This Friday brings us the Sun Bowl between the Arizona State Sun Devils (7-5) and the North Carolina State Wolfpack (8-4). The game will take place in El Paso, Texas, with a 3:00 EST start. The game can be found on CBS.
The Sun Devils had a long and weird season. It involved losing to San Diego State by double-digits, giving up only seven points to Washington in a win, and firing their head coach when it was all said and done.
They built a little bit of momentum at the end of the regular season with wins over Oregon State and Arizona, but it wasn’t enough for coach Todd Graham to keep his job. Their offense has continued to put up points though, with QB Manny Wilkins becoming quite the leader and N’Keal Harry becoming an elite Pac-12 receiver.
But the run-game has carried Arizona State as of late, with an average of nearly 300 yards (5.6 YPC) rushing over the last four games. Demario Richard’s 5.3 YPC has led the way.
NC State has a reliable rushing attack of their own, with Nyheim Hines going for over 1,000 yards and an incredible 5.7 YPC. Jaylen Samuels is one of the more dynamic all-around players in ACC, rushing for 11 touchdowns and having over 500 yards receiving.
The Wolfpack will come in with defensive leader Bradley Chubb battered but not out with an undisclosed upper body injury. The DE has 10 sacks and 23 tackles for loss, and will be the best player on the field.
His team will come in as 6 ½-point favorites, with the over/under set at 59.5.
It’s a tough call, especially with Arizona State doing the kind of damage they’ve done on the ground. But NC State has improved against it, and is 3rd in the ACC versus the run (28th overall).
The Wolfpack have racked up injuries over the course of the season, but won’t be missing any of their studs. As long as Chubb doesn’t have a setback, NC State will have more than enough sheer talent to beat the Sun Devils.
Wilkins is an athletic quarterback, and he’ll have to use those abilities to escape an aggressive pass-rush. Arizona State is 120th in sacks allowed, and will have a rough night trying to keep tabs on Chubb. He’s a force of nature on passing and rushing downs.
NC State also has better balance offensively, with QB Ryan Finley known to deliver in critical moments and a receiving corp. that has a great deal of talent. The Sun Devils have given up the 11th-most passing yards per-game and –even in the past two wins–they’ve served passing percentages of over 70%. And that doesn’t even match the struggles they had last game against the run, when they let up 245 yards to arch-rival Arizona.
They may’ve been able to cover it up with an impressive ground game of their own. But against the kind of disruption that NC State can bring, it’ll be much harder for the offense to find consistency from drive-to-drive.
Expect NC State to have clear advantages in the trenches on one side and in perimeter-play on the other. It’ll lead to a two-touchdown win for the Wolfpack.