Arizona State at Colorado
When and Where: Saturday, Oct. 6, Folsom Field, Boulder, Colo., 4 p.m. EDT.
Ranked for the first time in nearly two years and the lone unbeaten left in the Pac-12 Conference, Colorado looks for its first 5-0 start in 20 years Saturday when it hosts Arizona State.
The Buffaloes (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12 South) cracked the AP Top 25 for the first time since the season-ending 2016 poll after scoring the final 24 points of a 38-16 victory over UCLA last Saturday. Colorado last opened a season with five victories in 1998, something it can match by completing a sweep of this three-game homestand.
Sun Devils again try to give Edwards first road win
Arizona State (3-2, 1-1 Pac-12 South) has made strides of progress under first-year coach Herm Edwards and has been competitive in all five games since he started roaming the sidelines in Tempe.
But the success he has had in the desert has yet to transfer outside of Arizona, with the Sun Devils losing by a touchdown at both San Diego State and then-No. 10 Washington. Arizona State, though, regrouped from that defeat to the Huskies by taking care of business against Oregon State with a 52-24 pummeling of the Beavers last Saturday.
— Arizona State Sun Devils (@TheSunDevils) October 1, 2018
In addition to that 44-yard touchdown run, Eno Benjamin finished with a school-record 312 rushing yards en route to winning Pac-12 offensive Player of the Week honors. He nearly doubled his career rushing total after entering the contest with 425 yards in his first 14 games.
“It was a great feeling,” Benjamin told his school’s official website. “Honestly we had a game plan and we knew we were going to run the ball on them. We went through practice and we executed. If you saw the way we practiced this week you would have known it was going to happen and it’s just a testament to our offensive line.”
Manny Wilkins augmented Benjamin’s career game by completing 14 of 25 passes for 162 yards and three touchdowns while running for a season-high 61 more. Wilkins has 10 TD passes in 170 attempts this season after throwing 20 in 410 in 2017. The senior signal-caller, who has 1,224 yards, also has just one interception and been sacked only five times after absorbing 40 last season.
N’Keal Harry continues to power to his second straight 1,000-yard season and enters this contest with 31 receptions for 419 yards and five TDs. He, Benjamin and Wilkins all played vital roles in Arizona State’s 41-30 win over Colorado last year, with Wilkins accounting for 301 total yards and three touchdowns, Benjamin scoring the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, and Harry totaling six receptions for 81 yards and a score.
Arizona State has averaged 322.5 yards in its two road games compared to the 495.0 per contest at home. The Sun Devils have yielded 47 points in their road losses compared to 44 in their three home wins.
The Sun Devils, who already have a victory over then-No. 15 Michigan State on Sept. 8 to their credit, have lost their last three road games against AP Top 25 opponents since a 38-23 win at then-No. 7 UCLA on Oct. 3, 2015.
Buffaloes revel in national recognition
Colorado is in the AP Top 25 for the first time since wrapping up the 2016 ranked 17th after finishing 10-4. This Buffaloes team under Mike MacIntyre has shown a finely balanced offense with a solid defense, scoring at least 33 points in all four contests while limiting opponents to 195.8 passing yards per game.
They stifled UCLA’s up-tempo offense for the final 25-plus minutes last weekend, limiting the Bruins to two first downs in their final five possessions.
— Colorado Buffaloes Football (@RunRalphieRun) September 29, 2018
Offensively, Steven Montez was ruthlessly efficient, completing 22 of 26 passes for 237 yards and one touchdown while adding a 35-yard scoring run and 81 rushing yards overall.
Laviska Shenault had 12 catches for 126 yards and that touchdown from Montez, and the sophomore wideout is creating mismatches all over the offense in a breakout season that has seen him already total 38 catches for 581 yards and four TDs.
“Whenever he’s not getting the ball, he’s drawing two, three defenders because that’s how many guys it takes to get him on the ground,” Montez told the Denver Post about Shenault. “I mean, I think he’s a very special player for us. I think he makes a lot of great plays. He plays a little quarterback back there in the Wildcat. He can do it all.”
Montez has completed 75.8 percent of his passes for 1,092 yards and nine scores with only two interceptions. Travon McMillan is making the most of his season with the Buffaloes after transferring from Virginia Tech, leading the way on the ground with 392 yards on 7.3 per carry.
- 7-1 ATS in its last eight games following a straight up win of more than 20 points.
- 8-3 ATS in its last 11 games after allowing less than 20 points in its previous game.
- The home team is 5-0 ATS in the last five meetings.
- The under is 20-8 in its last 28 games as a home favorite.
- The under is 7-0 in its last seven games as a favorite between 0.5 and 3.0 points.
- The under is 8-3 in its last 11 games following a straight up win.
Arizona State is:
- 2-5 ATS in its last seven games following a straight up win of more than 20 points.
- 0-4 ATS in its last four games as a road underdog between 0.5 and 3.0 points.
- The underdog is 1-8 ATS in the last nine games between the teams.
- The under is 7-3 in its last 10 games as an underdog.
- The under is 5-2 in its last seven games after allowing less than 170 passing yards in its previous game.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
While Colorado should be lauded for its first 4-0 start in 20 years, it should also be noted its victories have come over opponents with a combined 1-16 record despite three of them being “name” opponents in Colorado State, Nebraska and UCLA.
That said, this is still a solid and balanced Buffaloes team that has a unique playmaker in Shenault. He has scored a touchdown in each of Colorado’s four wins and all four of his scoring plays have covered 28 or more yards. MacIntyre has deployed Shenault everywhere in the offense, from Wildcat quarterback to tight end, and the Sun Devils will have to account for him wherever he lines up.
This is another chance for Arizona State to grab a breakthrough victory. Edwards has done a good job coaching his kids up at home, now they need to learn how to make winning plays on the road. They played Washington even on the scoreboard in the second half in their last road contest, and if they are going to emerge with this victory, the run defense must be better after 743 yards the last three games.
But with a spread of less than a field goal, it is too much to ask for this game to be the one where the Sun Devils make that breakthrough.
Prediction: Pick: Colorado -2.5 (-110)
Full-Game Total Pick
Both teams have good enough defenses where there likely will not be much separation. Arizona State also has done a good job keeping teams in front of them on the road despite its struggles in run defense. Arizona State’s offense is good enough to give Colorado’s defense some issues, but the Buffaloes also appear improved enough that this game will stay under 60.
Prediction: Pick: UNDER 61.5 points (-110)
Half-Time Side Pick
Arizona State has hung tough in its two road games, staying even or within one score in both contests. But the chance to take the home team giving just one point is too good to pass up, especially with the Buffaloes having held double-digit leads in two of their four games.
Prediction: Pick: Colorado -1 (-110)
Half-Time Total Bet
This is a confidence pick in Arizona State’s defense to turn the trick for a third straight road game and keep things tight and low-scoring. The Sun Devils have yielded 31 first-half points in their two previous road contests, and their ability to keep things close should allow the under to sneak through.
Prediction: Pick: UNDER 33.5 points (-110)