(15) Arizona State Sun Devils (-7.5, 65 o/u) vs. Duke Blue Devils
Just the second bowl game to feature a ranked team will take place this Saturday (Dec. 27), as the No. 15 Arizona State Sun Devils face the Duke Blue Devils in the Hyundai Sun Bowl in El Paso (2:00 p.m. Eastern).
The Sun Devils had a great regular season, overall, posting a 9-3 record and flirting with the top-four. But they ended the year poorly, losing two of their last three, including a surprise loss to mediocre Oregon State and a demoralizing defeat against archrival Arizona. The Sun Devils were 2.5-point road dogs to the Wildcats in the last game of the regular season, but failed to cover, falling 42-35.
“To lose a rivalry game like that, we’re ready to get back on the field and compete,” Sun Devils head coach Todd Graham said. “That’s something that leaves a bad taste in their mouths. These teams are very similar. We were positioned at one time to be in the playoff talk, we didn’t get it done [in] the last [games] of the season.”
The Duke Blue Devils also finished 9-3 and lost two of three to end the year; however, they come in on a high-note after beating Wake Forest 41-21, in the last week of the regular season.
The Blue Devils have leaned on their stout defense – which holds opponents to just over 20 points per game – all season, and will need the unit to be on its game come Saturday. The Sun Devils, who averaged 37 points per game on the year, were able to run up the score on other good teams this year; they put up 38 on USC and 55 on Notre Dame. They also crushed lesser opponents New Mexico (58-23), Colorado (38-24), and Washington State (52-31).
Duke head coach David Cutcliffe realizes that, with the game in Texas, the crowd is likely to be leaning Sun Devils. However, he expects a good turnout from the Duke faithful, as well.
“We’ll have great representation,” Cutcliffe said. “I realize that because of the different geography there may be a few more for Arizona State, but our team is looking forward to a full stadium. That setting is so unique, it will be a great atmosphere and we’re excited by that. There will be a lot of Devils in the stands.”
Duke, a traditional basketball power, has not had much success in the football postseason. The school is just 3-7 all-time in bowl games and has lost its last four in a row. In 2013, the Blue Devils dropped the Chik-fil-A Bowl to Texas A&M, 52-48.
The Sun Devils have a 13-13-1 bowl record, but have also struggled recently, losing four of their last five, including last year’s Holiday Bowl (37-23 against Texas Tech).
One of these teams is going to bust its slump come Saturday, though, and it looks likely to be the Sun Devils. Arizona State is a 7.5-point favorite in the odds at the moment, and the game total is at 65.
These two teams have never met before, but expect the Sun Devils, who are a more skilled team and are playing closer to home, to run away with this one.
(Photo credit: Neon Tommy (Flickr: IMG_3703) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)