Arizona State (7-5, 7-5 ATS) is the underdog against Fresno State (11-2, 9-4 ATS) at the Las Vegas Bowl, which will be played on December 15th (3:30 PM ET) at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Arizona State is a Power-5 team that fired its head coach after a 7-5 season and hired a TV personality, who took the Sun Devils to a triumphant 7-5 season. Fresno State is a ranked two-loss G5 team that won its conference.
As mentioned before, this was Arizona State’s first season under new/very old head coach Herm Edwards. Most pundits predicted doom and gloom for the Sun Devils, but to their credit they performed decently and finished the year 7-5. The team notched some key victories, including wins over USC, Arizona, and Michigan State.
Arizona State’s big star was N’Keal Harry, who will not be available for this game. The star receiver caught 73 passes for 1,088 yards and 9 touchdowns, and even attempted one pass! Harry is skipping the Las Vegas Bowl to prepare for the NFL Draft, and will be sorely missed. In his place, Kyle Williams, Brandon Aiyuk, and Frank Darby will try to pick up the slack.
Merlin Robertson led the defense with 77 tackes and 5.0 sacks, but it’s possible that Jalen Harvey will be the key to this game. Harvey, who recorded 70 tackles through ten games in his first season as a safety, will miss the Las Vegas Bowl with a shoulder injury. Since Fresno State brings a perfectly competent passing attack to this game, it’s likely that Harvey will be sorely missed.
Fresno State was one of the best teams in the country this year, and their ranking doesn’t do them justice.
The Bulldogs fielded a truly stifling defense centred around a set of hard-hitting linebackers. Mykal Walker recorded 13 tackles for loss. Jeffrey Allison scored 109 total tackles. George Helmuth scored 5.0 sacks. The Bulldogs didn’t face the toughest schedule in FBS, certainly, but they did all you’d expect from a top team. They lost 21-14 to Minnesota early in the season, and lost 24-17 against a ranked Boise State in early November. They’d go on to avenge the latter loss, winning the Mountain West Championship Game in overtime.
The offense centred around quarterback Marcus McMaryion, who threw for 3,453 yards and 35 touchdowns this season. The bulk of those passes flew to wide receiver KeeSean Johnson, who piled up 1,307 yards and 8 touchdowns. The pair formed and extremely productive combination, with Jared Rice and Jamire Jordan chipping in with 624 and 420 yards, respectively.
One of these teams is considerably better than the other, and it’s not reflected in the spread. Fresno State was one of the best tams in college football this year, and Arizona State struggled to keep up in the Pac-12.