University of Colorado football is still looking for its first Pac-12 win in its last 12 tries; the last came in 2013 against California. The Buffs hope to end the streak Saturday against Arizona State in Tempe.
The Sun Devils suddenly look like a more formidable opponent, coming off a huge upset of No. 20 UCLA (previously No. 7) on the road last week. ASU had lost to Texas A&M and Southern California by 21 and 28 points, respectively, earlier in the season.
As for the Buffs, they’re coming off a 41-24 home loss against Oregon. Turnovers plagued Colorado last week against the Ducks — it lost that battle 3-1. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Buffs’ record has aligned perfectly to whether they win the turnover differential this season.
“The first two drives this week against Oregon were just two bonehead mistakes by the offense,” junior quarterback Sefo Liufau said. “That gives them seven points. I think if we take care of those we go in 17-10 at half instead of 17-all or something else. We just have to be more consistent and take care of the football.”
Much has been made of CU’s running game this season, which averaged 272 yards per game going into last Saturday. But, in the Buffs’ first big matchup of the season against the Ducks, they couldn’t get anything going. They rushed for only 77 yards on 36 attempts.
“I definitely hope it’s better than it was last week,” head coach Mike MacIntyre said about the running game. “When we played them (ASU) last year we ran the ball pretty well against them, but we had a lot of negative runs too. Then we popped some 40 and 50 yarders. I think that’s how the game will probably go.”
Freshman running back Patrick Carr will be available after missing last week. Michael Adkins, who rushed for 209 yards and three touchdowns in the first two games, is still nursing a hamstring injury.
“We’d love to have him back,” MacIntyre said of Adkins. “I don’t know if we’ll have him back this week or not.”
Liufau had been dealing with a shoulder injury, but after resting last week before Oregon, he said he’s better.
“It’s feeling great,” Liufau said about his shoulder. “I was joking around if we wanted to play on Sunday we could play again. It’s not a factor right now.”
The defensive side of the ball didn’t look much better than the offense for Colorado last Saturday. Oregon gained almost 300 more rushing yards than CU, with 361. Running back Royce Freeman led the way with 163 yards and two touchdowns.
The Buffs could have a tough time stopping sophomore Arizona State running back Demario Richard, who is averaging 101.6 yards per game this season. The Sun Devils ran for an impressive 192 yards last week against UCLA.
Buffs linebacker Kenneth Olugbode will be out 4-6 weeks after suffering a leg injury against Oregon. Junior Ryan Severson will take his place. With Addison Gillam also out with injury, the Buffs are now missing two of their original starting linebackers for the season.
Arizona State has a balanced offense with only four more pass plays this year than run plays (201-197). Senior Mike Bercovici leads ASU at quarterback. He’s had at least 35 attempts each game this year and has thrown the ball 44 times the past two weeks against USC and UCLA.
MacIntyre said the Buffs are only a few plays away from breaking through for a Pac-12 win. They showed it against Oregon.
“It used to be nine or 10 plays, now it’s down to one or two or three,” MacIntyre said. “I look at that as progress. It’s still not a win. It’s still disappointing and not good enough, but I think that’s where we are.”
Last year, Arizona State won 38-24 in Boulder. The Sun Devils are currently favored by 15 points in Las Vegas.
The Buffs (3-2) face ASU (3-2) at 8 p.m. Saturday in Tempe. The game will be broadcast on Pac-12 Networks.
Contact CU Independent Co-Head Sports Editor Jared Funk-Breay at Jared.funkbreay@Colorado.edu and follow him on twitter @jaredfunkbreay