Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Bowl primer: National University Holiday
By Kevin Gemmell
We continue our look at each of the Pac-12’s opponents during the bowl season.
National University Holiday Bowl
San Diego, Dec. 30, 7:15 p.m. (PT), ESPN
Arizona State (10-3) vs. Texas Tech (7-5)
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Coach: Kliff Kingsbury (First year)
Record: 7-5, 4-5 Big 12
Combined opponents’ record: 74-70 (.513)
Common opponents: None.
Leading passer: Baker Mayfield (no longer with team), 218-340 (64.1 percent), 2,315 yards with 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Leading rusher: Kenny Williams, 117-480 with eight touchdowns.
Leading receiver: Jace Amaro, 98-1,240 with seven touchdowns.
Leading tackler: Will Smith, 106 tackles.
What to know: In a bizarre turn of events, Mayfield has opted to transfer off the team before the game. That leaves Davis Webb (198-320-2,315, 16 touchdowns, nine interceptions) or Michael Brewer (7-10-65, one touchdown) competing for the starting gig. Many were projecting Brewer to be the starter in the preseason, but he never earned the job and was also hampered by a back injury. Webb stepped in for Mayfield when he was injured.
It’s been a strange season for the Red Raiders. They started the year 7-0 and reached as high as No. 10 in the AP top 25 and the BCS standings. Of course, only one of those seven teams (Texas State) finished with a .500 record. The rest were sub-.500 teams. Then they lost at No. 15 Oklahoma, 38-30, kicking off a tailspin that is yet to stop. They’ve dropped five in a row (all against teams with winning records) -- including losses to No. 18 Oklahoma State and a 63-34 blowout loss to Baylor. They closed the year with a 41-6 loss to Texas.
Say this, though, for the Red Raiders, they can chuck it. With an average of 392 passing yards per game and an average of 35.7 points per game, they can score. Tight end Amaro is an All-American and a legitimate NFL tight end, though as recently as yesterday he tweeted that he hasn’t decided what his future will be.
But for as solid as they have been on offense, the defense leaves something to be desired as they allow 31.2 points per game.
Key matchup: Arizona State’s pass defense is holding opposing quarterbacks to a 54.7 percent completion rate. That was tops in the Pac-12. They also snagged 21 interceptions -- also first in the league and third nationally. Part of the reason the Sun Devils are so good at creating turnovers in the secondary is because of their pass rush, which averages better than three sacks per game and ranks in the top 10 nationally. The Sun Devils' offense should be able to put up points. The question is whether ASU’s defense allows it to become a shootout.