ASU Football: Players to watch for Colorado

BOULDER, CO - SEPTEMBER 28: Quarterback Steven Montez #12 of the Colorado Buffaloes throws against the UCLA Bruins at Folsom Field on September 28, 2018 in Boulder, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
BOULDER, CO - SEPTEMBER 28: Quarterback Steven Montez #12 of the Colorado Buffaloes throws against the UCLA Bruins at Folsom Field on September 28, 2018 in Boulder, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

The Colorado Buffaloes have soared to No. 21 in the AP Poll as ASU football will look to defeat the last remaining unbeaten team in the Pac-12.

Before the start of the 2018 football season, the Colorado Buffaloes were tabbed to finish fifth in the Pac-12 South, just one spot above the last place Arizona State Sun Devils.

Fast forward through the first four weeks of the season and now what was predicted as a matchup to decide would finish at the bottom of the Pac-12 is looking more like a game that has serious implications for who will win the division.

The Buffaloes currently sit atop the South with a record of 4-0 (1-0 Pac-12) above second place USC who has struggled to begin the season after being pegged as the front-runner in the south.

The Sun Devils currently sit at fourth in the division right above fifth-place Utah who was tabbed as the second-best team in the division entering the 2018 season.

As Colorado enters the most important and arguably their toughest test of the season, here are the two most important players on the offensive side of the ball and the two key players on the defensive side of the ball for the Buffaloes.

QB Steven Montez

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The six-foot-five-inch quarterback has been stellar in his third season at Colorado, completing nearly 76 percent of his passes on the season. Montez’s accuracy has led the junior to throw for over 1,000 yards through the first four games on the year with 12 total touchdowns (nine passing, three rushing) to two interceptions on the year.

After earning honorable mention All-Pac-12 in his sophomore season, Montez entered the 2018 season on the preseason watch list for the Maxwell Award, which honors the best College Player of the Year.

Montez threw for nearly 3,000 yards a season ago, landing just 25 yards short of the mark while throwing for 18 touchdowns.

The junior posted four 300 yard passing games last season including a span of three straight with one of the games coming against Arizona State. The signal caller has already passed for over 300 yards twice this season in games where he threw a combined 7 touchdowns.

WR Laviska Shenault Jr.

Receiving passes form Montez will be the six-foot-two-inch sophomore receiver Shenault Jr. After totaling 168 yards on seven catches a season ago, Shenault surpassed both marks in the opening game of the 2018 season with 11 catches for 211 yards against Colorado State.

The sophomore has since continued his phenomenal breakout season with over 120 receiving yards in three of the team’s four games while leading the team with a total of 581 yards with four touchdowns. Shenault has also secured a spot as a top target for Montez as the sophomore has pulled in over 10 catches in three games this season.

Shenault will be in for one of his toughest matchups this season as he will line up against the duo of Chase Lucas and Kobe Williams of the Sun Devils. The duo will look to limit the sophomore and make other players make plays as the second leading receiver is 388 yards behind Shenault at 193 yards.

LB Nate Landman

On the defensive side of the ball, it will be the sophomore Landman that will look to make the most impact against the Sun Devils.

Landman currently leads the Buffaloes in total tackles on the season with 43. The mark puts him at 10.8 per game on the season and he currently is 13 tackles above the next closest tackler on the team.

The sophomore linebacker was tabbed the winner of the Dick Anderson Award for outstanding toughness by the team’s coaching staff during spring practices.

Landman’s toughness and nose for the football has allowed him to be one of the key players on the Buffaloes defense that currently ranks No. 27 in total defense in the country.

DL Mustafa Johnson

The former junior college transfer has made an instant impact for Colorado as he currently leads the team in sacks at 3.5 while coming in at third in total tackles.

Coming out of junior college, Johnson was ranked as the No. 22 defensive tackle in the country by after ending his freshman season with 6.5 sacks along with 58 total tackles.

Johnson and the rest of the Buffaloes will look to slow down what was an extremely potent rushing attack for the Sun Devils a week ago.

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Arizona State rushed for nearly 400 yards on the ground and will look to continue to focus on running the ball against the No. 46 ranked rush defense in the country as Colorado allows just over 150 yards a game on the ground.