of the nation's most prominent yard-gainers at his position. Richardson started the season with back-to-back 200-yard receiving games and currently has totals of 621 yards on 31 receptions with five touchdowns. The unquestioned focal point of the Colorado offense, ASU's secondary undoubtedly will key in on limiting Richardson's productivity Saturday.

Though Richardson gains all the acclaim, fellow starting receiver Nelson Spruce is reliable and productive in his own right, having hauled in 16 passes for 206 yards with one score. With the defensive attention Richardson figures to receive, Spruce likely will have opportunities for several looks against ASU. D.D. Goodson (7-128-2) and Tyler McCulloch (9-91-1) have also been featured periodically in the pass game. Colorado only lightly uses its tight ends as receivers, with Scott Fernandez and Kyle Slavin combining for six catches for 44 yards in four games.

Left-to-right, the Buffalo offensive line consists of tackle Jack Harris, guard Kaiwi Crabb, center Gus Handler, guard Daniel Munyer and tackle Stephane Nembot.

As a whole, Colorado's offensive line ranks in the lower half or worst nationally in as the Buffaloes stand 111th in the country in team rushing yards, 73rd in sacks allowed and 70th in tackles-for-loss allowed.

Offense in a Nutshell

Despite major concerns surrounding ASU's rush defense, if Colorado is able to churn out consistent ground yardage Saturday the reactions will be borderline catastrophic.

Richardson is absolutely a player to keep an eye on every single down, but the lack of playmakers around him make Colorado's offense one that is unlikely to exploit any openings that might surface if ASU is excessively attentive to Richardson.

Saturday is the perfect opportunity for the Sun Devil defense to gain momentum in its pass rush and Wood's inconsistency at quarterback likely will create turnover opportunities for ASU and generally limit Colorado's offensive fluidity.

Defense Preview

Colorado operates out of a standard 4-3 base defense, with Chidera Uzo-Diribe and Juda Parker slated to start at defensive end with Josh Tupou and Nate Bonsu at tackle.

On the season, Uzo-Diribe has posted a team-high 7.0 TFLs with 22 total tackles, most among the team's linemen. Bonsu (13 tackles), Parker (12 tackles) and Solis (11 tackles) have also contributed consistently. In all, Colorado's linemen have accounted for four of the team's six sacks on the year.

Undoubtedly the biggest surprise on the entire Colorado team this year is freshman linebacker Addison Gillam, a player who originally committed to San Jose State but followed head coach Mike MacIntyre to Boulder. Gillam ranks in the nation's top-five in tackles (12.8 per game) and leads Colorado with 2.0 sacks as well.

WILL Derrick Webb and SAM Woodson Greer are listed as the linebackers to either side of Gillam in the starting lineup. Webb ranks second on the team with 23 tackles while Greer has accumulated 13 on the year.

In the secondary, Kenneth Crawley and Greg Henderson are slated to start at cornerback with free safety Jered Bell and strong safety Parker Orms also labeled as starters.

Henderson joins Gillam as one of the team's defensive headliners as his four interceptions places him atop the nation, while he also has tallied 21 tackles. Orms leads all Colorado defensive backs with 30 tackles, while Bell has 20 and Crawley 17.

Defense in a Nutshell

Colorado has solid talent to be accounted for at each level in Uzo-Diribe on the line, Gillam at linebacker and Henderson in the secondary, but the defense as a whole has been far from overpowering.

In the team's first two Pac-12 games, Colorado has been blown out by a combined score of 101-33 by Oregon and Oregon State.

The Buffaloes allow an average of almost 327 passing yards per game, providing ASU ample confidence that Taylor Kelly will maintain his streak of 300-yard passing games.

Special Teams Preview

Kicker Justin Oliver has been very solid thus far, connecting on 9-of-10 field goals and all nine PATs.

Darragh O'Neill averages 42.0 yards on his 29 punts with 11 dropped inside the 20-yard line.

On returns, Nelson Spruce averages 7.8 yards on five punt returns with Ryan Severson standing as the team's top kickoff returner having returned 10 for a 23.0-yard average.

Keys to a Sun Devil Victory

Don't Get Cute

In a game like this, where ASU is nearly a four-touchdown favorite, it's likely to fear that the Sun Devils will try to "right the wrongs" in areas of deficiency instead of simply attack and gain an early ample lead. ASU's struggles on the ground in virtually every game save for the potential aberration versus USC are well documented, but the Devils have emerged as one of the nation's premier passing teams. With that in place, it's plausible to think that ASU will try to use this game as additional rehearsal for the run game to prepare for a tougher conference slate ahead.

Though in theory it is smart for ASU to find some consistency on the ground, if the Devils overuse that approach in early drives and stutter it'll be a frustrating sight.

After a disappointing conclusion against Notre Dame last week, the Sun Devils will be well-served to attack Colorado using whatever weapons are possible and not stick to an agenda of trying to generate momentum for the running backs and offensive line.

Attack Wood

At quarterback for the Buffaloes, Connor Wood has showed some promise but also several inconsistencies. ASU has the personnel to chase and rattle Wood and force him into bad decisions. If the Devils can do so—especially early—ASU can create a wide, insurmountable margin against Colorado.

Familiar Faces

ASU S Ezekiel Bishop, DE Junior Onyeali and DL Jake Sheffield are all Colorado natives.

Colorado assistant coach Kent Baer coached at ASU from 1992-94.

Colorado assistant coach Jim Jeffcoat played for ASU from 1979-82 and was inducted into ASU's Sports Hall of Fame in 1994.

Colorado RB Donta Abron, DB Marques Mosley and RB Christian Powell attended Upland (Calif.) High School, as did ASU CB Osahon Irabor and S James Johnson.

Colorado DL Nate Bonsu attended Allen (Texas) High School. ASU head coach Todd Graham previous was the head coach at Allen High.

Colorado DL Timothy Coleman, LB Brady Daigh, TB Josh Ford and DL Tyler Henington attended Denver's Mullen High, as did ASU's Junior Onyeali.

Colorado DB Greg Henderson attended Norco (Calif.) High School, as did ASU LB Carl Bradford and RB Deantre Lewis.


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