Arizona St.-Texas Tech Preview

Arizona State saw its regular season end in sour fashion with a

loss in the Pac-12 title game. However, the Sun Devils can still

claim an 11th victory for just the sixth time in program

history.

They’ll be heavy favorites to do so given Texas Tech’s recent

free fall.

The 16th-ranked Sun Devils look to avoid falling to 0-4 in the

Holiday Bowl on Monday night in San Diego when they meet a Red

Raiders team that lost five straight to end the season.

Despite losing its Pac-12 opener at then-No. 5 Stanford, Arizona

State (10-3) secured home-field advantage for the conference title

game by winning its next eight games in league play by an average

of 19.7 points, including victories over ranked Washington and UCLA

squads.

But the Sun Devils still couldn’t topple the Cardinal, suffering

their worst loss in more than three years with a 38-14 defeat. A

win would have sent them to the Rose Bowl for the first time since

the 1996 season.

“I really thought we were going to win. I really did,” said

coach Todd Graham, who won Pac-12 Coach of the Year in his second

season with the Sun Devils. “We made mistakes and it took us a

little long to make adjustments.”

Arizona State still has a shot at one milestone it hasn’t

reached since that 1996 season, however: 11 wins. The Sun Devils

will have to reverse their fortunes in San Diego to accomplish that

feat, as they are 0-3 all time in the Holiday Bowl. Their most

recent trip resulted in a 52-34 loss to Texas in 2007.

An appearance in San Diego might also be considered a

disappointment for Texas Tech (7-5) given where the Red Raiders

were in mid-October. The Red Raiders climbed as high as No. 10

before a 38-30 loss at then-No. 17 Oklahoma marked the beginning of

their unraveling.

Texas Tech dropped its next four games by an average of 23.8

points, including a 41-16 loss at Texas to close out the season.

Throw in the fact that quarterback Baker Mayfield – the Big 12

Offensive Freshman of the Year – told coach Kliff Kingsbury on Dec.

11 that he intends to transfer, and it’s no wonder Texas Tech is a

two-touchdown underdog.

Despite being a walk-on, Mayfield won the starting job and threw

for over 2,315 yards and totaled 15 TDs in eight games. Of

Mayfield’s departure, Kingsbury said “I didn’t see it coming.

“We had a good talk. He didn’t give me many specifics as to

why,” said Kingsbury, who said that Texas Tech intended to given

Mayfield a scholarship next season. “But he definitely emphasized

that he was ready to move on.”

Kingsbury will choose between Davis Webb and Michael Brewer to

lead the nation’s second-leading passing offense (392.0 yards per

game), though he said he wouldn’t announce the team’s starter prior

to the game. The favorite figures to be fellow freshman Webb, who

threw for 16 TDs.

Brewer, a sophomore, completed 7 of 10 passes for 65 yards and a

score.

The bigger concern for Kingsbury may be his defense, which has

surrendered an average of 504.6 yards during the five-game skid,

including 294.0 on the ground.

Arizona State running back Marion Grice would likely relish a

chance against that defense if he’s able to play, and Graham said

he expects him to after missing the final two games with a leg

injury. Grice averaged 5.2 yards per carry and ran for 14 TDs.

After holding opponents to an average of 280.9 yards during a

seven-game win streak, the Sun Devils had their own share of

defensive issues versus Stanford, giving up 517 yards. They’ll

likely try to zero in on Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro, whose 1,240

receiving yards are 89 shy of the NCAA single-season record by a

tight end.

Rice’s James Casey set the current mark in 2008.

The Red Raiders are trying to improve to 2-0 in the Holiday

Bowl. Current offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie was 39 of 60 for

520 yards and three TDs in a 45-31 victory over California in

2004.

Arizona State won the teams’ only previous meeting, 31-13 in

Tempe on Sept. 6, 1999. Kingsbury was a backup quarterback in that

game, going 2 for 5 for 15 yards.

The Sun Devils are 13-12-1 all-time in bowls while the Red

Raiders are 13-21-1.