Mike Slifer

Three Tines to Victory over Colorado


Tomorrow, in Tempe, the ASU Football (3-2, 1-1) team hosts the Colorado Buffaloes (3-2, 0-1) in a Pac-12 South match-up.  Colorado is coming off of a 41-24 loss to Oregon, while ASU is coming off the 38-23 victory over UCLA.  the ASU Devils Den offers Three Tines to Victory for ASU:

First Tine to Victory: Play Like You Still Have Something to Prove…Because You Do

Whether they like it or not, the ASU football team has not “arrived” because of their upset road victory at #7 UCLA last week.  In the opinion of the PAC-12 Conference (as well as nationally), ASU hasn’t done much.  The absolute worst thing that the Sun Devils could do is relax and feel good about themselves.  Losing their hunger by letting off the gas right now could cause them to overlook Colorado.  A loss to the Buffaloes would be disastrous.

Head coach Todd Graham knows this.  The senior leadership should know it, too.  The bottom line is that Colorado is a Division I opponent with scholarship athletes just like ASU.  Moreover, they are a PAC-12 South division foe.  Therefore, the attitude should be that this Colorado team is in the way of what they want and must be dealt with accordingly.  Taking them lightly is a huge mistake.  Don’t forget that Colorado was only down seven points going into the fourth quarter against Oregon last week.  The Colorado program is improving.

Second Tine to Victory: Run the Ball, Then Run it Some More

It’s cliché nowadays to make statements such as “ASU must establish the run”.  Everybody knows that.  That’s the goal for every team in the country.  However, the rushing attack from ASU has been the only consistent bright spot for the offense.  The Sun Devils have had success running the ball against everyone they’ve played (including Texas A&M, USC, and UCLA).  Equally important is the fact that Colorado has struggled with stopping the run.  The Buffaloes are one of the worst teams in the nation in rush defense.Jordan Simone Lloyd Carrington

Common sense dictates that ASU should give Colorado a strong, steady dose of the rushing attack behind running backs DeMario Richard and Kalen Ballage.  There is no need to get cute or sophisticated with trick plays or creative schemes (save those for Utah next week).  Just pound the ball and mix in the passing game as needed.

Third Tine to Victory: Take Away Nelson Spruce

Colorado wide receiver Nelson Spruce is the leader of his team.  He’s the “go-to guy” for the offense.  He’s also the inspirational leader for the entire team.  And while the talent on the offense is improving, Spruce is still the main threat.  The speedy, gutsy slot receiver has a knack for getting open and making big plays when his team needs them to.

Defensively, ASU should consider double-teaming Spruce.  They can bracket him with a press coverage (or immediate reroute) with safety help over the top.  Or they could play the defensive backs off of him with linebackers running underneath him looking for crossing routes.  Whatever they decide, the ASU defenders have to know exactly where Spruce is, especially on critical third downs or in the Red Zone, where Spruce thrives.  Undoubtedly, coach Graham and his defensive staff have spent hours in the film room looking for tendencies on Nelson Spruce.

In reality, ASU should win this game and win convincingly.  But that sentiment needs to remain with fans and analysts.  Inside the ASU locker room and on the field, no one should be talking about how easy of a win this should be, etc. But if ASU displays the competence that they did last week with excellent tackling, discipline, awareness and energy, they should prove too much for Colorado to handle.

About Mike Slifer

Mike Slifer

Mike Slifer has been a teacher and football/basketball coach at the high school level for 17 years. He brings a unique perspective to the analysis of the game. Mike’s experience as a position coach, coordinator and head coach provides him with unique insights. He is interested in writing for an audience that wants more details, technical explanations and “coach think” as part of the discussion of the sport.

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