Arizona State (4-1) at Colorado (1-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, October 11, 9:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Folsom Field (53,613) -- Boulder, Colorado. Television: ESPN. Home Record: Arizona State 3-0, Colorado 0-2 Away Record: Arizona State 1-1, Colorado 1-2. Neutral Record: Arizona State 0-0, Colorado 0-0. Conference Record: Arizona State 2-0, Colorado 1-1. Series Record: Arizona State leads 3-0.
GAME NOTES: Coming off a bye week, the Arizona State Sun Devils will look to keep their perfect conference record clean when they travel to Folsom Field to take on the Colorado Buffaloes in a Pac-12 matchup on Thursday night.
The Sun Devils won back-to-back games, both in conference play, before the recent bye week to improve to 2-0 in the Pac-12 and 4-1 overall. Last season Arizona State opened the season at 5-1 before stumbling down the stretch to a 6-7 overall mark. The squad's most recent victory was a 27-17 win over California which was the only win on the road for the Sun Devils this season.
Colorado was on the wrong end of a 42-14 thrashing at home to UCLA last time out. The Buffaloes had beaten Washington State (35-34) in the previous game, snapping a three-game slide that began the season. Colorado has yet to win at home in 2012 and is 8-11 over the last four seasons at Folsom Field.
These teams have met only three times, with all three matchups occurring since 2006. Arizona State has won all three contests, including a 48-14 rout last season.
Arizona State has been an offensive squad that is capable of piling up both points and yards at a high rate. The Sun Devils have scored 37 or more points in three different games this season and is currently ranked second in the Pac-12 at 38.4 ppg. The squad's total offensive output has been a bit less prolific, ranking fifth in the conference at 456.2 yards per game, but nonetheless has been effective.
Taylor Kelly has been impressive in his first season running Todd Graham's offensive system and has the numbers to prove it. Kelly has throw for 1,292 yards while completing 67.6 percent of his passes. Most importantly he has limited turnovers by throwing only two interceptions to go with his nine touchdown passes. He is coming off perhaps one of his best games this season when he threw for 292 yards and three touchdowns against California.
Kelly has built a nice rapport with tight end Chris Coyle who leads the team in receptions (26) and yards (338), while pulling in a pair of touchdown receptions. Explosive return man Jamal Miles has factored into the passing game as well with 14 receptions for 179 yards.
Last season Cameron Marshall rushed for over 1,000 yards but the senior running back has struggled this season, averaging only 3.3 yards per carry. Marshall looked a bit more in form against California as he rushed for a season-high 69 yards. Marion Grice (206 yards) and D.J. Foster (208) have also gotten a good amount of work while producing at a higher rate than Marshall.
More impressive than the offense has been Arizona State's ability to slow down other teams with its defense. The Sun Devils are ranked first in the Pac-12 in scoring defense (13.6 ppg) and total defense (276.2 ypg). They have excelled getting upfield, with a Pac-12 leading 50 tackles for loss.
Will Sutton (34 tackles, 10 TFL, 6.5 sacks), Chris Young (36 tackles, 9.5 TFL) and Carl Bradford (28 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks) have been at the forefront of the defensive's strength.
As its 1-4 record might indicate, Colorado has not been a very efficient offense this season. The Buffaloes are averaging 340.8 yards of total offense per game, while ranking last in the Pac-12 in scoring 21.6 ppg. That inability to consistently score has stemmed from a failure to create scoring opportunities. The Buffaloes are last in the Pac-12 in red zone attempts this season.
Jordan Webb has shown flashes of brilliance at quarterback this season, even earning a Pac-12 offensive Player of the Week honor. His numbers do not jump off the page as he has completed just 58.6 percent of his pass attempts for 961 yards, seven touchdowns and four interceptions.
The receiving tandem of Nelson Spruce and Tyler McCulloch have been the most frequent targets of Webb's passes this season. Spruce leads the team in receptions (24) and yards (260), while McCulloch has added 19 receptions for 238 yards. Each has also caught a pair of touchdown passes.
Christian Powell and Tony Jones have shared the bulk of the responsibility in the running game. Powell leads the way with 310 yards on a team-high 69 carries, while Jones has shown a more explosive streak, averaging 6.0 yards per carry, including an 84-yard touchdown run earlier this season.
While the offense has struggled to score, Buffalo opponents have had no such issues. Colorado has been the worst scoring defense in the Pac-12 this season (39.4 ppg) and is better than only one other squad (Arizona) in total defense (474. ypg).
With teams often getting big plays down the field a pair of defensive backs have led the team in tackles with Kenneth Crawley and Terrel Smith each collecting 40 stops this season. Chidera Uzo-Dirirbe has been effective up front racking up a team-high 5.5 sacks.
It was not expected that Todd Graham would transform Arizona State into such a strong defensive team in his first season. Thus far the Sun Devils have been able to control the tempo, while getting effective play from the offense. Colorado on other hand has had no such balance.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arizona State 34, Colorado 10
10/10 10:36:51 ET