The Pac-12 again has the ESPN Thursday night spotlight this week, and it will be the first of consecutive Thursday games on the network for Arizona State when it visits Colorado in a matchup that on paper shouldn’t be very competitive. Both teams last played Sept. 29.
Arizona State (4-1, 2-0) leads the Pac-12 North and is the only team in the division without a conference loss already. But it’s probably not wise to get too excited yet as ASU’s two Pac-12 win are over Utah and California. In their last game vs. the Bears, ASU won 27-17 as a 2.5-point road favorite. The Sun Devils got 292 yards passing, three scores and no turnovers from QB Taylor Kelly in the win. He leads the Pac-12 in QB rating.
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Colorado is on the short list of the worst BCS conference teams in the country and head coach Jon Embree might not be back next year if the Buffs don’t turn things around, which doesn’t look likely. CU was pounded last time out, 42-17, by UCLA to drop to 0-3 at home in 2012. Colorado (1-4, 1-1) should be winless but managed to score three touchdowns in the final seven minutes to rally past Washington State, 35-34, on Sept. 22. It was CU’s first win when trailing at halftime under Embree and the biggest comeback in school history.
Arizona State is 3-0 all time vs. Colorado. The teams obviously just started up as annual Pac-12 rivals only a year ago and the Sun Devils routed the Buffs, 48-14, in Tempe. Colorado turned the ball over five times. That win was the high point of the Sun Devils’ 2011 season. They were 6-2 overall and led the North at 4-1 after beating CU but wouldn’t win another game, which led to the firing of Dennis Erickson and the hiring of former Pitt coach Todd Graham.
Arizona State at Colorado Betting Storylines
Graham is known as an offensive guru, but it’s defense that is carrying Arizona State. It leads the Pac-12 in most categories on that side of the ball, including total defense (276.2 yards per game, No. 11 in nation), scoring defense (13.6 points per game, No. 12 in the nation), pass defense (137.0 ypg, No. 4 in country), sacks (4.20, No. 3 in country) and tackles for loss (9.80). The only team to exceed 17 points this year vs. Arizona State was Missouri, which handed the Sun Devils their only loss, 24-20, on Sept. 15.
Graham continues to tinker with his defense to get the best players on the field – already since his arrival he has moved five from offense to defense. And this week, according to The Arizona Republic, senior James Morrison is practicing at defensive end despite having spent his entire Arizona State career at running back. And junior J.J. Holliday has spent his entire ASU career as a receiver but he’s practicing at cornerback.
The ASU defense shouldn’t have much trouble this week. Colorado ranks last in the conference in scoring offense (21.6 ppg, No. 102 in country) and 10th in total offense (340.8 ypg) and rushing offense (117.0 ypg, No. 107 nationally). CU also has allowed 22 sacks, which is No. 119 in the country.
The Colorado defense has been without starting senior safety Ray Polk since he suffered a high ankle sprain in the first quarter of the opener against Colorado State, but he’s likely to return Thursday. The secondary needs him as the CU coaching staff counted 10 missed tackles by that group alone vs. UCLA. Senior linebacker Doug Rippy hasn't played since a knee injury knocked him out against Sacramento State on Sept. 8. But he should be back. The Buffs are second-to-last in the Pac-12 in total defense (474.4 yards allowed) and last in scoring defense (39.4 points).
The good news is CU is 3-0 the last three times it has come out of a bye week with a home game. Colorado is 23-11-2 all-time in night games played at Folsom Field. That includes a 3-3 record in non-Saturday night home games (3-1 in weeknight games) and 2-0 in ESPN Thursday night contests (but CU hasn’t hosted one since 2008).
Arizona State at Colorado Betting Odds and Trends
On BookMaker, ASU is a 23-point favorite with the total at 56.5. The Sun Devils are 4-1 ATS this season and 1-3 “over/under”. Colorado is 1-4 ATS and 2-2 O/U.
ASU is 4-1 in its past five off a bye week. It has covered just one of its past six road games. The Buffs are 1-6 ATS in their past seven home games. They are 2-8 ATS in their past 10 vs. teams with a winning record. CU is 5-0 ATS in its past five after a bye week. The over is 6-0 in ASU’s past six Thursday games. It is 8-3 in ASU’s past 11 road games. The over is 5-1 in Colorado’s past six games following a loss. The under is 5-2 in CU’s past seven home games.
College Football Picks: Arizona State at Colorado Betting Predictions
ASU has been great in the first and fourth quarters this season, outscoring foes 56-10 and 57-7, respectively, in those frames. The only game Arizona State lost was when it didn’t score first vs. Missouri, and the Tigers are responsible for those 10 first-quarter points allowed by the Sun Devils.
This feels very much like a trap game for Arizona State because it hosts Oregon next Thursday. Win that game, and you might have to start taking this team seriously as a contender in the Pac-12 North, although it still has to visit USC. Thus, take the Buffs and the under here.
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