Tempe, AZ – The Colorado Buffaloes' first season as a Pac-12 ranked Arizona State.
Things can't get much worse for Colorado and first-year head coach Jon Embree, as the team owns a 1-7 record and is currently mired in a five-game losing streak. The Buffaloes have been blown out in three consecutive outings by their new league rivals, including last weekend's 45-2 loss to Oregon in front of a deflated home crowd.
"It's up to them - they're the leaders, it's their team - to create a sense of urgency, a purpose, why you need to come out and practice...a purpose about coming in and working hard," said Embree, speaking of a challenge he made to his seniors after last weekend's beating.
As for the Sun Devils, they have had two weeks to prepare for this affair, as they most recent outing resulted in a 41-27 loss to Oregon back on October 15. That defeat halted a three-game win streak for ASU, which can earn bowl eligibility with a win on Saturday. The club is 4-0 at home this season, an obvious reason for confidence heading into action this week.
Arizona State has won both previous meetings with Colorado, including a 33-14 romp over the Buffaloes in 2007.
It wasn't as if Colorado didn't take care of the ball last week against Oregon, as the Buffaloes committed just a single turnover. Unfortunately, they simply could not sustain drives, finishing with a mere 231 yards and failing to post a single touchdown or field goal in the affair. QB Tyler Hansen suffered a concussion in that game and may not be available this weekend. WR Paul Richardson will likely be out as well with a knee injury, and RB Rodney Stewart continues to nurse a bum knee as well, so the offense is clearly depleted.
The Colorado offense offered little resistance against Oregon, which ran for 371 yards on 48 carries and finished with 527 yards of total offense. Not a single takeaway was mustered by the Buffaloes, who yielded five touchdowns to the Ducks' offense.
"It is hard," said a disappointed Embree after the lopsided affair. "I'm smiling because you have to smile to keep from crying."
If Hansen can't go this weekend, Nick Hirschman will start at QB. The young signal caller has attempted just nine passes, so it is hard to predict what he might do under center. Richardson is clearly the top playmaker on the roster, and Stewart is far better than any other back wearing a CU uniform. The Buffs are scoring just 19.4 ppg and generating 324.5 total ypg.
Defensively, Colorado has been weak to say the least, allowing opponents to post 37.1 ppg and 423.6 total ypg. The Buffaloes have permitted 37 TDs to opposing offenses, 20 of which have been passing scores, and they are yielding 12.1 yards per pass completion, as well as 5.1 yards per rushing attempt.
Arizona State certainly has the talent to exploit that defense, especially with Brock Osweiler at quarterback. The big signal caller has completed 66 percent of his passes for 1,968 yards and 15 touchdowns with eight interceptions, helping his team average 34.1 ppg and 426.9 total ypg. Jamal Miles, Gerrell Robinson and Aaron Plugrad all have four receiving TDs, and Robinson has gained 523 yards on his 32 carries. As for the ground attack, Cameron Marshall has run for 518 yards and nine scores, and he figures to be on the field this weekend despite an ankle injury.
Opponents are scoring 22.6 ppg against ASU while gaining 375.7 total ypg, and the Sun Devils have actually been better against the pass than the run. Sure, they have given up more passing yards than rushing yards, but the defense has 11 interceptions to their credit with only eight passing scores permitted. Furthermore, foes are averaging just 10.6 yards per pass completion.
Against Oregon last week, ASU played well offensively, gaining 460 yards, including 291 from the arm of Osweiler. Unfortunately, he was intercepted twice, and the Sun Devil defense had no answer for the Ducks' potent ground attack. Oregon racked up 327 rushing yards on 49 attempts and averaged nearly 14 yards per pass completion.
"The bottom line is with Oregon, you're playing one of the best teams in the country, and if you allow them to run the football you've got problems," Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson said.