Fearless Picks: The West Virginia Mountaineers and Arizona State Sun Devils Meet In the Cactus Bowl

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - It all comes down to the final game, both for West Virginia and for our panel, which offers their final picks and thoughts of a rollercoaster 2015 season. Do they envision a 2016 springboard win for WVU?

Matt Keller Last Week: W Season: 10-2 Point Differential: 199
This looks to be a poor match-up for West Virginia on paper. The Sun Devils can throw it, and that has been the weakness for the WVU defense this season. Add in a sporadic offense that hasn't truly gained traction against most Power Five foes, and the Mountaineers' best intangible might be Arizona State's lackadaisical attitude in playing a bowl game essentially their home city.
  Arizona State 30-27  
Chris Richardson Last Week: L Season: 10-2 Point Differential: 212
I didn't like the draw from the beginning. The Mountaineers are basically playing a road game against a talented Arizona State team that was a dark horse playoff pick by some coming into the season. The Sun Devils defense is great against the run, holding teams to an average of just 124 yards per game (20th in the country). On top of that, WVU has lost four players due to academic casualties, and heads to Phoenix coming off a gut wrenching loss at Kansas State in the regular season finale. There's just not a lot trending in WVU's direction. Here's what I expect: an admirable effort by Tony Gibson's defense. An inconsistent effort from the offense as ASU forces the Mountaineers to throw. A competitive game that is decided late.
  Arizona State 27-24  
Connor Murray Last Week: L Season: 10-2 Point Differential: 223
With a month to chew on their disappointing road loss to Kansas State at the end of the regular season, the Mountaineers come out hungry and ready to play in what will likely be a hostile environment at the Cactus Bowl. This is basically a home game for Arizona State, which I actually think plays into Dana Holgorsen's hands. He can use that as an added form of motivation for his team in preparation for this game. West Virginia always seems to be at its best when it feels slighted, and I think that carries some weight in this game.
  West Virginia 33-27  
Greg Hunter Last Week: L Season: 10-2 Point Differential: 250
This doesn’t appear to be a good matchup for WVU. Arizona State scores in bunches, and while its defense also gives up a lot of points, those have mainly been to teams that throw the ball well. West Virginia’s ground-based offensive attack will be in for a challenge.
  Arizona State 35-31  
Andy Easton Last Week: L Season: 10-2 Point Differential: 251
WVU has proven that it just can't win big games this season. Dumb penalties and other bonehead mistakes along with the academic suspensions will push WVU to its third consecutive bowl loss. Throw in the fact that ASU head coach Todd Graham knows how to attack the 3-3-5 defense, and it will be a long day for the blue and gold.
  Arizona State 38-24  
Roger "C.J." Harvey Last Week: L Season: 9-3 Point Differential: 230
Arizona State plays a 'boom or bust' kind of defense. They have incredible sack production, but are one of the worst teams in the country in giving up plays over 20 yards. Skyler Howard will have plenty of opportunities to leave his imprint on the game. If the extra practice time helped West Virginia improve its medium to long range pass attack, the Mountaineers should win the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl.
  West Virginia 37-34  
Brian Jolliff Last Week: L Season: 9-3 Point Differential: 253
Although I feel that WVU has a chance to win this game, I don't care for the fact that it's close to a home game for the ASU crowd. The distance factor aside, this WVU team never really lived up to it's potential and I fear that the prolonged layover from regular season to post season is not going to help matters.This game will come down to how the WVU defense plays and if the offense can protect the ball. I wish I had more faith in this game.
  Arizona State 35-28  
Jonathan Martin Last Week: L Season: 9-3 Point Differential: 262
The truth is - after a long layoff between games - it's extremely difficult to gauge how this will turnout. The regular season ended on a sour note for the Mountaineers, losing to Kansas State. My gut feel says traveling across country and playing in Arizona State's backyard will likely be too much.
  Arizona State 37-27  
Jane Donovan
Last Week: L Season: 8-4 Point Differential: 250
The gifts are opened and put away, roast beast of your choice eaten and slept off, thank you notes written and mailed (you didn't write your thank you notes, yet? well, you really need to get on that), so now it's time to move on, as my husband puts it, to the surfeit of football. Does it matter that this will be essentially a home game for ASU? Well, maybe. Does it matter that Todd Graham and Keith Patterson are former WVU assistant coaches? No, re Graham. Maybe re Patterson. Does it matter that the game will be played in the middle of the night for most of the Mountaineer Nation? Not to the outcome but to the viewing demographic, perhaps. Erase all the narrative and spot the ball. This year's senior class has a lot to play for.
  West Virginia 34-31  

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