Life in the Pac-12 has been a rough ride for the Colorado Buffaloes.
Since joining the conference in 2011, the Buffaloes are just 6-24 overall and 3-17 in Pac-12 play.
Despite any noticeable change in the standings, the Buffs are playing much better under new head coach Mike MacIntyre, who was brought in from San Jose State to replace Jon Embree.
“I think they’re very well coached,” ASU head coach Todd Graham told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 620 Friday. “(MacIntyre’s) got them playing with some spirit, too. I mean, they were beating Oregon last week in the first quarter, I think it was 10-8. They came out an onsides kicked the opening kickoff and the kicker they’ve got is really good at it.
“They play with no fear, obviously they don’t have anything to lose.”
Colorado (2-2, 0-2 Pac-12) started out the season with wins over in-state rival Colorado State and Central Arkansas. It was the first time CU had won back-to-back games since beating Iowa State and Kansas State in November of 2010 — their final year in the Big 12.
One of the reasons for Colorado’s improvement has been the defensive effort. The Buffs have allowed an average of 155.8 yards per game on the ground — they yielded 226 yards rushing per contest last season.
“Defensively, I think Coach Mac has got them playing to where they have some consistency about what they’re doing schematically,” Graham said. “They’re keeping games close in the first and second quarter and the danger of that is kind of like last year — you’re expected to go out and run over a team like this.”
The offensive star for the Buffaloes has been wide receiver Paul Richardson, who is back after missing 2012 with an ACL injury. The junior is averaging 155 yards per game, a figure good for second in the conference. He’s already scored five touchdowns and has two 200-yard games on his 2013 ledger.
“They’ve got a wideout, in the Richardson kid, that’s as good as there is in this league,” the ASU head coach said. “He can beat you deep, he threw a touchdown pass against Oregon and scored another one. He’s up there with Jaelen (Strong) and (USC’s) Marqise Lee as far as the caliber that he is.”
All that said, the Devils (3-2, 1-1) are prohibitive favorites going into Saturday night’s game in Tempe. That doesn’t matter much to Graham.
“Anybody can beat anybody in this league, and obviously we talk to our players about that.”