Since 1935 fans have been treated to the Sun Bowl, leaving it along with the Sugar and Orange Bowl as the second oldest bowl games in the nation behind only the "Granddaddy of them all" the Rose Bowl. Over 80 teams have participated in the Sun Bowl with Texas Tech holding the record with 9 appearances(with only one win). This year's edition brings us an intriguing matchup with the #24 ranked NC State Wolfpack from the ACC versus the Arizona State Sun Devils from the Pac 12. The game takes place December 29th, 2017 at 3:00 PM ET in El Paso, Texas.
The Pac12 will be going for their 5th straight Sun Bowl win as a conference but oddsmakers have it as an uphill battle for the Sun Devils. NC State is currently listed as a -6.5 to -7 point favorite after the opening line was set with them as a -5 point favorite. The total has sat primarily around 59 to 59.5 since open.
The Wolfpack Finish Strong and Break the Streak
NC State enters the contest off a victory in their regular-season finale against in-state rival North Carolina 33-21. NC State was 6-1 at one point in the season but faltered down the stretch as the competition improved and finished the season at 8-4. Victories over then-ranked opponents in Louisville and Florida State highlight a solid if not spectacular campaign for the Wolfpack. They are making their fourth consecutive bowl appearance under head coach Dave Doeren.
"Arizona State has one of the nation's best offenses inside the 20 and is facing perhaps the most experienced defense in the FBS???????"
The Wolfpack have thrived this season on the offensive side of the ball where QB Ryan Finley has led this offense to averages over 30 ppg and almost 450 ypg. Fans of Finlay may want to be certain to catch this one as this may be the final time Finlay puts on the State uniform before taking his talents to Sundays. In addition to Finley, NC State will rely heavily on star tailback Nyheim Hines, who is an electric player that rushed for 1040 yards on the season with 9 touchdowns.
The defense is led by consensus All-American Bradley Chubb. Chubb won the Bronko Nagurski and Ted Hendricks awards for the top defensive lineman in the nation. He has posted 26 sacks over his college career and will look to go out with a bang as this is his final game before turning pro.
The Sun Devils Win One for Graham
The Sun Devils have not made the Rose Bowl since 1997, that combined with a perceived downward trend of the program led to the Sun Devils firing Todd Graham. Graham has been replaced by one of the weirder hires in Herm Edwards. Yes, the same Herm Edwards that has not coached in the college game since the 80's. It's often hard to handicap the emotional state of college kids wanting to send their coach off with a win as Graham will coach this bowl game.
The Sun Devils enter the contest winners of their last two including a victory in the regular season finale over in-state rival Arizona. They will be playing in their 5th bowl game in the last 6 seasons. The Sun Devils followed the playbook of recent years in that they were pretty good on offense and pretty bad on defense. The offense average over 31 ppg while the defense gave up over 31 ppg.
The Sun Devil offensive attack is led by quarterback Manny Wilkins who threw for 2,918 yards and 17 touchdowns with only 5 interceptions. All-Pac 12 received N'Keal Harry led the receiving corps with 73 receptions for 1000 yards with 7 touchdowns.
Arizona State leaves it all on the field and gives the Wolfpack all the game they can handle. The finish is decided in the final few minutes of the game. And if ASU is going to keep it close it probably going to be a high scoring affair. It's a high total but I am taking over the listed 59 points in another Sun Bowl shootout. This goes against the trend for the Wolfpack, where all their games away from home have gone under the total.