Arizona State comes out of its bye week feeling healthier and looking at a favorable path to the inaugural Pac-12 title game.
The 23rd-ranked Sun Devils resume play Saturday night against a banged-up Colorado team which is unsure whether quarterback Tyler Hansen will be available.
Arizona State (5-2, 3-1) went into its bye week atop the South Division despite a 41-27 loss at then-No. 9 Oregon on Oct. 15. The Sun Devils are tied in the division with No. 20 Southern California, which lost to Arizona State on Sept. 24 and is ineligible for postseason play anyway.
There's little reason to believe the Sun Devils will give up first place. None of their five remaining opponents have a winning conference record, and all but one -- California -- is under .500 overall.
"Obviously, in this league, a lot of things can happen as you've seen," coach Dennis Erickson said. "You can play really well and then all of a sudden you can get on a bad streak. We have a lot of things in front of us that we can accomplish, but we have to go out and accomplish them one game at a time."
One thing Erickson would like to see accomplished is quarterback Brock Osweiler becoming more consistent. He completed 29 of 46 passes for 291 yards and two touchdowns against the Ducks but also had two interceptions -- his third game with multiple picks.
"I really feel that every game that I play in and finish I'm getting better, more comfortable and everything is really slowing down," said Osweiler, who ranks 17th in the FBS with 281.1 passing yards per game. "Hopefully that continues and we continue to win football games and get better each week."
The bye week was especially critical for the defense. Defensive end Junior Onyeali, last season's conference freshman of the year, could be ready to return after tearing a meniscus in his left knee in September.
Cornerback Omar Bolden is also nearing a return from an offseason knee injury, although Erickson said he won't play this weekend.
"This particular bye, win or lose, was better for health reasons more than anything," Erickson said. "We have some guys banged up and after the seventh game, after halfway, we needed it just for that."
Even if they aren't at full strength, the Sun Devils are still in a better position than the Buffaloes.
Colorado (1-7, 0-4) has lost five straight, including a 45-2 defeat to Oregon last Saturday. The Buffaloes didn't score until a safety late in the third quarter and were outgained 527-231.
They also added to an already crowded injured list. Hansen headed to the sidelines after suffering a concussion in the second quarter, joining leading rusher Rodney Stewart and top receiver Paul Richardson, who were out with knee injuries.
Defensively, leading tackler Douglas Rippy underwent surgery last week for a torn ACL, while safety Ray Polk is out with a sprained wrist, a cracked sternum and a concussion. Safety Anthony Perkins (ankle) and kick returner D.D. Goodson (concussion) also were added to those injured over the weekend.
Coach Jon Embree isn't certain who will come back this week. Hansen is backed up by freshman Nick Hirschman, who completed 8 of 18 passes for 81 yards. He was sacked three times.
"It's who's next?" quarterbacks coach Rip Scherer told the Buffaloes' official website. "You've got to have that mentality. That's what I tell our guys -- it's who's next and somebody steps up. We can't play with 10."
Colorado has been outscored by an average of 29.0 points in six straight losses to Top 25 teams, including a 48-7 defeat to then-No. 7 Stanford on Oct. 8.
Arizona State has won both previous meetings with Colorado, the most recent a 33-14 victory in 2007.
Top 25 Overview
Arizona State leads the series 2-0. The teams last played in 2007, a 33-14 Sun Devils win. The Buffaloes have surrendered 500 or more yards in three consecutive games for the first time since 1983. The Buffs have played 15 true freshmen this season. Further, QB Tyler Hansen is questionable with a concussion. The Sun Devils have forced 20 turnovers, sixth most in the nation. ASU is 5-6 after bye weeks since 2000. It is 60-18-3 (.759) all time in homecoming games.