CU opponent glance
Opponent: Stanford Cardinal
Game time: Saturday, 1:01 p.m. MDT, at Stanford Stadium in Stanford, Calif.
Coach: David Shaw, 6th season (58-15)
Record: 4-2, 2-2 Pac-12
Last week: Defeated Notre Dame, 17-10
Key players: RB Christian McCaffrey, Jr. (99 carries, 520 yards, 3 TD; 18 catches, 154 yards, 1 TD; 11 kickoff returns, 251 yards); QB Ryan Burns, Jr. (79 of 123, 888 yards, 5 TD, 4 INT); WR Trenton Irwin, So. (19 catches, 234 yards, 0 TD); DE Solomon Thomas, Sr. (30 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 4 sacks); DT Harrison Phillips, So. (19 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks).
Notable: Stanford has won the Pac-12 championship three of the past four seasons (2012, 2013, 2015) and came into this season as the favorite to win it again. … Ranked No. 8 nationally to start the season, the Cardinal fell out of the rankings with back-to-back losses against Washington and Washington State, by a combined score of 86-22. … The Cardinal have scored just 39 points in their last three games combined and have scored 27 or less in each game. … Last year’s Heisman Trophy runner-up, McCaffrey did not play against Notre Dame on Saturday because of an injury.
Early in the first quarter on Saturday night, Colorado center Alex Kelley shoved Arizona State’s nose tackle to the left and took him out of the play.
A couple yards to Kelley’s right, guard Tim Lynott locked up another ASU defensive tackle and took him out of the play.
Tailback Kyle Evans darted through the hole and got 12 yards down field before he was touched and then did the rest himself, dragging two ASU defenders into the end zone for the Buffaloes’ first touchdown of the night.
It looked easy, but that play featured the type of power CU displayed all night en route to a 40-16 dismantling of the Sun Devils at Folsom Field.
“That’s what we talked about all week,” CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “We had to be physical.
“We’ve gotten bigger. We’ve gotten stronger. We have more depth. We tackle better now than we ever have, because we know where to be.”
Offensively and defensively, CU played with physicality that few have seen out of the Buffs in recent years.
Most teams in the Pac-12 have physically beaten the Buffs since CU joined the conference in 2011. ASU, perhaps more than anybody else, has manhandled the Buffs.
CU’s power on both sides of the ball Saturday stunned the Sun Devils and their head coach, Todd Graham.
“It’s the same guys (that ASU has beaten in the past),” Graham said. “That tells you (MacIntyre) has done a great job with them.
“They ran the ball on us unlike anybody has ran it in the whole time I’ve been at Arizona State. No excuses; they kicked our tail. They just blocked our butt. I don’t think anybody has done that. It wasn’t real complex.”
No, it wasn’t complex, but what CU did on Saturday was important.
Until Saturday, CU had beaten teams by flashing its exceptional talent on offense, destroying defenses with speed.
When the Buffs went to USC on Oct. 8, their lack of physicality cost them. The offensive line was pushed around and, therefore, the Buffs couldn’t run the ball effectively. They also lost the battle up front with their defensive line.
Beating ASU the way it did proved that CU isn’t just a finesse team.
“We just really wanted to make a statement that when you play us you’re going to get hit,” linebacker Jimmie Gilbert.
All night, Gilbert and his defensive mates pummeled ASU quarterback Manny Wilkins, to the tune of five sacks and other big-time hits.
They also overpowered ASU in the trenches, holding the Sun Devils’ dynamic running back duo of Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage to 73 yards on 17 carries. Richard gained 37 of those yards on a direct snap early in the second quarter. No other run by the duo went for more than 5 yards, and 10 of their 17 carries went for 2 yards or less.
“The basic plan for almost every team is to stop the run,” defensive lineman Samson Kafovalu said. “Stop the run and they become one dimensional.”
On offense, it was Kelley, Lynott and the rest of the line that set the tone up front, putting on perhaps their most impressive performance, in terms of physical dominance, in a while. That group paved the way for CU to rack up 315 rushing yards, 219 of those by Phillip Lindsay.
“It’s just straight physical,” Lindsay said in praising his linemen. “These men came to play.”
Playing like they did was important for the Buffs as they look forward to the final five games of the regular season. Now, they know they can not only beat teams with skill; they can beat them with power.
“It feels pretty good actually,” Gilbert said.
The Buffs came up just short of returning to the Top 25 rankings on Sunday. They were the top team in “others receiving votes” — basically sitting at No. 26 — in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches polls. Not that they care. “We don’t really think about that too much,” Gilbert said. “Us being ranked won’t affect how we play or who we play.”
Brian Howell: email@example.com, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.