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Fraternizing with the Enemy: notes on the ASU Sun Devils

Discussion in 'Colorado Football Message Board' started by Justin M Guerriero, Oct 13, 2016.

  1. Justin M Guerriero

    Justin M Guerriero Well-Known Member Club Member

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    The Colorado Buffaloes host the ASU Sun Devils this Saturday at Folsom Field. The CUI's Justin Guerriero talked to Stefan Modrich, football reporter of the State Press, Arizona State's student-run news organization, to get some insider information on the Sun Devils.

    Justin Guerriero: Arizona State has an offense that, so far this year, has looked solid. However, in two straight games, Todd Graham's "high octane" offense has been limited to just 20 points. What do you expect the Sun Devils' offensive 11 to do against Colorado's defense? How can they hurt CU's D?

    Stefan Modrich: Having seen this team deal with quarterback injuries in the past, it's anyone's guess, really. The transition from Taylor Kelly to Mike Bercovici in 2014 (Kelly hurt his ankle at Folsom Field in a win over Colorado two years ago) wasn't perfect, but it was more stable than this year's rotation of Manny Wilkins (we still aren't sure of his status, ASU's goal was to have him practicing Thursday) and Brady White, who is out for the season with a knee injury. White joins Bryce Perkins, a freshman who suffered a neck injury. This leaves true freshman Dillon Sterling-Cole the likely starter. Sterling-Cole was intercepted on his first play as a Sun Devil last week. The Sun Devils went with running back Kalen Ballage under center in their "Sparky" formation the rest of the way. The pieces are in place surrounding whoever is under center. Tim White is one of the fastest receivers in the country and freshman N'Keal Harry is among the top-ranked freshman wideouts in all of college football. If the ASU offensive line can rev up the running game and Ballage and Demario Richard get going, the burden will be much less heavy for the quarterback to bear and they could turn in another explosive night.

    JG: On the year, the Sun Devils' defense has allowed an average of 404 yards through the air to enemy teams. Colorado arguably has the top receiving core in the Pac-12. Bryce Bobo, Shay Fields, Jr., Devin Ross and Jay MacIntyre are great route runners and have excelled at short, medium and long range distances. Will the Sun Devils' defense be able to contain them?

    SM: The short answer is no – they likely won't. But after playing just well enough to beat the two best quarterbacks in the country in Patrick Mahomes of Texas Tech and Davis Webb at Cal (the Golden Bears also could make a credible argument for the honor of best receiving corps in the conference) I don't think they'll have to. Of course, that's assuming the offense gets off to the fast start they've sought after to set the tone. There will be several big plays given up in the secondary, and some missed tackles that might frustrate fans. The coaching staff has come to accept these numbers as a casualty of playing in the Pac-12. As long as they can win in spite of it, the secondary and its rotating cast of characters (starters Kareem Orr and Armand Perry both were banged up and limited this week) won't be something that changes overnight.


    JG: In terms of the run game, ASU's defense looks like its been doing well, giving up an average of just three yards per rush to the the opposition. Will that stat hold Saturday against Colorado?

    SM: Though statistically the Buffaloes will have one of the better ground games that the Sun Devils face, this Colorado group doesn't jump out as one that is a major threat. I don't think ASU will limit Colorado to negative yardage, as was the case against UCLA. But the run-stoppers on the front seven, including Tashon Smallwood, Salamo Fiso and Christian Sam, will set the tone on defense. If they can't slow Colorado down on the ground, they'll be in trouble.

    JG: As a team, what is the Sun Devils' biggest weakness? Where do you think the Buffaloes have the upper hand?

    SM: The secondary seems to be the go-to answer and the easiest thing to point out upon revisiting the film after losses. But this time, I'm going to go with quarterback, just because we don't even know who it will be. Between Sefo Liufau and Steven Montez, at least those two have had much more combined experience than the current ASU duo of Sterling-Cole and fourth-stringer Jack Smith, who played quarterback in high school but has mostly played wide receiver and safety on the scout team.

    JG: The Buffs' main goal this year, and for that matter in the years since head coach Mike MacIntyre took over preceding the 2013 season, has been to exit the cellar of the Pac-12. Colorado beat Oregon this year, played well against the then-No.4 Michigan Wolverines and lost closely to USC last week. What is your impression of this team? Can they beat ASU?

    SM: The Sun Devils, head coach Todd Graham included, are all much more wary of Colorado at this point, saying they're a much different team than the Buffaloes of years past. They've acknowledged that this Colorado group is experienced and has better chemistry than the teams they've beaten handily. I think it's also a product of the Pac-12 being a much better conference (with more parity) than it is given credit for, and the quality of play in the South division in particular has improved. This is absolutely a game I can see ASU losing in a tough fashion on the road. While Michigan is far and away better than any team ASU will play in 2016 outside of Washington, I am wary of Colorado fading down the stretch and not being able to put ASU away if the game is close in the fourth quarter. While no players jump out as transcendent stars, Colorado is to me as complete and sound a team as you'll find in the Pac-12.

    JG: Can you give me some play makers that the Buffaloes will need to contain or look out for?

    SM: As mentioned, N'Keal Harry is big – 6-foot, 4, 220 pounds – and a tremendous playmaker on deep balls. Tim White is a versatile receiver who can also operate out of the backfield. Richard and Ballage are the workhorses in the running back stable, and are both outstanding pass-blockers as well as runners on the edge and up the middle.

    JG: The Buffs' defense has been good at forcing turnovers this year. They forced four vs. the Trojans last week. Do you foresee a similar result this Saturday?

    SM: With the possibility of a new quarterback, it seems reasonable that there could be some mistakes made, especially against a solid Colorado defense. Given that attacking and forcing turnovers is ASU's strength defensively, we could be in for a sloppy game on both sides. ASU has a 2+ turnover margin, forcing 21 turnovers and giving the ball up 19 teams in six games this season.

    JG: The big question: Score prediction. What happens on Saturday?

    SM
    : Colorado 27, Arizona State 17.

    History doesn't seem to be much help this time, as Colorado has never beaten ASU and the seven Sun Devil wins have come by an average margin of 24 points. Playing in cooler weather tends to slow down the Sun Devil attack, and could affect the kicking game (both in field position on punts/kickoffs and attempted field goals) even with the Pac-12's best kicker in Zane Gonzalez on ASU's sideline. So much depends on who ASU starts under center, and though it matters for Colorado as well, I think matching up Montez vs. Liufau won't be as significant for them at home.

    Contact CU Independent Head Sports Editor Justin Guerriero at justin.guerriero@colorado.edu and follow him on Twitter @TheHungry_Hippo.
     
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  2. Burrito Palazzo

    Burrito Palazzo huff my smug Club Member

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    Which mod is changing his handle to Stefan Modrich? That screen name is dope!
     
  3. buff4bcs1985

    buff4bcs1985 Hail to the King

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    [​IMG]
     

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