Arizona State vs. Texas
San Diego, CA
8 PM EST (ESPN)
Traditionally, the Holiday Bowl is one of the more exciting games of the bowl season. The Pac-10 and Big 12 send two of their better teams to San Diego, resulting in close scores and offensive fireworks. Expect more of the same tonight as the Arizona State Sun Devils take on the Texas Longhorns. While you would normally expect the Pac-10 entry to have the more explosive offense, it's the Longhorns who hold the statistical edge, ranking 13th nationally in total offense. And although they're right in the middle of the pack at 52, ASU can move the ball as well.
The second half of the season has been a tough one for the Sun Devil offensive line, which has had trouble doing two things: keeping QB Rudy Carpenter upright (ranking 117th in sacks allowed), and opening up holes for running backs Keegan Herring and Dimitri Nance (3.4 yards per carry, but losing Ryan Torain to a broken foot had an impact on this stat as well). And these are two things they had to correct in preparations for this game, as Texas has a talented defensive front led by tackles Derek Lokey and Frank Okam. But even with their ranking of 10th in run defense, Texas has once again struggled against the pass, ranking a putrid 109th nationally.
On the other side of the ball, people know the name Colt McCoy, who is a dual threat despite the fact that he's thrown 18 picks (he only threw 7 last season). But the man to watch is RB Jamaal Charles (1458 rushing yards, 16 touchdowns), who has been red-hot in three of his last four games. Against Nebraska, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, the junior put up 290, 180 and 174 yards rushing. Texas A&M was able to hold Charles under 100 yards, a good reason why the Aggies won that game. The Sun Devils are no slouch against the run either, ranking 13th nationally in that category.
Who wins this game will boil down to two factors: can the ASU offensive line protect Carpenter long enough for him to take advantage of the Longhorn secondary; and can Jamaal Charles break off a couple of big runs? If this game comes down to a late field goal, put your money on the Sun Devils' Thomas Weber, winner of this year's Groza Award. I'll take the Devils in a close affair.