Saturday, December 29, 2012
Pregame: Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl
By Ted Miller
Navy (8-4) versus Arizona State (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12)
WHO TO WATCH: Navy's freshman quarterback Keenan Reynolds helped transform the Midshipmen's season, leading them to seven wins in their final eight games. He's the triggerman in the triple-option and an efficient passer when he has to be, which isn't often. He threw only one interception in 97 pass attempts. Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton, a consensus All-American and the Pac-12 defensive player of the year, isn't huge, but he's been unblockable much of the season. If he consistently disrupts Reynolds' timing, it could be a long day for Navy. But the triple-option, if run effectively, often can mute the effectiveness of dominant interior linemen. Sutton's impact -- or lack thereof -- on Reynolds will be interesting to watch.
WHAT TO WATCH: The line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, and the Sun Devils in space. Arizona State is bigger and faster than Navy, so it should be able to control both lines of scrimmage and make big plays when its speed guys get one-on-one matchups in space. Of course, Navy is smaller and slower than just about everyone it plays, and here it is at 8-4. Winning these battles won't just be about physical skills for the Sun Devils. Discipline and fundamentals will be critical, too.
WHY TO WATCH: Matching up with a hard-nosed, triple-option attack is never easy, but the extra time should help the Sun Devils. Still, Arizona State's most notable step forward this season was consistency and discipline under first-year coach Todd Graham. That will be tested Saturday. A dominant performance on both sides of the ball for the Sun Devils, who are a two-touchdown favorite, will send the program into the offseason on a major uptick.
PREDICTION: While Navy has posted an outstanding season, its best win was over East Carolina. The most likely path toward defeat for the Sun Devils is lots of miscues -- turnovers and penalties. We don't expect that to happen. Arizona State 38, Navy 20.