Who Wants It More?

For the second consecutive year, Boise State will play in the Las Vegas Bowl early in the bowl season, then get to spend the holidays with family. They won impressively over Utah last year--can they do it again against Arizona State of the Pac-12?

There aren't many teams in the country that can stay with Boise State in a high-scoring game. Arizona State is one of them.

The Sun Devils are right behind Boise State in passing, ranking 11th in the country with 310.17 yards per game. Brock Osweiler is 296-469 (63.1%) for 3,641 yards and 24 touchdowns vs. 12 interceptions. He throws for 7.76 yards per attempt, indicating he loves the short passes and will nickel and dime you, lull you to sleep, and then lob a bomb for a touchdown. Osweiler can also get four yards a carry when he runs with the ball. For comparison, Osweiler ranks seventh among opposing quarterbacks that Boise State will have faced in passing efficiency, behind #7 Casey Pachall of TCU, #15 Austin Dantin of Toledo, #24 Tyler Lantrip of Nevada, #25 G.J. Kinne of Tulsa, #27 Aaron Murray of Georgia and #31 Derek Carr of Fresno State.

Osweiler was 24-32 for 353 yards in a 37-30 win against Missouri in overtime. Illinois beat them 17-14 in Champaign. Cameron Marshall scored three touchdowns in a shocking 43-22 win over USC, one of only two on the season for the Trojans. Osweiler went 25-32 for 223 yards against the Men from Troy. ASU played Oregon close at home until the Ducks began to pull away in the third quarter for a 41-27 victory. Then, the road woes began as Arizona State lost first to UCLA 29-28 when they missed a field goal in the closing seconds and then to Washington State 37-27. ASU also lost a 31-27 heartbreaker at home to Arizona and then fell to Cal 47-38 in the regular season finale.

Like the Broncos, they have two amazing receivers with great size. Gerell Robinson (64 for 1,156 yards (18.06 yards per catch) and six touchdowns) is the deep threat while Jamal Miles has 60 catches for 361 yards (6.02) and six TD receptions. Boise State will want to play tight on Miles and look for Robinson to go deep. Aaron Pflugrad (40 catches for 620 yards and five touchdowns) and Mike Willie (36-455 and three scores) are the other main threats in the passing game.

ASU can put the ball in the end zone often and that is where they match up well against Boise State—they score 33.92 points a game which is 25th in the country. ASU features a spread offense so they don't run as much as they throw. The Sun Devils are 78th nationally with 140.75 yards in rushing. Still, Marshall ran for 1,038 yards and 18 touchdowns. That's slightly behind Doug Martin of Boise State in yards but more trips to the end zone, which tells us that Marshall can get the tough yards near the goal line. Marshall is also a threat in the passing game with 23 receptions. Arizona State has an experienced offensive line, but still allowed six tackles for loss per game (73rd in the country) and two sacks per game (64th).

Defensively, Arizona State is much better at getting to the quarterback than Boise State is, ranking 43rd in sacks to 79th for the Broncos. Their run defense is good; they allow 148 yards per game. Boise State rushes for 172.75, so that shouldn't hurt much. Still, the Broncos must be able to be effective with the ground game to take pressure off of Kellen Moore.

Arizona State features great linebacker play, among the best in the Pac-12. Vontaze Burfict tops the team with 68 tackles, including seven for loss, and five sacks. He also has an interception that he returned for 36 yards and four pass deflections. Colin Parker is right behind Burfict with 67 tackles, six behind the line. Oliver Aaron has 52 stops with seven behind the line. Shelly Lyons has 48 tackles, five behind the line, with two interceptions, one he returned for a TD, and five pass deflections.

The weakness of ASU is their pass defense—they were just 107th in the country in the regular season, allowing 270.92 yards a game and they'll be going against one of the best of all-time in Moore. Boise State, meanwhile, is 25th, allowing 195.50 yards a game against the pass-happy Mountain West Conference. Coach Dennis Erickson's team has the luxury of having two seniors back at safety—Clint Floyd has 62 tackles, six pass deflections and three interceptions while Eddie Elder is the leader of the Arizona State secondary with 63 tackles, five pass deflections and an interception.

One thing that the Sun Devil defense has going for it is its ball-hawking; they are 13th in the country with 29 turnovers gained, the majority from stripping the ball away, so Boise State backs and receivers will have to wary of that and protect the football with both hands. Parker has four forced fumbles to lead Arizona State, but Clint Floyd, Oliver Aaron and Shelly Lyons have two each as well.

Overall, Arizona State allows 26.33 points a game to Boise State's 18.25 points. Arizona State features 13 seniors in the starting lineup. They know the system and are dialed in. Miles is dangerous on special teams, averaging 26.3 yards on kickoffs, including two for touchdowns, and 16.6 yards a punt return, helped by one he took all the way to the end zone, and 26.

The winner of bowl games is often the team that is happiest to be there. We know ASU at 6-6 is happy to be there—the million dollar question is: How happy is Boise State to be playing in the Vegas Bowl?

Bronco Country Top Stories