Redshirt sophomore quarterback Taylor Kelly continues to pile up numbers in ASU’s offense. He did a good job taking care of the football at California, racking up nearly 300 passing yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions.
It was a good sign to see Kelly preform well on the road given his first half performance at Missouri. He had a stellar drive in the fourth quarter that helped put the Sun Devils ahead by 10 and ultimately seal the game.
Colorado junior quarterback Jordan Webb has completed 58.6 percent of his passes. He’s only thrown one of his four interceptions at home. Webb’s only impressive game occurred in the Buffaloes’ only win at Washington State. It’s the only time Webb threw over 300 yards this season.
The Buffaloes might be without their leading rusher Thursday. Freshman running back Christian Powell is listed as questionable after suffering a hip bruise against UCLA. Sophomore running back Tony Jones would start if Powell can’t play. Jones has 30 carries for 181 yards this season.
As for the matchup, even if Powell plays, the edge goes to ASU. The Sun Devils have five players with 20 carries or more. That list includes Kelly and redshirt freshman quarterback Michael Eubank.
While senior Cameron Marshall and freshman D.J. Foster grab most of the attention at the position, junior running back Marion Grice has played well through five games. He’s averaging 5.7 yards a carry and already has five touchdowns.
Wide Receivers/ Tight Ends
The wide receivers have improved over the last two games, particularly the play of senior Rashad Ross. He had seven catches for 84 yards in the win over Cal. He’s become another reliable option as of late behind junior tight end Chris Coyle. Redshirt junior Kevin Ozier also caught three touchdowns for the season.
Freshman wide receiver Nelson Spruce leads Colorado in receptions (24) and receiving yards, 260, this year. It’s a position hampered by the injury to junior wide receiver Paul Richardson. He tore his ACL and will miss the entire season.
Webb isn’t very mobile, as he’s been sacked 20 times. Colorado’s offensive line hasn’t done a good job in protection, while ASU’s frontline continues to improve weekly. Redshirt Kelly has been sacked eight times, and only three of those sacks have occurred in conference play.
Junior defensive tackle Will Sutton was finally recognized as Pac-12 Player of the Week for his performance against Cal. He has been an absolute monster through five games. He has 6.5 sacks and should be a serious candidate for Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.
While Sutton is second in sacks in the Pac-12, Colorado junior defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe is sixth with five this season. Most of the Buffaloes’ depth on the defensive line lacks experience, particularly at the defensive tackle position.
Colorado expects to have senior linebacker Doug Rippy back Thursday. He missed three games due to a left knee injury. He missed the second half of last year due to a right knee injury.
Junior linebacker Derrick Webb leads the group with 37 tackles, while senior linebacker Jon Major is second with 36.
ASU junior linebacker Chris Young is tied for No.10 in the country with 9.5 tackles for loss. He averages nearly two tackles for loss a game. The junior college transfer has quickly adapted to the FBS level and excelled in the “Spur” role.
Colorado has just three inceptions this season, which ranks No. 11 in the conference. The Buffaloes’ cornerbacks consist of freshmen and sophomores. Freshman cornerback Kenneth Crawley and junior safety Terrel Smith lead the team with 40 tackles each. In most instances, it isn’t a good thing when two players in the secondary lead the team in tackles.
ASU’s secondary might lack depth, but it has remained steady so far this season. Coach Todd Graham moved junior wide receiver J.J. Holliday to cornerback to add depth to the position, but the Sun Devils have just two reliable corners in senior Deveron Carr and junior Osahon Irabor.
Graham said if the game was played Tuesday, junior kicker Jon Mora would get the start over sophomore Alex Garoutte. It’s perhaps the only weak position out of the special teams group for ASU. Garoutte is 6-for-10 this season, including a 2-for-5 performance at Cal.
Crawley hasn’t been much of a threat for Colorado as a punt returner, averaging 6.3 yards a return. Freshmen defensive backs Jeffery Hall and Marques Mosley handle the majority of the team’s kickoff returns. Hall and Mosley each average over 20 yards a return.
ASU would have to choke immensely to leave Colorado with a loss. The game is the Thursday night ESPN game, which has produced some wacky contests this season, but the Sun Devils should get the job done. They might look rusty in the first quarter coming off a bye week, but the Sun Devils are more talented than the Buffaloes on paper.
Reach the reporter at email@example.com