TEMPE – On a warm, late September evening, Arizona State faithful packed into Mountain America Stadium to watch the Sun Devils take on USC, which was ranked fifth in the nation.
With the opportunity to check out reigning Heisman winner Caleb Williams, the place formerly known as Sun Devil Stadium saw its first sellout crowd since the last time the Trojans came to Tempe in 2021.
Now, following ASU’s road game at California last Saturday, the crowds will return, as the 1-4 Sun Devils are set to host the most-watched team in college football this weekend. While it may not be an official sellout Saturday, fans will once again pack into Mountain America Stadium, this time to get a glimpse of Deion Sanders and the 3-2 Colorado Buffaloes.
In college football, no team has been more popular than the Sanders-led Colorado program. Through the first five weeks of the season, the team has hosted Fox’s “Big Noon Kickoff” twice in Boulder and ESPN’s “College GameDay” once while selling out season tickets for the first time in 100 years.
The Buffaloes have played in one of the two most viewed games each week, according to Front Office Sports. Colorado’s Sept. 30 game against USC garnered 7.24 million viewers, slightly less than its average of 8.5 million viewers per game.
In Boulder, the Colorado football program is the hottest ticket in town. Through the first three home games of the year, Folsom Field has been sold out with an attendance over 53,000 – a drastic change from last year when the team had one win and averaged 42,000 fans at home games.
The Buffaloes’ popularity is not slowing down heading into their matchup against ASU this weekend. Since it is being broadcast on the Pac-12 Network, demand to see the game live has increased due to the TV channel not being easily accessible.
Colorado and Sanders mania is not limited to television viewers. Ticket prices for Saturday’s game are the highest of the ASU home schedule. As of Wednesday, the primary market get-in price was $165 and inventory is limited to only eight sections in the stadium.
While fans will be emptying their pockets to attend the game, ASU students have the luxury of receiving free tickets to sit in the student section. Even though they are getting into the game for nothing, students are going for the same reasons as those who are paying.
“I want to show support for my hometown of Boulder and see coach Prime in person once again because once wasn’t enough,” said ASU student Peter Christin. “I don’t have any need to see ASU football, it’s more about seeing Deion and Buffs.”
Even though the national focus may not be on the Sun Devils this week, the team welcomes a raucous environment Saturday.
Despite coming into its Sept. 23 game against USC as heavy underdogs, ASU fed off the energy of the crowd to surprise many fans and keep the game within two possessions in a 42-28 loss.
“It’s good to know that the community is still behind us regardless of the outcome of the games. It makes a difference,” redshirt junior Leif Fautanu said. “With USC, they had their pre-snap penalties so that makes a big difference.”
In that game, the Trojans took 10 penalties resulting in 85 yards, which is a season-high for USC.
Since the first day he arrived in Tempe, ASU coach Kenny Dillingham has spread the message of “activating the Valley.” With fans starting to attend football games more consistently, it seems like Dillingham’s philosophy is working.
Heading into Saturday’s game against Colorado, Dillingham hopes the crowd can replicate the same advantage from two weeks ago.
“It’s a competitive advantage to have the whole crowd there. Getting the noise and causing chaos on third downs is a huge advantage,” Dillingham said. “It’s fun for the Valley to have a team to rally around. It’s good for everybody.”
ASU has had the reputation of not being able to get fans to go to football games. That stigma could be flipping, however, as three of the remaining four home games are all against teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25.