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Arizona State Sun Devils vs. Colorado Buffaloes Prediction and Preview

Colorado Buffaloes WR Laviska Shenault Jr.

Colorado Buffaloes WR Laviska Shenault Jr.

Colorado and Arizona State have both exceeded preseason expectations ahead of their impending game this weekend.

The No. 21 Buffaloes (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) are the lone undefeated team left in the Pac-12 and off to a 4-0 start for the first time since 1998. Colorado has done it with a potent offense that is knocking down opponents early and not letting them get off the mat. Through four games, the Buffaloes rank second in the Pac-12 in total offense (489.8 yards per game) and scoring offense (40.3 points per game).

The Sun Devils (3-2, 1-1) have carved out a stronger defensive identity under first-year head coach Herm Edwards. After enduring some major struggles on that side of the ball the past few seasons, Arizona State is middle-of-the-pack in the Pac-12 in both total defense (363.2 ypg) and scoring defense (19.8 ppg).

Arizona State is 8-1 in the all-time series against Colorado. The Buffaloes claimed their lone win in 2016, prevailing 40-16 in Boulder. The Sun Devils have scored 30 or more points seven times in the previous nine games against Colorado and average 38.9 points per game against the Buffaloes over the course of the series.

Arizona State at Colorado

Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 6 at 4 p.m. ET

TV: Pac-12 Network

Spread: Colorado -2.5

Three Things to Watch

1. Manny Wilkins vs. Steven Montez

Strong quarterback play is a critical catalyst driving success for both Colorado and Arizona State early in the season. Wilkins and Montez have shown a big-play capacity and each player has proven efficient in directing their respective team's offenses.

Wilkins has a chance to reach a few career milestones on Saturday. He currently has 6,823 career passing yards and 42 career touchdown passes. Wilkins needs just 89 yards to move into fifth place on Arizona State's career passing yardage list and 177 yards to reach 7,000 career yards. The senior only needs two more TD passes to move into ninth place in Sun Devils history in that category.

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Montez continues to set the pace for efficiency. He leads all Pac-12 quarterbacks with a 75.8 completion percentage. His 273.0 passing yards per game and 173.69 quarterback rating trail only Oregon's Justin Herbert in the conference.

2. Testing the secondaries

Both Colorado and Arizona State will get tested on their ability to defend chunk plays in the passing game. Each team has a world-class receiver that possesses a knack for stretching the field at critical times.

Buffaloes WR Laviska Shenault Jr. is on pace to rewrite the Colorado record books. Shenault is a dynamic playmaker with 581 yards on 38 catches through four games. He leads the Pac-12 and the nation in both categories. Shenault fits the textbook definition of a breakout star after totaling 168 yards on only seven catches a season ago.

No one needs an introduction to N'Keal Harry. He is poised make a lasting mark at Arizona State. Harry has 2,220 career receiving yards and only needs 57 yards against Colorado to move into eighth place on the Sun Devils' all-time career receiving yardage list. Harry already has 419 yards and five touchdowns on 31 catches in five games. He ranks fifth in the Pac-12 in total yardage and second in receiving touchdowns.

3. Running wild

A strong running game is serving as a nice counterbalance for both teams. Colorado and Arizona State each have running backs that are making a mark in the backfield this season.

No Sun Devils' running back has coughed up the ball on a rushing play on 669 consecutive carries. That's 24 straight games without a fumble. Sophomore RB Eno Benjamin isn't just about ball security. Benjamin can take over a game too. He set a single-game school record in a 52-24 win over Oregon State, rushing for 312 yards and three touchdowns.

Life after Phillip Lindsay has gone smoother than expected for the Buffaloes. Travon McMillian has been a beast in the backfield, averaging 98.0 rushing yards per game. McMillian ranks fourth in the Pac-12 in that category. He has piled up 392 yards and four touchdowns and is averaging 7.3 yards per carry.

Final Analysis

It's too early to tell if Colorado is as good as the team's 4-0 start indicates. The Buffaloes have played one of the nation's weakest schedules to date. Their four previous opponents are a combined 1-16 overall. Still, Colorado is playing with confidence and is operating at peak efficiency on offense. Arizona State has had some trouble finishing drives against better opponents. The Sun Devils are unlikely to make enough plays to keep up in Boulder.

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Prediction: Colorado 30, Arizona State 24

— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.