Buffaloes scouting report
Head coach: Karl Dorrell, 2nd season (5-4; 40-31 career)
2021 Record: 1-2
Last week: Lost to Minnesota, 30-0, at home
5 Players to Watch
- LB Robert Barnes, Sr.: With CU facing a dual-threat QB this week, Barnes could see more playing time. He played well in the Buffs’ last matchup against a dual-threat QB, from Texas A&M.
- DE Terrance Lang, Jr.: Still waiting for his breakout game this season. He has three tackles and just one tackle for loss so far.
- QB Brendon Lewis, Fr.: He’s loaded with natural talent, but has struggled so far this season, especially as a passer. CU needs him to get comfortable and get in a rhythm.
- Offensive line: This entire group, whether it’s the five starters or the backups, has to play well. They had a rough game against Minnesota and the group needs to bounce back.
- WR Brenden Rice, Fr.: He grew up near Tempe and is looking forward to this one. Only five catches this season, but that leads all CU receivers. He’s also the top kick returner.
CU offense: So far, it’s been an ugly ride for this side of the ball. The Buffs haven’t scored in their last seven quarters and have managed only 117 yards on their last 66 plays since halftime of the Texas A&M on Sept. 11. The offensive line has to play better and the Buffs need to get Brendon Lewis – or his backup, Drew Carter – going. “There’s so many areas that we can improve,” Dorrell said. “We watched the film as an offense together, just so they can see the mistakes and the things that we can do better and there was a couple of good things that we did. But those are few and far between. We all understand on the offensive side that everything needs to pick up.”
CU defense: Minnesota wore the Buffs down last week, but they’ve been solid all season. They allowed only 30 points in the first 10 quarters of the season. Opponents have completed just 54.5 percent of their passes, while the run defense has been good overall. ASU will test the Buffs in both areas, but CU has been up to the task so far this season and is currently tied for the Pac-12 lead in scoring defense (15.7 points per game). “We pride ourselves by our defense and we just want to be the ones to make the game-changing plays and that’s just what we want to do,” cornerback Christian Gonzalez said after the Minnesota game.
CU special teams: Punter Josh Watts has been one of the most improved players on the team this season, averaging 48.78 yards per punt. He had the best game of his career in Week 2 against Texas A&M and then had a better game last week. Kicker Cole Becker has yet to make his first field goal, but the offense hasn’t given him an opportunity since early in the second quarter of the A&M game. The Buffs have talented returners in Brenden Rice (kickoff) and Dimitri Stanley (punt).
CU keys to victory
Win the trenches: CU’s offensive line was manhandled last week by Minnesota’s defensive line and ASU might be even better up front. The Buffs have to hold their own and open holes for the run game. On defense, the Buffs have to do the same against a strong run game of the Sun Devils.
Move the ball through the air: Brendon Lewis – or Drew Carter – doesn’t need to start racking up big numbers in the passing game, but the Buffs need some production. CU has to find ways to make the quarterbacks comfortable and confident in finding their talented receivers to move the sticks.
Play a clean game: The Buffs haven’t been turnover-prone yet this season, but ASU can change that. The Sun Devils have forced 40 turnovers in their last 14 games, six more than any other team in the country during that time. They have forced six already this season.
- In his head coaching career, Karl Dorrell is 3-2 against Arizona State, with all five of those matchups coming during his time at UCLA (2003-07). ASU head coach Herm Edwards is 0-2 against the Buffs.
- Colorado’s 63 yards of total offense last week against Minnesota was the lowest total by any Power 5 team since Kansas had 21 yards against TCU on Oct. 21, 2017. It’s also the lowest total by any Pac-12 team since CU and Utah joined the conference in 2011.
- During Dorrell’s nine-game tenure, the Buffs are 4-1 when the turnover margin is either equal or in CU’s favor. They are 1-3 when having more turnovers than the opposition.
- CU has won three consecutive Pac-12 openers, including 2019 at Arizona State. The Buffs are 5-5 in Pac-12 openers since joining the conference in 2011, but they are 4-1 in the last five.
- Last week, Nate Landman recorded 18 tackles, the second-best single-game total of his career. It was the 20th game of his career with at least 10 tackles, tied for fifth in CU history.
- Offensive lineman Casey Roddick and defensive lineman Jalen Sami were named as CU’s captains for this game.
Sun Devils scouting report
Head coach: Herm Edwards, 4th season (19-14)
2021 Record: 2-1
Last week: Lost at BYU, 27-17
5 Players to Watch
- QB Jayden Daniels, Jr.: A third-year starter, he has thrown for 572 yards and two touchdowns this season, while adding 173 yards on the ground. During his career, he’s thrown just six interceptions but already has a career-high three this season.
- DL Tyler Johnson, Sr.: He is ASU’s active leader in tackles for loss (23) and sacks (12.5). He was first-team All-Pac-12 last year. So far this year, he has two tackles for loss and a sack.
- CB Jack Jones, Sr.: This season, Jones has been one of the highest-rated cornerbacks in the Pac-12. He’s allowed only six receptions for 50 yards, with no touchdowns. He also has an interception.
- DB Chase Lucas, Sr.: A first-team All-Pac-12 performer last season, Lucas is one of the most experienced defensive players in the conference. Highly rated in coverage, he’s given up only 188 yards in the last seven games combined.
- RB Rachaad White, Sr.: One of the better all-around backs in the Pac-12, he’s had a rushing touchdown in five consecutive games, with multiple TDs in four of those. He is also, by far, the Pac-12 leader in catches (15) and targets (16) for running backs. He has 51 touches in the last two games combined.
ASU offense: Under Edwards, the Sun Devils have put an emphasis on the run game and they’re very good at it. They currently rank 20th in the country with 225.3 yards per game on the ground and they’ve got a stable of strong backs. Quarterback Jayden Daniels is also a talented runner, in addition to currently ranking ninth nationally in completion percentage (72.9). “There’s always challenges when you have a guy that’s been a two or three-year starter at quarterback, and he’s got weapons around him,” Dorrell said. “He’s a weapon himself, so it’s a challenge. … We feel defensively we can do some things to maybe slow him down a bit, but this is a really high potent offense that when they get going, they can do it in chunks and numbers and quickly get on you.”
ASU defense: Even with a loss last week, the Sun Devils have been good on defense all season. The defensive line is stout, as ASU allows just 103.3 rushing yards per game. This is also an experienced, talented secondary that hasn’t given up much through the air. Given CU’s struggles and youth at quarterback, Dorrell is expecting the Sun Devils to be aggressive in trying to pressure the quarterbacks and mix up looks to confuse them. “I think they would do that,” Dorrell said. “And guess what? Brendon knows that Drew knows that. (Opposing defenses) are going to continue to do this until you can prove that you can see what they’re doing and be able to react efficiently against it.”
ASU special teams: Kicker Cristian Zendejas is 2-for-2 on field goals so far, after going 2-for-4 a year ago. He’s also 6-for-7 on extra points. Freshman punter Eddie Czaplicki has averaged 43.0 yards on eight punts, with a long of 59 yards. Five of his eight punts have pinned the opponent inside the 20. D.J. Taylor hands punt and kickoff returns and he’s been good in both areas. He has averaged 27.5 yards on his two kickoff returns and 18.1 yards on punt returns, with a long of 47.
ASU keys to victory
Run the rock: In seven games since the start of last season, ASU has rushed for at least 200 yards five times, going 4-1 in those games. When held under 200 yards, the Sun Devils are 0-2.
Get after the QB: According to ASU, the Sun Devils’ defensive line has forced QB pressures on 46.7 percent of passing plays since the start of the 2020 season (second-highest in FBS). They’ve done that, however, despite blitzing only 19.2 percent of the time (ninth-lowest percentage in the FBS). ASU is likely to dial up the pressure against CU’s freshman quarterbacks.
Play smart: Last week, the Sun Devils were penalized 16 times for 121 yards in the loss to BYU. So far this season, ASU has been the most penalized team in the country, with 12.0 per game. Those flags have added up to 106.3 yards per game.
Sun Devils notables
- In its last six games, ASU has racked up 25 rushing touchdowns, which is more than any other FBS team over the most recent six-game period. Buffalo is second with 21. CU has 11 in its last six games.
- Indiana is the only team in the country with more career starts in the secondary than ASU. The Sun Devils’ defensive backs have a combined 135 career starts, with Chase Lucas (42) leading the way.
- ASU is 0-3 in Pac-12 openers under Edwards, including a 2019 home loss to Colorado. The other two came against ranked opponents on the road.
- Of ASU’s 14 losses under Edwards, 10 have come by seven points or less, including four by three or less. Overall, 19 of the 33 games ASU has played under Edwards have been decided by one score – although nine of the last five have been that close.
- ASU quarterback Jayden Daniels needs 33 combined rushing/passing yards to reach 5,000 for his career.