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Colorado vs. Arizona State Football Prediction and Preview

Jayden Daniels, Arizona State Sun Devils Football

Jayden Daniels and the Sun Devils kick off their Pac-12 slate at home against the Buffaloes

The Colorado Buffaloes and Arizona State Sun Devils are set to open Pac-12 play in Tempe Saturday night, and both teams will attempt to turn the page following disappointing losses. Just one week after taking highly ranked Texas A&M to the brink, Colorado was shut out at home by Minnesota, 30-0, to fall to 1-2. Arizona State, which won its first two games by 27 points apiece, was upset on the road by BYU, 27-17.

Colorado at Arizona State

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 25, at 10:30 p.m. ET
TV: ESPNU
Spread: Arizona State -14.5

When Colorado Has the Ball

The Buffaloes lean heavily on the run game but, despite several talented players in the backfield, have struggled with consistency doing just that this season. Reigning Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year Jarek Broussard was held to eight yards on five carries against Minnesota. Broussard suffered an undisclosed injury in the loss to Texas A&M, when he ran for 51 yards and a touchdown on 12 attempts, and he didn't see action in the first quarter last week. On the season, has 153 rushing yards with two touchdowns on 32 carries. Fellow running backs Alex Fontenot and Ashaad Clayton have combined for 138 rushing yards and two touchdowns, while quarterback Brendon Lewis has chipped in with 93 yards on 24 attempts.

Lewis hasn't had much success as a passer, having averaged a remarkably low 4.4 yards per attempt, including back-to-back games of 3.6 and 3.4, respectively. Only Navy (3.6), Connecticut (3.7), and ULM (4.1) rank lower than Colorado (4.3) in yards per pass attempt nationally. Lewis has completed 31 of 56 passes (55.4 percent) for 246 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. His best game: 10-for-15 for 102 yards and the touchdown (a 17-yard pass to Montana Lemonious-Craig) in the 35-7 season opener against FCS member Northern Colorado. Though 12 different Buffs have caught a pass this season, none have more than six receptions (Brady Russell) or 45 receiving yards (Daniel Arias).

When Arizona State Has the Ball

The Sun Devils also operate out of a run-first offense. Rachaad White leads a thin but talented group of running backs with 44 carries, 225 yards, and five touchdowns. Daniyel Ngata has played in all three games and has 183 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 25 attempts, but he has dealt with injuries in recent weeks. DeaMonte Trayanum has also been banged up and hasn't played in two weeks, but he scored two touchdowns among his six carries (for 52 yards) in the 41-14 win over FCS opponent Southern Utah.

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Quarterback Jayden Daniels is a productive runner in his own right and has gained 173 rushing yards on 29 carries this season. Daniels is 51-for-70 (72.9 percent) as a passer and has thrown for 572 yards and two touchdowns, but he has been intercepted three times — including two in the loss to BYU. Daniels averaged 9.1 yards per pass attempt against the Cougars, which marked the 10th time in 19 career starts in which he's hit 9.0 or better. Four Arizona State receivers have more than 100 receiving yards this season, led by White who also has a team-high 15 receptions. Andre Johnson (6 rec., 115 yds.), LV Bunkley-Shelton (9, 110, TD), Ricky Pearsall (11, 109), and Johnny Wilson (8, 84) lead the wideouts, while Curtis Hodges (3, 85) can provide big plays at tight end.

Final Analysis

Colorado jumped out to a surprising 4-0 start in Karl Dorrell's first season as head coach, but the Buffaloes have lost four of their last five games with the only victory coming against an FCS opponent. The offense has cratered in 2021, and though the defense (and linebacker corps, specifically) is a team strength, Colorado ranks No. 59 nationally with a modest 5.07 yards allowed per play. The Sun Devils have limited opponents to 4.23 yards per snap, which ranks 20th on the FBS leaderboard.

Arizona State has plenty of room for improvement, and head coach Herm Edwards has voiced his displeasure with his team's sloppy play and inconsistency during the non-conference slate. Only six FBS offenses have more turnovers than the Sun Devils' seven, and none have been penalized more than ASU's 12.0 per contest. Nevertheless, Arizona State has a stronger roster from top to bottom and could still push for a Pac-12 championship, while Colorado would be fortunate to make it back to a bowl game. Assuming the Sun Devils take better care of the football and cut down on free yards given through penalties, Arizona State should open conference play with a convincing victory.

Prediction: Arizona State 35, Colorado 14

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— Written by Nicholas Ian Allen, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and managing editor of CFBWinningEdge. Follow him on Twitter @CFBWinningEdge.