(14) Arizona State (10-3) vs. Texas Tech (7-5)
Monday, December 30, 10:15 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By John Iatesta, Associate College Football Editor
Game Notes: The 14th-ranked Arizona State Sun Devils will take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the Holiday Bowl on Monday, Dec. 30 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.
Todd Graham's 10-3 Sun Devils will be playing in their third straight bowl game. This is the best season for Arizona State since it won its conference championship in 2007 after going 10-3.
Kliff Kingsbury's Red Raiders started off hot by winning their first seven games, but finished the season 7-5. They will be looking to stop their five-game skid against Arizona State.
This will be just the second meeting between the two schools. The Sun Devils won at home by a score of 31-13 in 1999.
Arizona State has the 29th ranked offense in the nation averaging 460.8 yards per game. The Sun Devils have a fairly balanced attacked but are led by their passing attack. They are averaging 276.8 ypg through the air and have thrown for 28 touchdowns.
Taylor Kelly led the Sun Devils in their strong aerial attack. He threw all 28 touchdowns, amassing 3,510 yards, while only throwing 11 interceptions. Kelly was efficient in his passing, completing 62.9 percent of his throws, accounting for the nation's 36th most efficient passing offense.
Jalen Strong was the main beneficiary of the team's strong attack through the air. Strong racked up 1,094 yards and seven touchdowns on 71 receptions. He managed to average 15.4 yards per reception this season.
On the ground Arizona State runs the ball at a clip of 184 rushing yards per game, good for 47th in the country. The Sun Devils managed to score 34 times on the ground and averaged 4.3 rushing yards per carry.
Marion Grice (5.2 ypc, 14 TDs) and Kelly (3.2 ypc, eight TDs) are the team's top two rushers. Grice being the more prolific of the two, with 996 yards on the season on just 191 attempts, an average of 90.5 per game. Arizona State has a strong group of runners with seven different players scoring at least one touchdown.
Teams don't win 10 games just by being strong on offense, Arizona State played extremely well on the defensive side of the ball too. The Sun Devils will enter the Holiday Bowl ranked third in passes intercepted with 21 picks on the year. Arizona State's ability to create turnovers will help when facing a pass-happy Texas Tech team. The Sun Devils also finished sixth nationally in sacks, averaging 3.06 sacks per game.
Davon Coleman (8.5 sacks, 15 TFL) and Carl Bradford (8.5 sacks, 18 TFL) are the Sun Devils' top two pass rushers, thanks in large part to the attention paid to two-time All-American Will Sutton (44 tackles, 11.5 TFL, 4.0 sacks) up front. Robert Nelson leads the squad with his six interceptions followed by Alden Darby and his four.
Arizona State is 0-3 all-time in the Holiday Bowl and is looking for its first win. Graham is confident but knows how good the competition is.
"They've got an offense that's putting up over 500 yards a game, play makers all over the field, as good of a tight end as there is in the country, phenomenal, their outside players can stretch the field vertically, propose a lot of challenges for us, and so obviously I'm expecting an explosive game and a game that will be fun for fans to watch. Going to be a lot of great athletes on the field and I think it will it be exciting."
The Red Raiders were dealt a surprise when quarterback Baker Mayfield (2,315 yds, 12 TDs) announced that he would be leaving the school. Davis Webb (2,315, 16 TDs) will likely be the starter for Texas Tech.
Texas Tech's passing attack comes into this game as the second best in the country, averaging 392 yards a game and 31 touchdowns. As a team the Red Raiders have thrown 18 interceptions which could be dangerous against the Sun Devils.
Jace Amaro (1,240 yds, seven TDs) and Eric Ward (904 yds, eight TDs) had huge years for the Red Raiders and will look to try and get the better of Arizona State's strong pass defense.
Texas Tech struggles to run the ball, ranking 107th in the FBS. The Red Raiders are averaging just 121.3 yards per game on the ground and scored 19 touchdowns.
Defense is not a strong suit for the Red Raiders. They are ranked 89th in scoring defense, allowing 31.2 points per game. They do however only give up 224.8 yards per game through the air and might look to force Arizona State to beat them on the ground.
Kingsbury isn't worried about how his team has lost the last five games and thinks that his group will be able to put it past them.
"It's a resilient group. A lot of these guys have been through coaching changes and things of that nature. They're excited to be in such a big time bowl and playing such a big time opponent in Arizona State. It really perked up their spirits and we've had some really good practices this month."
With Texas Tech being so one-sided on offense, and that one strength playing into Arizona State's biggest defensive strength, it is tough to see the Red Raiders coming out of this game with a win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arizona State 44, Texas Tech 31
12/25 09:59:21 ET