September 15, 2006

10 critical things to watch versus Colorado

The Sun Devils are 2-0 and have a great opportunity to go undefeated through the non-conference portion of their schedule as they get set to take on a Colorado team that is in the first-year of a coaching transition and is 0-2 to this point. Here are 10 critical things we'll watch closely with the Sun Devils in this game and we think you should pay attention to as well.

Establishing the run game early

As ASU coach Dirk Koetter admitted this week, his team has had a somewhat-difficult time adjusting to 30 fronts and teams that mix up their play at the line of scrimmage defensively. Colorado is a more traditional defense than the teams ASU has already played but it's a team that can still provide different looks. Despite a 0-2 start, the Buffaloes are stingy against the run, giving up just 0.9 yards per attempt. The Sun Devils are going to want to do a good job establishing the run early in this game in order to open up opportunities to throw the ball vertically downfield. And equally as important, ASU needs to build some confidence and continuity in the run game as it gets ready to head into Pac-10 play against Cal next week.

Defining roles of running backs

Koetter admitted that he'll be attempting to define the roles of the top four running backs on his depth chart this week but also said that it'll be largely up to the players themselves to show what they're capable of doing with the opportunities they're given. Last week Koetter played true freshman Dimitri Nance in the first half with the first-team and it appeared to be an audition of sorts. We know that Ryan Torain has the type of skills and versatility that will allow him to see a lot of action throughout the season if healthy, and Keegan Herring has a gamebreaking element that is hard to keep off the field. But Nance or Shaun Dewitty could steal away major roles with big performances in this game. This group is going to shake out sooner or later and we're guessing two players are going to wind up getting the bulk of the game snaps within another week or two.

Finding a good role for Jamaal Lewis

Against NAU, it felt like having a Jamaal Lewis-type of player would be a big benefit to a team that wasn't getting numerous wide receivers involved very much. Then last week, the Sun Devils broaden things out offensively and it was a relief of sorts, to know that they'd be able to get a lot accomplished even without his playmaking ability on the field. It'll be interesting to see how he's incorporated into the offensive flow. Let's remember, he has just 10-11 games left in his college career, and he'll be lining up for the first time at wide receiver on Saturday.

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