Buffaloes scouting report
Head coach: Mel Tucker, 1st season (2-1)
Last week: Lost to Air Force, 30-23 (OT), at home
Key players on offense
- RB Jaren Mangham, Fr., 6-2, 215: 32 att., 140 yards, 3 TD
- QB Steven Montez, Sr., 6-5, 230: 67-of-104, 827 yards, 6 TD, 2 INT
- WR Laviska Shenault, Jr., 6-2, 230: 16 catches, 203 yards, 2 TD; rush: 9 att., 66 yards, 1 TD
Key players on defense
- DL Mustafa Johnson, Jr., 6-2, 290: 17 tackles, 3 sacks, 4 QB pressures
- ILB Nate Landman, Jr., 6-3, 230: 40 tackles, 5 third-down stops
- S Mikial Onu, Sr., 5-11, 205: 22 tackles, 3 INT, 2 forced fumbles
CU offense: After last week’s game, Laviska Shenault summed up the Buffs’ offense pretty well. “When we were moving, we were moving; we were unstoppable,” he said. “But … the little things messed us up and kind of slowed us down.” CU has been hot and cold offensively and it’s hard to know when the hot will show up and when the cold will take over. The Buffs have had 14 penalties on offense, quarterback Steven Montez is coming off a subpar game and the line has been consistently inconsistent. There’s plenty of potential for this offense, though, and the Buffs are at their best when they are able to run the ball. They’re also at their best when multiple weapons are involved in the action. This can’t be a one-man show with Shenault.
CU defense: The overall numbers aren’t good. In the Pac-12, the Buffs rank ninth in scoring defense (30.7) and 11th in yards allowed (471.0). All three opponents have scored at least 30 points against CU. What the numbers don’t show, however, is that the Buffs have been very good after intermission and they’ve been exceptional at causing turnovers. Nationally, South Florida is the only team with more takeaways than the Buffs (10). The takeaways and halftime adjustments have been crucial for the Buffs this season. Still, they need to play cleaner in the first half and avoid giving up big plays. Opponents have already had 47 plays of 10-plus yards, leaving CU tied for 108th nationally in that category.
CU special teams: With the exception of giving up a blocked extra point last week against Air Force – which ultimately cost CU a chance to win in regulation – special teams has been stellar for the Buffs. James Stefanou has been great on his placekicks and kickoffs (0 returns in 15 kicks), while Alex Kinney continues to punt well.
CU keys to beating ASU
Play a full game: The Buffs have yet to play four good quarters in a game. To do that, they need to start strong and jump to an early lead. “Starting fast on both sides of the ball is critically important, especially when you go on the road,” head coach Mel Tucker said. “There’s nothing I would like better than to come out and on offense start really fast, start fast on defense with a three-and-out or takeaway.”
Spread the ball on offense: Last week against Air Force, Laviska Shenault finally had a big game, but nobody else on offense did much and the Buffs lost. In the first two games, Shenault was slowed down, but several others posted big numbers and the Buffs won. Strike a balance with Shenault playing well and others complementing him and the Buffs will be tough to stop.
Win the battle up front on defense: ASU is starting two true freshmen on the offensive line and the Sun Devils are off to a slow start offensively because they haven’t been able to run the ball consistently. Stopping the run and putting pressure on QB Jayden Daniels are essential for CU.
Montez bouncing back: The Buffs’ senior quarterback wasn’t sharp last week, but it didn’t help that he was under pressure all game. He was sacked twice and hurried on seven throws. Of his 17 incompletions, 11 were tracked by CU as missed throws (compared to five misses in 20 incompletions the first two games combined). Montez has often rebounded from subpar games to play well the next game. The Buffs need that from him this week.
- CU is 3-5 in Pac-12 conference openers, including 2-1 on the road.
- The last time an unranked CU team defeated a ranked opponent on the road was exactly 17 years ago, on Sept. 21, 2002, at UCLA. The Buffs are 0-27 in those games since.
- Barring injury, Steven Montez will start his 28th consecutive game on Saturday. That will tie Kordell Stewart (1992-94) for the second-longest streak for a QB in CU history. Gale Weidner has the record, with 31 consecutive starts from 1959-61.
- With a win, CU would have two victories over Top 25 teams already this season. The last time an unranked CU team defeated two ranked teams in one season was 2003.
- Laviska Shenault has 109 career catches, ranking 15th in CU history. He needs three catches to pass Phillip Lindsay (110) and Monte Huber (111) for 13th on the list.
Sun Devils scouting report
Head coach: Herm Edwards, 2nd season (10-6)
Record: 3-0; ranked No. 24 in AP and Coaches’ polls
Last week: Defeated No. 18 Michigan State, 10-7, on the road
Key players on offense
- WR Brandon Aiyuk, Sr., 6-1, 206: 13 catches, 302 yards, 1 TD
- RB Eno Benjamin, Jr., 5-10, 210: 57 att., 209 yards, 1 TD; 9 catches, 137 yards, 2 TD
- QB Jayden Daniels, Fr., 6-3, 175: 47-of-77, 728 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT; rush: 31 att., 75 yards, 1 TD
Key players on defense
- NG D.J. Davidson, So., 6-4, 313: 11 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2.5 TFL
- TILL Evan Fields, Jr., 6-0, 193: 25 tackles, 1 TFL
- CB Chase Lucas, Jr., 6-0, 176: 9 tackles, 1 PBU
ASU offense: Talent is not a question for the Sun Devils, but inexperience and youth have hampered them so far. ASU starts two true freshmen on the line – right guard Dohnovan West and left tackle LaDarius Henderson, who doesn’t turn 18 until December. The Sun Devils also have a true freshman at QB in Jayden Daniels. The growing pains have been evident, even with star running Eno Benjamin, who is off to a slow start statistically as his teammates get up to game speed. ASU has scored just two touchdowns in the past two games combined, both in the fourth quarter and both by Benjamin. While points have been hard to come by, Daniels has been efficient and avoided big mistakes. The Sun Devils have allowed a conference-high 10 sacks, but when Daniels gets the ball away, he throws in a hurry with solid accuracy (61 percent completion percentage, no interceptions).
ASU defense: The Sun Devils were downright stingy during non-conference play, allowing just seven points to each of their opponents. They rank second nationally in scoring defense and have allowed the opposition into the red zone just three times. The Sun Devils have been especially good against the run. ASU employs an active, six-man front, throwing different looks at the opposition throughout the game. “They’re unbelievably multiple,” CU offensive coordinator Jay Johnson said. “Very active with their front six and their blitz patterns and they have some very athletic guys that can kind of get you out of balance and out of sync a little bit with what they do. You’ve got to stay the course because they’re very, very active and the different presentations, trying to create chaos, basically, for you up front.”
ASU special teams: One of the few teams in the Pac-12 that might be stronger than CU here. The Sun Devils are so good that even without starting kicker Brandon Ruiz (19-for-27 FG last year), who hasn’t played, his replacement, Christian Zendejas is a perfect 8-for-8 on field goals and 5-for-5 on extra points. Punter Michael Turk is arguably the best in the Pac-12.
ASU keys to beating CU
Dominate on D: So far this season, ASU hasn’t scored much on offense, but it has been lights out on defense. Stuff the CU run game – as they’ve done to everyone else this year – and the Sun Devils should be in good shape.
Control Shenault: In CU’s 28-21 win against the Sun Devils last year in Boulder, Laviska Shenault scored all four of the Buffs’ touchdowns. It’s a good bet that ASU will do all it can to prevent Shenault from duplicating that effort.
Get Eno on track: Benjamin led the Pac-12 in rushing last year, but he’s been had a tough time finding room to run this year. He’s had just 107 yards on 35 carries the last two weeks combined. If he has a big game, he can help ASU wear down the CU defense.
Poise from Daniels: The ASU freshman QB has exceptional talent and he can make plays with his arm and feet. While the offense hasn’t been dynamic yet, he’s keep the Sun Devils in games by avoiding big mistakes (zero interceptions).
Sun Devils notables
- Last year, seven of ASU’s nine conference games were decided by one score. The Sun Devils were 3-4 in those games.
- ASU receiver Frank Darby has only five catches for 107 yards this season, but the Buffs know all about him. Last year in Boulder, Darby caught three passes for 131 yards and a touchdown.
- In 16 games under defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales, ASU has allowed 30 points or less 12 times. In the 43 games before that, from 2013-17, ASU opponents topped 30 points 32 times.
- ASU is one of only two teams in the country to have not allowed a single point in the first three quarters. The other team is Wisconsin, which hasn’t allowed a point at all, but has played only two games.
- Dating back to last season, ASU has forced at least one turnover in nine consecutive games.