Sizing up the Hyundai Sun Bowl between North Carolina State (8-4) and Arizona State (7-5):
Time, TV: Dec. 29, 3 p.m. on WFMY News 2
Site: Sun Bowl Stadium, El Paso
It’s going to be an interesting experiment, but it’s not happening quite yet.
Hovering over the Sun Bowl is Arizona State’s choice of Herm Edwards as new head coach. While he’ll not handle the team vs. N.C. State, the situation will keep this from being a normal regime change for a bowl game.
All of the assistants are still on board as part of the deal, meaning that everything will be as is, including fired head coach Todd Graham still around. Everything is status quo for N.C. State, with coach Dave Doeren still around, despite interest in and from Tennessee.
The Wolfpack had an interesting season, but a disappointing one considering the hype and excitement coming into the year. It started out somehow losing to South Carolina, despite controlling the game, but bounced back to win six in a row to look like the team many thought it would be. After losses to Notre Dame and Clemson, it was a fight the rest of the way.
Even so, this is a talented, veteran 8-4 team with NFL-caliber playmakers on the defensive front, an experienced QB in Ryan Finley, and enough talent to have no problems keeping up with ASU’s offense.
The Sun Devils had a relatively successful year, but it didn’t help keep Graham around. They won seven games, beat Arizona 42-30, got by Oregon and Utah, and screwed up Washington’s season in a gut-check 13-7 victory.
But the offense flamed out against Southern California, the defense struggled throughout the year, and despite the winning campaign, it was time for a change.
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Players to watch
WR N’Keal Harry, Arizona State: The 6-4, 216-pound matchup problem can get deep, and he’s quick enough to be a punt returner. Harry had 73 catches for 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns.
LB Christian Sam, Arizona State: He not only had 127 tackles, but he’s great at getting into the backfield with three sacks and 9 1/2 tackles for loss.
QB Ryan Finley, N.C. State: Efficient and consistent, he threw only 16 TD passes but completed 64% of his passes for 3,200 yards with six picks.
RB Nyheim Hines, N.C. State: The do-it-all speedster ran for 1,040 yards and nine scores, caught 25 passes and was a top kick and punt returner.
The ASU pass defense will be the difference: It won’t stop the Wolfpack attack. There’s too much talent on the defensive front and too many skill players.
Pick: N.C. State, 38-24
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