Game Preview: ASU football looks to rebound with a win over Colorado

The Sun Devils will face another top-notch tailback, but this one brings a dynamic ASU hasn't seen quite yet

When the Sun Devils (4-4, 3-2 Pac-12) were blown out 48-17 by the Trojans it’s clear they missed a crucial opportunity in the Pac-12 South. Nonetheless, ASU can get back on track by beating the Colorado Buffaloes (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12) on Saturday. 

Another elite tailback comes to Tempe

In ASU’s embarrassing loss to USC, the Sun Devils struggled mightily to tackle the Trojans lead back: junior running back Ronald Jones II, who tallied 216 rushing yards and two touchdowns. 

It was another case of the opposing team showcasing a running back much better than the Sun Devils had prepared for.

This week it doesn’t get easier. 

Colorado’s workhorse is senior running back Phillip Lindsay, who has rushed for the second most yards and touchdowns in the Pac-12. Not to mention, Lindsay has carried the ball 58 more times than anyone else in the conference.

Lindsay doesn’t really have the speed of Stanford’s Bryce Love or USC’s Jones II, but his toughness for a tailback at 5-feet-8-inches is top of the line.

“Lindsay is as complete of a back — heart and determination. I don’t even know him and I could tell you that about him,” ASU head coach Todd Graham said. “I think he’s the pulse of their team – he is no doubt the leader.”

With speed being a little lower on his list of skills, Lindsay makes up for it with his stutter at the line of scrimmage. The move gives the offensive line an extra half second to open up a lane, and when Lindsay finds it, he doesn’t hesitate to burst through. 

Back in 2016, Lindsay was instrumental in the Buffaloes 40-16 rout of ASU, running for 219 yards and three scores ­­– his best game of the season. 

No cake walk

The Buffaloes do have issues on the defensive side of the ball. In their six conference games this season, the Buffaloes’ opponents are averaging 33 points a game. 

When looking at Colorado’s last three games you’ll see that the opposing teams have completed a combined 70 passes, for 875 yards and seven touchdowns. 

Despite the defense’s perceived problems versus opposing quarterbacks, the Buffaloes boast one of the best secondaries in the Pac-12.

Colorado has nabbed eight interceptions and has been one of the stingiest pass defenses in the conference, allowing only two quarterbacks to complete more than 60 percent of their passes.

“They’ve lost all of those draft choices from last year. They were very good in the secondary,” ASU wide receivers coach Rob Likens said. “These guys, I’m gonna tell you what, they haven’t skipped a beat. These guys are pretty good players.”

The way teams typically score against the Buffaloes is on the ground, and they do so in bunches. 

Colorado is weakest on first downs. On the early down, opposing teams have rushed for 903 total yards, 10 touchdowns and 26 runs of 10 or more yards.

Go back to the tape

With Lindsay looking to have his way with ASU’s defense, it’s time for the Sun Devils to do what they have failed at time and time again.

SDSU’s Rashaad Penny, Stanford’s Love and USC’s Jones II all put on a clinic against the ASU run defense. 

However, the Sun Devils’ game plan against the Oregon Ducks was the shining moment – the defense prevented a dominant running back from performing at his usual caliber.

If that game plan is revamped a tad, the Sun Devils can force Colorado’s sophomore quarterback Steven Montez to take charge, which is something that would likely play in ASU’s favor. 

Despite facing a young quarterback, ASU defensive coordinator Phil Bennett said he is fully aware of what Colorado brings to the table. 

“(Montez) does have some guys at his disposal, and Lindsay can catch too,” Bennett said. “So they’re definitely a challenge – probably the best group of receivers that maybe we’ve played.”

Predictions 

The predictions below come from The State Press football reporters: Anthony Totri, Mark Harris and Joe Jacquez. The number next to the reporter is their record in predicting the winner each week.

Anthony Totri (2-6): ASU beats Colorado 34-24

Mark Harris (3-5): ASU beats Colorado 27-21

Joe Jacquez (3-5): ASU beats Colorado 27-21

*All statistics were retrieved from espn.com, cfbstats.com and pac-12.com.


Reach the reporter at atotri@asu.edu or follow @Anthony_Totri on Twitter.   

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