#15 Arizona State v. Duke
Sun Bowl Stadium — El Paso, TX
December 27, 2014 — 2:00 pm Eastern (CBS)
Why You Should Watch
What’s the oldest bowl game in football-mad Texas? If you said the Cotton Bowl, you were off by three years and 600 miles. Only one bowl game has a longer history than the Sun Bowl, as it predates all of the New Year’s Six bowl games except for the Rose Bowl. The game has been played annually since the 1934 season, and the Sun Bowl Stadium is currently celebrating more than a half-century in operation. This is also the only bowl game CBS is airing this postseason, so if you need a fix of SEC adulation in a game where neither of the two teams hails from the SEC this is the game for you.
What Each Team Brings to the Table
The Sun Devils were a win over state rival Arizona away from playing in a second consecutive Pac-12 Championship Game. Despite having to play with two different quarterbacks due to starter Taylor Kelly’s foot injury, Arizona State still ranked in the top 30 nationally in passing yardage and scored 37 points per game. D.J. Foster also became the first ASU back to rush for over 1000 yards since Cameron Marshall did it in 2011. The defense was unspectacular, allowing nearly four touchdowns a game, but it was stout enough to preserve nine victories over the season. Other than a blowout to UCLA at the end of September, the Sun Devils were in the hunt in every contest they played this season — especially impressive given the fact that Todd Graham’s team played the 35th toughest schedule in the country according to Sagarin.
The Blue Devils needed just one win over either Virginia Tech or North Carolina to claim its second straight ACC Coastal title. Instead, Duke lost both games at home, and fell from a possible New Year’s Six bowl to a post-Christmas trip to El Paso. That’s not to diminish the impressive work David Cutcliffe has done with the Blue Devils, who fielded one of the stingiest defenses in the country to win nine games. The offense also did its part, putting an average of 32.5 points on the scoreboard to outscore opponents by nearly 12 points per game. Shaun Wilson and Shaquille Powell shared carries in the backfield, with both putting up over 500 yards apiece. And Anthony Boone was solid at quarterback, cutting back on his interceptions significantly in his senior season to keep his team in almost every game.
What is Likely to Happen
Both of these teams won nine games this year, but Arizona State did it against a vastly superior set of opponents. The Sun Devils will be seriously tested by Duke’s offense, but the Blue Devils will likewise have their hands full with one of the country’s best offenses. The big question is how many people will be in attendance? Will Blue Devils fans make their way westward from the Carolinas, and will Sun Devils fans leave the warmth of Arizona for the colder climes of west Texas? What this game ultimately comes down to is how well Duke can contain both the passing threat of Kelly and the pounding on the ground that Foster is sure to administer. Arizona State’s defense could get a pick or two off of Boone, and this game could make a late turn to look similar to the Notre Dame victory.
Arizona State 45, Duke 30