Arizona State vs Florida State
When: 2:00 PM ET, Tuesday, December 31, 2019
Where: Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas
Preview for Digital Sports Desk by Gracenote
TONY THE TIGER SUN BOWL STORYLINES
- Florida State returns to bowl action after failing to qualify a year ago, halting a 36-year streak that ran from 1982 to 2017. The Seminoles were in danger of sitting out again, but interim coach Odell Haggins took over from the fired Willie Taggart and the team went on to win two of its last three to squeak by with the six victories needed to earn a meeting with Arizona State on Dec. 31 in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas. Haggins will call the shots one more time before giving way to new head coach Mike Norvell, who was hired away from Memphis after going 38-15 in four seasons.
- Despite getting off to a strong 5-1 start and spending weeks in the national rankings, Arizona State also needed a late surge as the Sun Devils flirted with missing out on a bowl with four straight losses before upsetting then-No. 6 Oregon and rival Arizona to finish at 7-5. “When you have an opportunity to get into a bowl, that’s critical for your program,” head coach Herman Edwards told reporters. “That’s significant for us. With the class of kids coming in, probably 22 or 23 freshmen, some of them will be able to practice. That’ll help us. We’re trying to build a program.” A win would give the Sun Devils their most victories since 2014 (10), but they are just 14-16-1 all-time in bowl games after a 31-20 loss to Fresno State last year in the Las Vegas Bowl in Edwards’ first season at Arizona State.
- The game will be missing some of its biggest playmakers as both schools had key players opt to skip the Sun Bowl to prepare for the NFL draft. The Sun Devils will be without a pair of All-Pac-12 first-teamers in wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, who ranks among the top 10 in the nation in receiving yards (1,192) and all-purpose yards per game (155.8) and top 20 in combined kick returns (672), and two-time 1,000-yard rusher Eno Benjamin, while running back Cam Akers, who ran for 1,144 yards and 14 touchdowns this season, and backup quarterback Alex Hornibrook will not be available for the Seminoles. Edwards also announced that his offensive coaching staff will have a new look going forward after parting ways with coordinator Rob Likens, wideouts coach Charlie Fisher and tight ends coach Donnie Yantis.
TV: 2 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Arizona State -5.5
ABOUT ARIZONA STATE (7-5): While the Sun Devils are going forward without Aiyuk and Benjamin, they still have freshman sensation Jayden Daniels, who has already thrown for 2,748 yards to smash the school freshman record of 2,273, and 11 of his 17 touchdown passes have gone for at least 25 yards (64.7 percent). Daniels’ second- and third-leading pass catchers will be available – Frank Darby and Kyle Williams – but the departure of Benjamin leaves Daniels (319 yards) as the leading rusher entering the game, with no other Sun Devil totaling more than 47 yards this season on the ground. Opponents have scored at least 30 points in four of the team’s five losses while the Sun Devils were held to 17 points or less in five of the seven victories.
ABOUT FLORIDA STATE (6-6): Akers’ absence leaves the Seminoles with a huge void in the backfield as he accounted for 104 of the 133.8 rushing yards per game that the team averaged this season, putting the onus on redshirt sophomore Khalan Laborn, who rushed for 320 yards and four touchdowns on 63 carries. The passing attack, with James Blackman (16 TDs, 7 INTs) at the helm for most of the season, is averaging 269.4 yards per game, with receiver Tamorrion Terry providing big plays with an average of 20.1 yards on his 51 catches (1,023 yards, eight TDs). The defense is allowing 436 total yards per game, with the pass defense proving especially vulnerable, surrendering 283.5 yards per game, second-worst in the ACC, partly due to a lackluster pass rush that managed just 29 sacks for the season (2.4 per game).
PREDICTION: Arizona State 30, Florida State 20