Holiday Bowl breakdown: Arizona State vs. Texas Tech

Friday December 27th, 2013

Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton has four sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss in the 2013 season.
AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

Arizona State (10-3) vs. Texas Tech (7-5)
Dec. 30, 10:15 p.m. ET (ESPN)

BOWL SCHEDULE: Matchups, dates for every 2013-14 pairing

Reason to watch: The Pac-12 and the Big 12 have met annually in San Diego since 1998, with a history of high-scoring shootouts and entertaining games. But this year's Holiday Bowl will be the last such matchup, with the Big Ten taking the Big 12's spot in the game next season. Both the Sun Devils and the Red Raiders are well-suited to give this game a proper sendoff. With Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly efficiently operating coach Todd Graham's spread attack, the Sun Devils topped the 50-point mark in six games this season. Coach Kliff Kingsbury's Texas Tech team started 7-0 before losing its last five games, but the Red Raiders average 56.1 pass attempts per game, second-most nationally. ASU, which fell to Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game, is the prohibitive favorite, but the Holiday Bowl has a history of upsets. In fact, this matchup is reminiscent of the 2004 game, in which Kingsbury's mentor, Mike Leach, led a 7-4 Texas Tech team to a 45-31 upset of Aaron Rodgers and 10-1 Cal.

Keep an eye on: Sun Devils defensive tackle Will Sutton. A consensus All-America in 2012, the 6-foot-1, 288-pound lineman fell off the radar a bit due to a slow start this fall. His production dipped as opponents regularly double-teamed him, but he still finished the regular season with 11.5 tackles for loss. He also reminded everyone of his game-changing abilities with a clinching interception at the end of a 20-19 win over Utah on Nov. 9. Sutton figures to be in the backfield often when the Red Raiders look to pass.

Did you know? Baker Mayfield, Texas Tech's true freshman walk-on quarterback -- who started seven games this season (the first five and the last two), and who was named the Big 12 offensive newcomer of the year -- opted to transfer on Dec. 11, citing "disagreements and miscommunications" with the coaching staff. In his place the Red Raiders will go with either fellow freshman Davis Webb, who started five games, or sophomore Michael Brewer, who was the anticipated starter during the preseason before he suffered a back injury. Most believe Brewer is Kingsbury's quarterback of the future.

Final analysis: Arizona State was hit or miss all season, lighting up the scoreboard against most teams but getting physically whipped by Stanford (twice) and Notre Dame. Physical foes Wisconsin and Utah gave the Sun Devils their biggest scares. Texas Tech does not remotely fit that blueprint and will need a major ASU letdown to pull the upset.

The pick: Arizona State 49, Texas Tech 28

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