The University of Colorado will soon begin preparations for a football game with Arizona State that falls during the week, which requires extra organizational effort since the work week is still in progress and classes are still in session.
To get ready for Thursday night’s game, the college will have to close Colorado Avenue and 18th Street around the football stadium to bus service and vehicle traffic – adding a little frustration for those trying to get home from work. School officials will also place some restrictions on those school programs located in and around the stadium – to add a little inconvenience to the students’ lives. And then they will get the word out to the public to let fans know the BuffRide buses will begin departing from the various Park-n-Ride locations two and a half hours ahead of game time – for those who want to avoid the crush at the gates as game time nears.
But no amount of site preparation is going to help the host team once the 6 pm game kicks off at Folsom Field.
The 1-4 Buffaloes will be faced with finding a way to stop a 4-1 Sun Devil team that opened the season by setting a school record by scoring 108 points in its first two games and is still averaging almost 40 points a game – second only to high-octane Oregon in the Pac-12.
And then try to score against an ASU defense that is ranked No. 1 in the conference, allowing just 13.6 points and 276 yards a game. To make matters worse for the Buffs, they rank last in the conference in scoring offense with 21.6 points per game.
Just once this season has Colorado scored more than 30 points and that was a couple of weeks ago when they recorded their only win, a 35-34 squeaker against Washington State.
Both teams are coming off a bye week, so they have each had ample time to prepare for this one. That was probably more critical for the Buffs than for ASU, since Colorado had to spend some time in practice working on slowing down the no-huddle, quick-hitting offense that new head coach, Todd Graham, has installed.
ASU starts strong and finishes the same way. They’ve scored first in all but one game and put the ball in the end zone on its first five possessions against Utah and six of its first seven against Northern Arizona. The fourth quarter also belongs to the Devil defense, as ASU has outscored its opponents 57-7 in the final period.
A very aggressive defense continues to be the biggest improvement over last year, the final year under former head coach Dennis Erickson, as the unit has recorded six sacks so far this season and forced 49 tackles for a loss (TFL) of 209 yards – second in the nation in that category.
The SPUR linebacker, Chris Young, has already accumulated 9.5 tackles for loss in five games; his 1.90 TFL per game ranks 10th in the nation and fourth in the conference. In front of him, defensive tackle, Will Sutton, is currently ranked seventh in the nation in that category (2.0 TFL) and fifth nationally with 1.3 sacks per game.
And the ASU secondary ranks fourth nationally in both pass defense (137 yards) and pass efficiency defense (90.2) – and they lead the Pac-12 in those categories.
It’s probably a good thing that ASU is playing a Thursday game, it’s second after opening the season during the week, because next week they will host No. 2 Oregon on Thursday. The Ducks started the three-game losing skid for University of Arizona when they hosted the Wildcats in Eugene and then sent them back to Tucson with a humbling 49-0 loss.
And that may be the downside to playing Colorado. The Buffaloes likely won’t give ASU the kind of competition they need to prepare for the high-flying Ducks. And the week before, ASU posted a 10-point win over the California Golden Bears, who had just one win coming into that contest.
ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly lit up the Cal defense, completing 26 passes for just shy of 300 yards, and the Devils ran almost 30 more plays than Cal to tally 409 yards of total offense.
So the Sun Devils should be basking in the glow of a 5-1 start when they get back from Boulder. The Buffs are supposed to be clad in all-black uniforms and helmets – which will likely be appropriate dress for the occasion.
But they had better enjoy it while they can… before Oregon arrives next week and wipes the smile off their faces.
(Photo: University of Colorado Athletics)