Navy Midshipmen (7-4) vs. Arizona State Sun Devils (7-5)
Dec. 29, 4 p.m. ET, San Francisco (ESPN2)
Navy take from Big East blogger Matt Fortuna: Navy kicked things off earlier than most this regular season, falling to now No. 1 Notre Dame during a 9 a.m. ET kick in Dublin, Ireland, on Sept. 1. Navy will end the regular season after everyone, too, facing Army in their historic matchup on Dec. 8. A Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl bid awaits the Midshipmen Dec. 29, when they will take on Arizona State.
Navy has won six of its past seven games following a 1-3 start. And, as usual, it has been led by the run game.
The Midshipmen rush for 285.45 yards per game, good for sixth nationally. An offense that scored 10 or fewer points in three of its first four games has clicked down the stretch, averaging nearly 32 points per contest over its past seven games.
Arizona State take from Pac-12 blogger Ted Miller: Expectations weren't terribly high for Arizona State in year one under new coach Todd Graham. The Sun Devils had just 10 returning starters -- fewest in the Pac-12 -- coming back from a team that finished 6-7 and lost its final five games.
The first big question in preseason camp was at quarterback. It was supposed to be a two-man race between Michael Eubank and Mike Bercovici, but the dark horse contender prevailed: Sophomore Taylor Kelly. Kelly proved to be the right choice, and he is probably the biggest reason the Sun Devils finished 7-5.
Arizona State got off to a fast start. While it blew a winnable game at Missouri -- the Tigers were using their backup QB -- it was difficult to scoff at a 5-1 record. Hopes were high with Oregon coming to town for a Thursday night ESPN game on Oct. 18, but those were quickly doused by a Ducks offensive frenzy. The Sun Devils lost 43-21, but they trailed 43-7 at halftime.
That was the first of four consecutive defeats to ranked teams. While the Sun Devils were mostly competitive, it became clear this team was still not ready to compete at the top of the South Division.
Still, after blowing out Washington State, the Sun Devils went to Tucson facing a simple situation: Beat Arizona; celebrate a successful season. Arizona State did just that in a gutty 41-34 win.
The Sun Devils are strong on both sides of the ball. The offense has good pass-run balance, and the defense is led by DT Will Sutton, the Pac-12 defensive player of the Year.