Shape of the Game: Arizona State

Texas Tech looks to upset No. 14 Arizona State Monday night in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego. The win would give Texas Tech eight wins in coach Kliff Kingsbury's first season and snap a five-game losing streak. The Sun Devils are looking to bounce back from a 38-14 loss to Stanford in the Pac-12 championship. A victory Monday would also give ASU 11 wins in a season for the first time since 1996.

KEY ASU STATS
CATEGORYSTATNATIONAL RANK
Turnover Margin+14No. 6
Interceptions21No. 3
Sacks40No. 1
Passing Yards Allowed Per Completion12.28No. 55
Scoring Offense Per Game41No. 8
Yards Per Punt Return5.85No. 96
Penalty Yards Per Game29No. 4
Third Down Conversion Percentage39.8No. 69
Yards Allowed Per Punt Return11.39No. 104
Sacks Allowed37No. 113


The Arizona State Sun Devils are a bit of a paradox.

The Sun Devil offense looks fairly pedestrian in most statistical categories, yet is very good in the one that counts most--Arizona State (10-3) scores 41 points per game.

The ASU defense is in many ways intimidating—they're the best pass rushing defense in the nation and are one of the best in picking off passes—yet is average in the most critical area: ASU is No. 58 in scoring defense.

On paper, Texas Tech (7-5) actually matches up less poorly with Arizona State on defense than on offense. True, the Red Raider defense thoroughly imploded down the stretch, but that collapse came primarily against the run.

Arizona State, however, is first and foremost a passing team. ASU is No. 22 nationally in passing attempts and No. 64 in rushing yards per carry. Thus, the Sun Devils may be poorly equipped to take advantage of Tech's glaring weakness against the run.

It is also worth noting that Arizona State is one of the worst pass protecting offenses in the nation. If, therefore, the Red Raiders can pressure ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly, and continue to cover reasonably well in the secondary, the Tech defense may be able to keep the Red Raiders in the game. And while ASU does score 41 points per contest, over the last five games, that average has slipped to 32 points per game. If the Tech defense can limit ASU to the latter number, this could be an interesting game.

But there is no guarantee the Red Raider offense will ring the bell often against the Sun Devils.

Yes, Tech moves the ball up and down the field against just about everybody, and true, Tech has one of the most prolific passing attacks in the nation, but offense is all about scoring. And the Red Raiders are somewhat average in this area. Tech is No. 26 nationally, scoring 36 points per game, but in conference play that average slipped to 33 points per outing. What's more, the Red Raiders averaged only 28 points per game in their last five games, all of them losses.

As noted above, ASU's defense is all about pressuring the quarterback and forcing mistakes that result in turnovers. This bodes ill for a Tech offense that is most weak precisely in the areas of pass protection and ball security. For the Red Raiders to score enough to beat the Sun Devils, they will have to shore up those weaknesses considerably.

The Final Call: Arizona State 39 Texas Tech 25

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