The verdict is in and Arizona State Football will take on Fresno State on December 15 in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Devils last time playing in this game was in 2011, when it was called the Maaco Bowl. FSU stands at 4.5 point favorites against the Sun Devils. Here are some things to watch (and not) before kickoff this afternoon.
Fresno State’s defense
When your defense ranks alongside Clemson’s, then you’re doing something right. FSU’s defense has allowed the exact number of points that the Tigers have, 178 (13.7 per contest), good for second in the country. Only Mississippi State has allowed fewer points per game, and although Fresno State doesn’t play in a power five, the Bulldogs had some dynamic performances. Within the last three weeks of the season, the Bulldogs gave up 14 points to San Diego State (who beat ASU) and 16 to Boise State to win the Mountain West.
A main reason for their success is Fresno State’s secondary. The 62 pass deflections are sixth-best in the country and the Bulldogs have 17 interceptions, one behind the four teams leading that category. The secondary is fast and will punish mistakes made in the passing game.
N’Keal Harry is on to bigger things. According to Herm Edwards, the star receiver will not play in the Las Vegas Bowl on December 15, meaning his Arizona State days are over. At 6’4” with good strength and ball skills, he should be a valued weapon in the NFL, but, looking back on his college career, there is a good argument that he is the best receiver to ever represent the maroon and gold.
Harry is third in school history in receptions and receiving yards, while ranking fifth in touchdown catches. Everyone ahead of him in these categories played all four years except for Shaun McDonald, who only finished with two more touchdowns. If the probable future first round pick were to rejoin the team as a senior, he would need only six touchdowns to break the ASU record for receivers. He would also need 1,050 yards to lead the school, a number he eclipsed in each of his past two seasons.
Harry led ASU in catches this year with 73. The next highest was Kyle Williams with 40. No other receiver came within 600 yards of Harry, and he nearly outscored all of his fellow wide outs. His absence could be a huge factor against Fresno State, especially against the aforementioned pass defense.
Arizona State’s senior quarterback has been playing his best football during the latter half of the season. His best game of the year came against Utah in a 38-20 home win, and since then he has thrown for 646 yards while completing 57 percent of his throws. His production has led to his rise in the school record books. Wilkins is now fifth in ASU history in passing yards.
If he throws for a measly 132 yards today, he will be fourth, ahead of Jake Plummer. If he has a big game and gains 325 through the air, he will pass Taylor Kelly for third. He has thrown for over 325 yards three times already in 2018.
Wilkins and Kelly have identical completion percentages at 63.3. That is the highest for any quarterback with over 60 completions at Arizona State. If Wilkins is efficient against the Bulldogs, he could leave the school as the most accurate quarterback to come through Tempe.
Fresno State second-year head coach Jeff Tedford is among eight finalists for Eddie Robinson Coach of the year, along with names like Nick Saban, Dabo Swinney and Lincoln Riley. In 2016, the Bulldogs finished 1-11. In the two years after, Tedford took them to 10-4 and 11-2, while winning the 2017 Mountain West Coach of the Year.
He previously played for Fresno State in the early ‘80s, was the offensive coordinator from 1993-1997, then bounced around between jobs in college, the NFL and CFL before he was hired back.
Arizona State hasn’t matched up with Fresno State since ASU was also called the Bulldogs, in 1941. Dixie Howell was the ASU Bulldogs head coach that year, and he led the team to a 5-5-1 record, winning in Fresno, 26-7. The only other times Arizona State faced Fresno State were in 1931 and 1933, with ASU winning those as well.
Gambling this season? Want to try it just to see what it feels like? Go to MyBookie.ag and use promo code ARMCHAIR25 at checkout. They will match your deposit dollar for dollar. Putting in $100? You’ll now have $200.