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Football: Arizona State Sun Devils scouting report vs. Colorado

Arizona State quarterback Emory Jones (5) looks to pass against Stanford on Oct. 22. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Arizona State quarterback Emory Jones (5) looks to pass against Stanford on Oct. 22. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Arizona State Sun Devils scouting report

Head coach: Shaun Aguano (interim), 1st season (1-3)

This season: 2-5, 1-3 Pac-12

Last week: Lost at Stanford, 15-14

5 Players to Watch

• WR Elijhah Badger: One of the top receivers in the Pac-12 this season, he has caught 37 passes for 490 yards and four touchdowns. He caught just seven passes during the 2021 season.

• QB Emory Jones: He has started every game, but went into this week battling for his job. The Florida transfer has completed 62.5% of his passes for 1,347 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions, while also rushing for four scores.

• LB Merlin Robertson: Second on the team with 56 tackles this season, he also has 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack. In his career, he has started 43 games and has racked up 293 tackles.

• LB Kyle Soelle: The senior is second in the country – and leads all Power 5 players – with 12.4 tackles per game (87 in seven games). He led the Sun Devils with 88 tackles in 2021.

• RB X Valladay: A transfer from Wyoming, he has more career rushing yards (3,923) than any active player in the FBS. He had two 1,000-yard seasons in four years at Wyoming. This year, he has 642 yards and a career-high seven TDs on 114 carries.

Arizona State offense

The Sun Devils have struggled enough on offense that Aguano opened the quarterback competition this week. Yet, while they come into this week ninth in the Pac-12 in scoring (25.0 per game) and 11th in yards (353.6), the Sun Devils have playmakers – led by reliable running back X Valladay. “First and foremost they have speed,” CU head coach Mike Sanford said. “They have a running back that I think is a game-changing type player.” The key could be who plays quarterback and CU is preparing for both Emory Jones and Trenton Bourguet.

Arizona State defense

Over the years, ASU has been known for playing solid defense, but this year has been more of a struggle. ASU gave up 30-plus points in five straight games before last week’s 15-14 loss at Stanford. Teams have found success running and throwing the ball against the Sun Devils at times. While opportunistic in getting turnovers, ASU hasn’t made a lot of impact plays in the backfield, ranking last in the Pac-12 in tackles for loss (3.4 per game) and 11th in sacks (1.14 per game).

Arizona State special teams

Freshman Carter Brown has had a great season to this point, going 9-for-11 on field goals, including a long of 53 yards. He’s also 20-for-20 on extra points. Sophomore Eddie Czaplicki has averaged 44.6 yards per punt and eight of his 29 punts have traveled more than 50 yards (long of 75). Daniyel Ngata has been good on kickoff returns (25.6 average).

How Arizona State can win

On offense, ASU needs to establish the run early and get some plays from the quarterback position. The Sun Devils have been inconsistent on offense and have really struggled on the road, but a good start could build momentum. Defensively, they’ve got to create turnovers, stop the run and force CU to try to beat them through the air – something the Buffs haven’t done to anyone in a long time.

Sun Devils notables

• ASU’s defense has at least one takeaway in 16 consecutive games, which is the second-longest active streak in the FBS (Georgia State has 19). Within that streak, the Sun Devils have at least one interception in nine consecutive games and in 14 of the last 15.

• The Sun Devils have lost five consecutive games away from their home stadium, dating back to last season. They are 0-3 on the road this season.

• Frustrated with last week’s performance, interim head coach Shaun Aguano is taking a more active role offensively this week. “I will definitely be very, very, very involved with the offense going forward in regards to play calling and everything else,” he said. Aguano has never been a play-caller in college. He coached at Chandler (Ariz.) High School from 2001-18 before being hired as ASU’s running backs coach in 2019.

• ASU nose tackle Nesta Jade Silvera has 29 career tackles for either loss or no gain on run defense. A transfer from Miami, he has just 0.5 tackles for loss this year, but has made 39 stops (fourth on the team).

• The Sun Devils rank 115th nationally in red zone defense, allowing scores 90.1% of the time (29 of 32). Opponents have 20 touchdowns and nine field goals in the red zone.