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Thursday Night games in the Pac-12 have been a formula for entertaining football the last two weeks as Washington upset Stanford two weeks ago and last week Utah had USC on the ropes most of the way in an exciting game. This week’s matchup is less promising with a huge spread as Arizona State heads to Colorado. Last season the Sun Devils won 48-14 but Colorado will look to make the most of its rare national TV opportunity. Here is a look at that game as well as two other Thursday night college football match-ups.
Matchup: Arizona State Sun Devils at Colorado Buffaloes
Venue: Folsom Field, Boulder, Colorado
Date: Thursday, October, 11 2012
Time/TV: 9:00 PM ET – ESPN
Line: Arizona State -23, Over/Under 57
Last Meeting: 2011, Arizona State 48-14 (-31½ at Arizona State)
Arizona State is off to a 2-0 start in Pac-12 play and at 4-1 overall the Sun Devils are likely to climb into the national rankings next week if they can win at Colorado this week. Arizona State started off 5-1 last season before falling to a 6-7 finish so expectations need to be grounded for this squad as there are some very tough games ahead, including hosting Oregon next week. New coach Todd Graham has jumped around the last few years but he has been able to deliver a boost to this program as the offense is posting over 38 points per game despite losing a quarterback that was drafted into the NFL.
Sophomore quarterback Taylor Kelly is leading the Sun Devils with nearly 68 percent completions this season and he has nine touchdown passes against just two interceptions. He had a great performance in Arizona State’s last game, a 27-17 win at California in late September. The receiving corps has been led by tight end Chris Coyle with 26 receptions but the new offense has been limited on the ground. Senior running back Cameron Marshall has struggled this season as three backs have split the bulk of the carries this season with none of the three standing out.
The improvement for Arizona State so far has to be attributed to the defense however. Arizona State has allowed just 24 points in two Pac-12 games while surrendering less than 14 points per game overall. The lone loss came 24-20 at Missouri in game that Arizona State allowed just 318 yards but the offense was burned by four turnovers. The Arizona State defense has 50 tackles for loss already this season as there are several quality playmakers on the defense led by Will Sutton and Carl Bradford.
Colorado was a prominent Big XII program not so long ago but it has been a very rough stretch for the Buffaloes. In the first year of Pac-12 play Colorado posted a 3-10 record but with two conference wins in the final three games of the season there was a bit of optimism moving into this season. Head Coach John Embree is just in his second season and he inherited challenges with this program. After the team went 0-3 through a relatively light non-conference schedule, including a loss to FCS Sacramento State, valid concerns of winless season arouse. The Buffaloes delivered a great comeback win at Washington State in the opening conference game however, winning 35-34 with three 4th quarter touchdowns.
In the last game Colorado lost by a 42-14 score against UCLA and the Buffalos have allowed nearly 40 points per game for some of the worst defensive numbers in the nation. The offensive statistics are not much better led by junior quarterback Jordan Webb. This is the third season with significant playing time for Webb but he has completed just over 58 percent of his passes while being sacked 20 times in five games. Christian Powell has rushed for 310 yards this season but overall Colorado is averaging just 117 yards per game on the ground and being behind most of the time has forced the Buffaloes to the air.
Two defensive backs lead Colorado in tackles this season which is never a good sign but up front Chidera Uzo-Dirirbe has been able to deliver some semblance of a pass rush with 5½ sacks. Colorado has lost every home game this season and going back the last four years this is a program that is just 8-11 in Boulder. Arizona State has been far from a reliable team however and despite the bye week this will be a second straight road game for the Sun Devils. This is the one chance for Colorado to have a spotlight national TV game so the Buffaloes should be ready, especially with almost two weeks to prepare.
Line Movement: Arizona State opened as a favorite of 21½ on the road and this line has been steadily climbing to the current mark of -23. The total has climbed slightly from 56½ to 57.
Last Meeting: Last season in Tempe Arizona State stormed out to a 21-0 lead and never looked back. Colorado scored on a fumble return touchdown in the 2nd quarter but did not score on offense until trailing 41-7 in the 4th quarter. The yardage in the game was not as lopsided as the score indicates with Arizona State leading 522-420 but Colorado had five turnovers. Jordan Webb did not play in this game for Colorado.
Series History: This will be the fourth recent meeting between these teams as they traded non-conference visits in 2006 and 2007. Arizona State has been a double-digit favorite in all three games and the Sun Devils have won and covered in all three meetings including a 21-3 win in the lone trip to Folsom Field.
Arizona State Historical Trends: Arizona State is just 16-22 ATS as a road favorite since 1987 and this could climb to be the highest road favorite line ever for the Sun Devils as they were favored over Oregon State by 23 in 1996. Arizona State is 5-6 ATS as a favorite of 20 or more since 2007 and the Sun Devils have been a profitable favorite in recent years going 34-25 as chalk since 2004.
Colorado Historical Trends: Colorado is 30-21-1 ATS as a home underdog sine 1984 but Colorado is just 2-6 ATS as a home underdog of 10 points or more since 2004. In 2007 Colorado upset Oklahoma as 23½-point underdog but that is the only time the Buffaloes have won in 13 attempts as 20-point or more home underdog since 1980. Colorado is 10-8-1 ATS at home since 2009 but two of those losses came this season. Colorado is just 7-15-1 ATS as an underdog since the start of the 2010 season.
There are two additional games Thursday night this week:
UTEP at Tulsa 8:00 p.m. ET
Line: Tulsa -16½, Over/Under 58
Tulsa beat UTEP 57-28 last season at home but the yardage was fairly close at 500-443. After losing the opening game with Iowa State, Tulsa has reeled off five straight wins. The schedule has not been demanding but Tulsa has leg up on the rest of Conference USA with a 3-0 start in league play. Wins over Fresno State and Marshall are also proving to be respectable victories. UTEP has the inverse 1-5 record this year but the Miners have been tested, playing commendably in relatively close losses to Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Wisconsin. The only win came unimpressively against New Mexico State and the Miners are in a 0-2 hole in conference play after losses to East Carolina and SMU. UTEP has managed just 18 points in those two conference games featuring some of the weakest offensive production in the nation.
Western Kentucky at Troy 7:30 p.m. ET
Line: Western Kentucky -1½, Over/Under 54½
Western Kentucky’s strong record last season looked a bit suspect but the Hilltoppers have backed it up with a 4-1 start so far this year. This will be the 4th road game of the season for Western Kentucky as the schedule has been challenging and wins have come against somewhat impressive competition. In its last game Western Kentucky beat last year’s Sun Belt champion Arkansas State on the road and this week the Hilltoppers look to take command of the league by taking out the conference’s perennial power Troy. After an ugly 3-9 season in 2011 Troy is back on track with a 3-2 start this year. While the Trojans played Mississippi State tough in non-conference action they failed in the conference opener against Louisiana-Lafayette. Troy has put together back-to-back Sun Belt wins in the last two weeks and this program is no stranger to delivering upsets in primetime TV matchups. After losing 41-18 in this matchup last season this will be a big game for the home team.