Viewing Guide: ASU vs Colorado

We take a look at ASU's top keys to success at achieving what should be a relatively straightforward win over Colorado Saturday in Tempe.

1. Run, Run, Run. Colorado's given up 100-plus rushing yards to each of its five opponents including more than 200 yards to Colorado State and over 300 yards to Oregon State week. Add to a modestly talented defensive front the fact that Colorado's best two inside linebackers won't play in this game due to injury and ASU's coming off much bigger challenges from USC and UCLA in back-to-back weeks and this could be field day for ASU's rushing attack. We wouldn't be surprised if sophomores Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage each end up with more than 100 rushing yards and ASU 250-plus as a team. 

2. Red zone efficiency. The Buffaloes are dead last in the Pac-12 by a wide margin with a red zone conversion rate of 70.8 percent, one spot behind ASU's 78.3 percent. Colorado doesn't have the type of explosive or drive-sustaining offense in which it can afford to not turn red zone opportunities into touchdowns against ASU on the road. The good news for Colorado in this game is that it has the best red zone defense in the Pac-12 and ASU's red zone offense hasn't been nearly as good percentage-wise as it has been in the past. So maybe the Buffaloes can stay in this game by finishing drives on its offensive side and preventing ASU from paydirt on defense. 

3. Defensive integrity. One of the things that makes Colorado's offense a challenge to go up against is its uniqueness. The Buffaloes do a lot of things that are unto themselves from an offensive scheme standpoint including the way they scheme to throw to running backs in vertical areas that have been voided out through flood routes by receivers on the play side. ASU has to not miss key read assignments defensively on the back and other underneath receivers against what can be a challenging offensive scheme because it provides a good combination of explosive play capability in high percentage completion throws. 

4. Avoid the home run ball. Colorado uses a lot of different formations as window dressing and loves to try to open the field up for its big play receivers for home run shots down the field out of heavier personnel groupings that lead to less clutter in the secondary. This is how the Buffaloes also are able to slip running backs, tight ends and receivers into second level voids that are beyond the flat, as defenses are so focused on not giving up vertical lines. But that's something defenses have to accept to some degree because with Colorado's tendency to take big play shots on first down comes a tendency to get behind schedule and not sustain drives. It's a high-risk, high-reward strategy.

5. Fundamental soundness. We saw what happened a week ago when ASU did a better job taking care of the football and lost no fumbles coupled with its best special teams performance of the season. If that continues, it's going to make it extremely difficult for Colorado to prevail in this game even if the Buffaloes execute flawlessly. Colorado has some big play potentail on kickoff return so Zane Gonzalez has to put the ball deep in the end zone as he's tended to do at home this season. 


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