The ASU Devils Den is back with its weekly statistical break down featuring the Sun Devil’s third conference opponent; the Colorado Buffaloes. This week’s analysis will detail the Devils and the Buffaloes by their strengths and weaknesses in either running or throwing the ball based on the field position and by the down, both from an offensive and a defensive standpoint. Let’s take a look to see where there are matches and mismatches. Just to let you know, four of the five teams the Buffaloes have played are non-conference teams and all of them are in non-Power 5 conferences with losing records. As always, we want to thank cfbstats.com for their excellent compilation of statistics.
ASU Offense vs Colorado Defense
ASU Running the Ball vs Colorado Defending the Run
For the ASU offense, it is good to be home, as the Devils average 5.11 yards per carry in SDS and 3.26 yards per carry outside of Tempe. The Colorado defense is just the opposite, where they have allowed 5.15 yards per carry at home and 3.83 in their away games.
Through the first five games, ASU has not been overly productive from a yards per carry perspective running the ball in their opponents’ Red Zones being eleventh in the conference in that category. What may be a help for them in the Red Zone against Colorado is that the Buffaloes are ninth in the conference in limiting yards per carry in their own Red Zone.
Although ASU is not in the higher echelon of the conference in average yards per carry on first down at 5.25, Colorado’s defense on first down is nothing to write home about being eleventh in the conference in that category at 4.87 yards per carry.
Another area where there seems to be a mismatch is on third down running plays. ASU sees its lowest percentage of gains of ten yards or more on third down at only nine percent of rush attempts, whereas it is just the opposite for the Colorado defense where almost 20 percent of the third down runs they have faced have gained ten yards or more.
One more interesting mismatch is that when the defenses ASU has faced have been ahead, the average yards per carry for the Devils have dropped to only 2.72 yards per carry. For the Colorado defense when it has been ahead in its games, the yards per carry surrendered to its opponents increased to 5.05.
ASU Passing the Ball vs Colorado Defending the Pass
When ASU gets the ball into the Colorado Red Zone, it will be an interesting match up, as ASU is last in the conference in the percentage of passes the Devils complete in their opponents’ Red Zones, while Colorado is third in the conference in limiting the percentage of passes completed in their Red Zone. The Buffaloes have also only allowed three touchdown passes to be completed from within their Red Zones and a very low average yards per pass attempt.
An area of the field where the Devils do well in their pass game and the Buffaloes not quite as well is in the middle of the field. There the Devils are completing 67 percent of their passes for 8.7 yards per pass attempt and the Buffaloes are allowing 64 percent of the passes thrown against them to be completed for an average of 6.3 yards per pass attempt.
Third down may also be an interesting down when it comes to the pass, as ASU is sixth in the conference in the percentage of completions on this down, while Colorado is fourth in the conference in limiting the percentage of passes being completed against them. The Colorado pass defense has allowed the most touchdown passes to come on third down with an average of one every 13.3 pass attempts. In comparison, ASU has only thrown two touchdown passes on third down in 61 pass attempts.
When viewing the percentage of pass attempts that gain fifteen yards or more, ASU’s percentage decreases with each down with first down at 15.6 percent, second down 12.7 percent and third down only 9.8 percent. For the Colorado defense it is just the reverse. The Buffaloes allow only 6.7 percent on first down, 12.7 percent on second down and 17.0 percent on third down. It’ll be interesting to see how often long pass plays happen on each down.
Colorado Offense vs ASU Defense
Colorado Running the Ball vs ASU Defending the Run
First off, we need to realize that twelve of the fourteen rushing touchdowns the Buffaloes have made happened against four non-conference teams with a combined win-loss record of 5-13. Additionally, against those same opponents, the Buffaloes average 5.28 yards per carry and only 2.14 against their one conference opponent.
The one obvious location on the field to highlight Colorado’s run game against ASU’s rush defense is in the Red Zone. There Colorado has scored eleven touchdowns in 58 running plays averaging 3.29 yards per carry and getting 13 first downs. The yards per carry places the Buffaloes fourth in the conference, while the number of Red Zone touchdown runs puts them tied for second in the conference. ASU’s rush defense has only allowed an average of 1.88 yards per carry in the ASU Red Zone, which places the Devils second in the conference in that category.
Midfield is also another area of the field to watch when Colorado runs the ball. There the Buffaloes have their highest yards per carry at 7.14 and ASU is stingiest outside the Red Zone giving up and average of only 2.40 yards per carry.
When it’s first down, expect Colorado to run the ball. In their first five games, the Buffaloes have run the ball 70 percent of the time on first down. They have done this, because eleven of their twelve touchdowns on first down have come on the ground. That’s also the down that the Colorado offense averages its highest yards per carry at 5.65. By contrast, the ASU defense has faced 102 first down rushing plays and has only given up two touchdowns.
Colorado Passing the Ball vs ASU Defending the Pass
Colorado is tied for last in the conference with Washington and Oregon State for the fewest touchdown passes with only five. The difference is that the Buffaloes have thrown almost 50 passes more to get their five touchdowns.
The overall passing game seems to be the biggest mismatch between the two teams, as Colorado is eleventh in the conference in the percentage of passes it completes at 57.5 percent, while ASU is first in the conference in limiting the percentage of pass attempts it allows to be completed at 52.7 percent.
Since the Buffaloes have been so productive running the ball in their opponents’ Red Zones, they haven’t utilized the pass that often there, and haven’t been overly productive there either. They have only thrown 14 passes in five games in their opponents’ Red Zones with two of them going for a touchdown and three getting a first down. The Devil defense hasn’t faced that many Red Zone passes, but of the twelve it has faced, six have gone for a touchdown.
Although the Colorado passing game is decent on third down, it’s is a down where the Devil defense shows some cracks. Although the Devils are fourth in the conference in limiting the percentage of passes to be completed, they are next to last in third down touchdown passes they have allowed. They are also next to last in the yards per pass attempts they allow on third down.
Although the Buffaloes have only thrown three fourth down passes, they have completed two of them with one covering 18 yards and the other 26 yards. In comparison, they have run the ball five times on fourth down gaining a total of only four yards. When it comes to fourth down, watch out for the pass.
What the Numbers Mean
The Buffaloes have been very active and productive running the football against lesser competition. They have also run the ball well in their opponents’ Red Zone, while ASU tightens its rush defense within its Red Zone. That will be a good match up, as well as the Colorado passing game against the ASU pass defense in the same area. Keep in mind that just like the Buffaloes’ running game numbers being a little skewed from playing against its weaker non-conference opponents, ASU’s run defense’s numbers may not be representational of its true ability in conference play from facing two triple option teams in non-conference play.
ASU runs the ball well at home in the average yards per carry it is able to generate, whereas the Colorado defense does better on the road in limiting the number of yards per carry. Neither team is exceptional in those categories compared to their peers in the conference, but it could be an interesting match up.
The ASU passing game stalls a bit when it enters opponents’ Red Zones and Colorado does a decent job against the pass backed into its own Red Zone. That too will be an interesting match up.
The third down passes for both teams bring interesting match ups as there are mismatches for both teams with their offensive passing production vs. the defensive’s ability to limit the passing game on that down.
Overall, it’s hard to put a lot of faith in the stats when the majority of the numbers came against opponents that are not the caliber of the teams within the conference. The stats do point to the tendencies and productivity each team compiles against the competition faced so far this year.
As always, let us know what you think of the weekly previews, where we look at the teams strictly at their stats for match ups and mismatches.