- Associated Press
Friday, September 20, 2019

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) - Arizona State moved into The Associated Press Top 25 after beating Michigan State, just like it did a year ago.

The Sun Devils are hoping the similarities end there.


Back in the poll at No. 24 this week, Arizona State is aiming to avoid a repeat letdown when it opens Pac-12 play against Colorado on Saturday night.

“Last year we were in a similar spot,” Arizona State coach Herm Edwards said. “We had some success and then we got our nose punched in.”

Arizona State had a marquee win early in Edwards’ first season by knocking off Michigan State last year in Tempe. The Sun Devils moved into the rankings the following week and stumbled right away, losing to San Diego State and Washington on the way to a 7-6 season.

The Sun Devils (3-0) have followed a similar pattern so far this year, rallying for a 10-7 win over Michigan State on the road last weekend to crack the Top 25.

“We have had a little bit of success. How do we handle it?” Edwards said.

Colorado (2-1) is coming off a letdown.

The Buffaloes opened the season by beating current rival Colorado State 52-31 and edging former Big 12 rival Nebraska 34-31 in overtime. The letdown came last week, when Colorado lost in overtime at home to Air Force.

“When things don’t go our way and adversity hits us, like last week, we have to bounce back and we need to come back and work,” Colorado quarterback Steven Montez said. “I think that’s the biggest thing, just coming back, putting in the work, putting in the time, and then I think good things will happen for us in the future.”

A few more things to look for when Arizona State hosts Colorado on Saturday night:

SLOWING SHENAULT: Arizona State’s defense has been steady while the young offense has tried to find its footing, holding the first three opponents to a combined 21 points.

The Sun Devils face perhaps their biggest challenge in trying to slow Laviska Shenault.

Colorado’s junior receiver had a huge game against Arizona State last year in Tempe, catching 13 passes for 127 yards and scoring four combined touchdowns. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Shenault has 16 catches for 203 yards and two touchdowns through three games this season, with eight catches going for 10 yards or more.

OFFENSIVE STRUGGLES: Arizona State has two freshmen on its offensive line and another, Jayden Daniels, at quarterback.

No surprise then that the Sun Devils are still trying to find an offensive rhythm.

Daniels has been solid in his first three starts, making good decisions and keeping plays alive with his legs. He was composed and had two big runs while orchestrating a late drive in the win over Michigan State.

But Daniels has also been pressured more than Arizona State would like, sacked 10 times and chased from the pocket numerous others.

The Sun Devils also have yet to get Eno Benjamin untracked. He set a school record and was fifth nationally with 1,642 yards rushing a year ago, but has 179 yards on 42 carries so far this year.

Benjamin does have three touchdowns and has been a bigger weapon catching passes out of the backfield, but Arizona State would like to establish him and the run game better. Colorado had a hard time stopping Air Force’s triple option last week, so Benjamin could get a heavier load Saturday.

PRODUCTIVE MONTEZ: Montez has been one of the best quarterbacks in school history during his four seasons in Boulder, moving up career lists in every conceivable category.

The senior has been good again this year, throwing for 827 yards and six touchdowns while completing 64% of his passes. He threw for 328 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Arizona State last year.

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More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25


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