- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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Kevin and Ted consider which non-BCS bowls they are looking forward to see this bowl season.
Kevin Gemmell: I love watching Navy play. I love watching the triple option in its purest form. And that's why I'm geeked up for the Kraft Fight Hunger bowl between the Midshipmen and the Arizona State Sun Devils.
Navy runs the true triple out of the double wing (flex-bone), veer, arc motion, midline option, speed option, quarterback isolation. The roots of the offense go all the way back to Missouri in the 1940s with Don Faurot and the Split-T formation. It's just fun to watch. And that's why I think the matchup with Arizona State is so intriguing.
If you haven't heard, the Sun Devils have a pretty good defensive lineman by the name of Will Sutton. Ya' know, the guy who was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. Landed on a couple of All-America lists. That chap.
Watching Sutton, Carl Bradford, Junior Onyeali, Brandon Magee and the rest of the Sun Devils defense square off with the Navy offense is going to be one of the more fascinating chess matches of the postseason. We've heard a lot about Todd Graham instilling discipline this year in the ASU system. And to beat a team like Navy, it takes strict discipline.
There is no freelancing against a Navy team. Defenders have to stick to their option rules like a pilot to a flight plan. Deviation can mean disaster.
It can also be frustrating. Most coaches would prefer to use these extra practices awarded to bowl teams like an extra spring -- giving young guys some work and focusing more on technique and fundamentals. I'm sure ASU will do that. But a team like Navy takes a little extra time to prepare for because it's an offense you don't see in the Pac-12. If the Sun Devils were playing a pro-style or spread team, the prep time wouldn't be as demanding.
And, of course, anytime you play a service academy, there is always the highest level of respect for who the players are and what they will be doing after their football careers. That should resonate particularly loudly with Arizona State -- given the way it embraces the Pat Tillman legacy and the fact that defensive end Jake Sheffield was a Marine who served in Iraq.
We'll start getting into predictions later, but based on pure athletes alone, Arizona State should win this game. They are superior on both lines which is where games are won and lost. But Navy's offense has a way of leveling the playing field. And if the Sun Devils aren't disciplined, this could be closer than at first glance.
Ted Miller: I'm excited about Oregon State messing with Texas, in large part because one of college football's richest programs -- the Longhorns -- is an underdog to the Beavers.
Texas looks more like a middling Pac-12 team. It scores fairly well -- 36 points per game -- but is questionable on defense. That the Longhorns are so weak on defense when they sit in the middle of some of the richest recruiting land in the nation is utterly baffling.
It will be interesting to see how the Beavers defense, which has been strong all season, matches up against the Longhorns. And how the Longhorns handle receivers Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks, the best tandem they will have seen this season.
Speaking of passing, both teams bring QB intrigue to the game: Will Oregon State go with Sean Mannion or Cody Vaz and what does that mean for next year? And what about Texas with David Ash and Case McCoy? That's another indicator of what the Longhorns might look like next year, in what figures to be a critical year for coach Mack Brown.
And next year is what this one is about.
If the Beavers win, even against a middling Texas team that has disappointed its fans, it will give this turnaround season more credibility, which will boost the 2013 perception. As in nice preseason ranking.
And a 10th win would be nice. That's happened just twice before in program history.