Las Vegas Bowl Pick

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Las Vegas Bowl

Pick

Arizona State

vs.

Fresno State

12/15/18

Fresno State did what it set out to do at the beginning of the season and won the Mountain West championship, yet all it gets for it is a matchup with Arizona State, a mediocre Pac-12 team. The Bulldogs were -4.5 point favorites with an over/under of 51.5 a week before the Las Vegas Bowl.

One thing that could help in this Game is that Fresno already played in this stadium late in the season when it beat UNLV 48-3, which is how a lot of Games went in the MWC for Fresno with its dominant defense. The Bulldogs got a nice 38-14 win early at UCLA, but also lost to Minnesota the previous week. 

Arizona State also beat UCLA, but only by a few points later in the season when the Bruins were playing better. The Sun Devils have had a solid year with Herm Edwards leading the way as they had an early win over Michigan State and managed to win at USC and against Utah late in the year. And while they lost to every other relevant team, they were competitive in every Game, never losing by more than seven points, though one of those was at San Diego State (28-21), a team that Fresno beat 23-14 at home.

It’s likely Fresno’s defense will determine how this Game goes and that’s been the case all season, allowing less than 200 passing yards and 13.7 points per Game. The most important thing may be the 3.6 yards per carry it allows because that’s where Arizona State will turn. Quarterback Manny Wilkins was efficient with 19 touchdowns and only Four picks, but he often took a backseat to the running Game. It also doesn’t help that future NFL receiver N’Keal Harry (73 receptions, 1,088 yards, 9 TDs) won’t play in this Game. That may be the biggest issue for the offense because Harry bailed out Wilkins numerous times. That’s why Eno Benjamin is going to see a ton of work after going for 1,524 yards and 15 touchdowns to go with Wilkins and his 416 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. This team struggled when Benjamin couldn’t get going and if Fresno can stop that, it will likely end up being lower scoring.

Even though the ASU defense struggled late, it always did enough to keep the Game competitive, holding multiple solid teams to less than 30 points and Fresno by no means has a high-flying offense.

Quarterback Marcus McMaryion has been excellent in his senior season with 25 touchdowns, three picks and 8.68 yards per attempt, but a lot of those numbers were against bad MWC defenses. That said, he runs the offense well and ASU allowed a poor 7.6 yards per attempt to passers this season, though SDSU and Boise are in that same range. The bonus for McMaryion is that he will get his stud wide out KeeSean Johnson (93 rec., 1,307 yards, 8 TDs) and that could make the difference. FSU has been fine on the ground between Ronnie Rivers and Jordan Mims, but the two haven’t even combined for 1,000 yards. 

Fresno’s defense should keep this one lower scoring unless ASU can consistently find room on the ground. Both teams are solid but the absence of N’Keal Harry could be a major issue if the Sun Devils need to Scorelate or can’t find room in the ground Game.

The Bulldogs are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 non-Conference Games, but just 1-6 ATS in their last seven bowl Games. The Sun Devils have covered their last Four on field turf, but are 2-7 ATS in their last nine bowl Games and 1-6 ATS in their last seven against the MWC.

Our Pick – No question who has played the more difficult Schedule. The difference between Arizona State and Fresno State in terms of who each has played, is night and day.

However, this has been quite a special year for Fresno State and Jeff Tedford is a proven winner. Herm Edwards? Well, the jury is still out, particularly when it comes to college ball. This will be his 1st Bowl Game.

We think Fresno puts the exclamation point on a great year here. Doing so will give Fresno State 12 wins on the year, the most wins in a single season by a Fresno team, ever. Fresno State -4.5

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