The Las Vegas Bowl takes a bit of a gamble this year as it pits a top-10 team, Boise State, against a team that managed just a.500 record in the regular season, Arizona State.
The two schools met just one time before ASU posted a 56-7 win over Boise in October 1996 in Tempe, when the Broncos were in the Big West Conference in their first year in Division I-A (FBS) football.
The latest Las Vegas Bowl odds list Boise State as a 13.5-point favorite, while the over/under is set for 66 points.
The Sun Devils were expected to contend for first place in the Pack-12 South, but four-straight losses to end the season put them at just 4-5 in conference play. They also enter the game with a lame-duck coach as Dennis Erickson was fired following a 47-38 loss to Cal.
Offensively, the Devils rank 25th nationally in scoring (34 ppg) while compiling 451 yards of offense per game (310 passing, 141 rushing). Brock Osweiler has completed 63 percent of his passes for 3,641 yards and 24 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. The offensive line has given up 24 sacks.
The top pasting targets for ASU are Gerell Robinson with 53 receptions for 1,156 yards and six TDs and Jamal Miles with 60 catches for 361 yards and six scores. Cameron Marshall anchors the running game with 1,038 yards and 18 TDs on 4.7 yards per carry.
ASU ranks 64th in the nation in scoring defense (26 ppg), allowing 419 yards per game (271 passing, 148 rushing) while recording 26 sacks and forcing 29 turnovers with one returned for a TD (Shelly Lyons, interception).
Four players lead this unit Vontaze Burfict with 68 tackles (five sacks, a pick and a fumble recovery), Colin Parker with 67 (four forced fumbles, 2.5 sacks, two recoveries), Eddie Elder with 63 (interception, forced fumble) and Clint Floyd with 62 (three picks, two forced fumbles and a half-sack).
Boise State was just a two-point conversion away from a perfect season and a BCS bowl bid, but their shocking home loss to TCU has them settling for a Las Vegas Bowl appearance against Arizona State. The Broncos were 6-0 on the road this season and 6-1 against bowl-bound teams. This year’s Boise squad is one of th the rare teams that ranks in the top-10 in scoring defense and offense.
The Broncos rank seventh in the country in points scored (43 ppg) while recording 483 yards per game (310 passing, 173 rushing). Kellen Moore directs the offense by completing 74 percent of his passes for 3,507 yards and 41 TDs with seven INTs. The offensive line has allowed just eight sacks.
Tyler Shoemaker and Matt Miller lead the receiving corps with a combined 117 receptions for 1,606 yards and 23 TDs, while Doug Martin and D.J. Harper lead the running game with 1,601 combined rushing yards and 23 TDs on 4.9 yards per carry.
The Boise defense ranks 10th nationally in points allowed (18 ppg) and surrenders 316 yards per game (196 passing, 120 rushing) while recording 20 sacks and forcing 24 turnovers two of which were returned for TDs (Tyrone Crawford and Hunter White, fumbles).
Byron Hout leads this unit with 75 tackles, two forced fumbles and a blocked kick, while Crawford leads with 6.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and two recoveries, adding 42 tackles and a blocked kick. Jerrell Gavins has three picks to go with 11 tackles in three games, while Hunter White has two blocked kicks to go with 30 tackles, a forced fumble and a recovery.
2011 Las Vegas Bowl Free Pick: Boise State -13.5
Kellen Moore and this veteran-laden Boise State team should be well-prepared for this game. Arizona State doesn’t have even close to the same talent, and they have a lot of uncertainty around the program. I think Boise should win comfortably here.
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