December 24, 2007's Stewart Mandel analyzes the matchups.

First-year coach Dennis Erickson helped turn the Sun Devils' offense into a more balanced attack, relying both on accurate junior quarterback Rudy Carpenter (3,015 yards, 23 TDs, eight INTs) and a powerful backfield. The running game suffered a severe blow, however, when star tailback Ryan Torain went down with a foot injury after six games. Replacements Keegan Herring and Dmitri Nance are not as explosive. ASU's offensive line allowed a disturbing 51 sacks.

The Sun Devils' defense ranked among the best in the country statistically during their 8-0 start but got scorched during late-season losses to Oregon (35-23) and USC (44-24). LB Robert James (99 tackles) is among the most feared defenders in the Pac-10, and safety Troy Nolan led the conference with six interceptions. Place-kicker Thomas Weber (22 of 23 field goals) is the most accurate field-goal kicker in the country.

After sputtering early, the Longhorns' offense was much more powerful over the second half of the season, led by dangerous tailback Jamaal Charles (1,458 yards, 16 TDs). Following a spectacular freshman season, quarterback Colt McCoy (3,129 yards) -- hurt by an inexperienced line and injuries to star WR Limas Sweed, among others -- struggled at times, throwing 18 interceptions, but still proved capable of delivering some big games when needed.

Texas' defense was a sore spot for much of the season, ranking 109th nationally against the pass, culminating in a disastrous performance in its season-ending 38-30 loss to Texas A&M. As a result, many of Texas' wins came in shootouts. The 'Horns were more effective at stuffing the run, led by future NFL defensive tackle Frank Okam. Marcus Griffin is the latest in a long line of playmaking Texas safeties.

The Holiday Bowl has a history of high-scoring affairs, and this one should be no exception, as neither defense seems capable of shutting down the other's offense. ASU will likely try to keep the score down with a ball-control approach, but Texas' run defense is strong enough to limit its effectiveness. Some big plays from McCoy along with an anticipated huge night from Charles will ultimately do in the Sun Devils.

The pick: Texas 35, Arizona State 32

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