Game at a Glance
Matchup: Colorado Buffaloes at Arizona State Sun Devils
Kickoff: 4:30 p.m. MT
Where: Mountain America Stadium in Tempe, Ariz.
Capacity: 53,599. Playing surface: Bermuda grass.
TV: Pac-12 Network
Radio: KOA (850 AM)
Odds: Colorado by 4
Series: ASU leads 10-3
For the first time this season, it feels as if the Colorado Buffaloes are simply playing a football game.
There is no national pregame show on site to cover the Buffs. There’s no team involved that’s in the national rankings. Heck, the game isn’t even on national TV.
“This is the first week I can count all of you (in the media),” head coach Deion Sanders joked as he sat down for his weekly press conference on Tuesday.
This might be more of a low-key game than CU (3-2, 0-2 Pac-12) has had so far this season, but Saturday’s visit to Arizona State (1-4, 0-2) is pivotal for a team that harbors bowl hopes for this season.
“We could care less,” Sanders said about having less of a spotlight this week. “We’re gonna be on somebody’s television, I promise you that. We’re gonna be on somebody’s television and we’ve got to go out there and exceed expectation. We really do.
“It doesn’t matter if we on a national stage or not. We’re national. People understand that we’re here and understand that we’re coming and they understand what we’re building. So we just got to have a consistency and a continuation, especially early on. The challenge and the goal this week, we’ve got to win the first and second quarter. That’s the challenge and that’s the goal. We got to win the first and second quarter.”
CU is national because of Sanders’ high profile and what he’s done to change the entire program. And, CU is national because its 3-0 start to the season shocked a lot of people, considering the Buffs were projected to win about three games all year.
After consecutive losses to top-10 ranked opponents, however, the Buffs need a win. CU’s had the toughest two-game start to conference play in the Pac-12, but now faces the struggling Sun Devils, who have lost four in a row. This is close to a must-win game for the Buffs in their quest to achieve bowl eligibility (six wins).
“Oh, this is a big game for us,” safety Rodrick Ward said. “It has been pretty sucky that we lost two games. We’re still standing good as a team. We know what it takes to win. This week, I feel like we’re putting everything together. Everybody’s practicing hard, got the energy going around. I feel like this week, we’re gonna make a statement. That’s when everything’s gonna come together. Defense is gonna come out and stop the run, stop the pass. Offense is gonna come out and do what they do. So this week is big.”
CU has yet to put together a complete game, although its second half against No. 9 USC in Saturday’s 48-41 loss was about as good the Buffs have played all year. They outscored the Trojans 27-14 after halftime, while outgaining them, 318-165.
Although the last two weeks – CU lost at No. 8 Oregon, 42-6, on Sept. 23 before falling to USC – have been rough, the Buffs are hoping those experiences will pay off as they go through the rest of the season.
“I feel like every game is valuable and having another experience and going to battle with guys, with your teammates, it’s extremely (valuable),” quarterback Shedeur Sanders said. “You need that to happen. It was cool. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed all the weeks thus far and we’re just ready to lock in and be very explosive and the team we’re supposed to be.”
That’s what Coach Prime wants to see this week. Last week was about trying to get a win in any way possible. This week, he said, is about playing complete – which, ultimately, should lead to a win.
“This week it’s more about expectations than many of the other weeks, because that’s the expectation that we have of ourselves to go in and win this game,” he said. “You want to win every game, but I mean, you really expect to win some games a lot more than other others. This game we expect to run the football. We’ve shown that we could last week. We expect to throw the ball successfully; we’ve shown that we can in its totality during the whole season. We’ve shown that when we take something away (defensively), let’s dedicate to taking something away. We could stop the run.
“The expectation is to do your job for the four to five seconds that that play involves you. Our expectations of ourselves are a lot more lofty than expectations that you may have of us, but we have tremendous expectations for this season. And we’re just getting started with it. We really are.”