ASU headed to Holiday Bowl against Texas Tech

It’s not the Rose Bowl berth Arizona State hoped for, but the 14th-ranked Sun Devils will play in the program’s best bowl since 2007 after accepting a spot in the Holiday Bowl on Sunday.

ASU (10-3) will play Texas Tech (7-5) in the Dec. 30 game at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego that will be televised by ESPN, with kickoff scheduled for 6:15 p.m. Arizona time. It will be just the second meeting with the Red Raiders in program history. The Sun Devils will officially be the visiting team and will wear their white jerseys.

“The annual goal for every college football team is to have a successful season and earn a reward to play in a bowl game,” said ASU’s Todd Graham, recently named the Pac-12 Coach of the Year. “We are very proud to have reached that goal by participating in the Holiday Bowl against a worthy opponent such as Texas Tech.”

ASU played in the 2007 Holiday Bowl under Dennis Erickson, losing to Texas 52-34. The Sun Devils are 0-3 in Holiday Bowl appearances, having also lost in 2002 and 1985.

Though ASU won the Pac-12 South and played in the conference title game, it did not receive the Pac-12’s second bowl bid, the first being the Rose Bowl. The Alamo Bowl could have selected ASU but instead chose No. 10 Oregon, a more marquee program with a strong traveling fan base.

Todd Graham becomes the first ASU coach to take the team to a bowl game in his first two seasons since John Cooper did so in 1984 and 1985. Graham and Cooper are the only ASU coaches to do that, though the number of bowl games played has increased significantly since 1960, when just eight postseason games were played.

ASU, which lost to Stanford in the Pac-12 title game Saturday, will have the opportunity to win more games than any Sun Devils team since 1996. That team won 11 games before losing in the 1997 Rose Bowl game. ASU has won 11 games in a season five times in program history (1970, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1996).

While the disappointment of missing out on a Pac-12 title and a spot in the Rose Bowl surely lingers for ASU fans and players, the 2013 season has already been a success by nearly every measure. The Sun Devils have beaten three ranked teams, won their division, won on the road and hosted the conference title game. They also featured the Pac-12 Coach of the Year, Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year (Will Sutton) and 17 players who received All-Pac-12 recognition.

Under first-year coach and former quarterback Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech started the season 7-0, climbing all the way to No. 10 in the BCS standings before losing its final five games to finish sixth in the Big 12.  

Kingsbury played two of his four seasons at Texas Tech under current Washington State head coach Mike Leach. He began his coaching career as an assistant in 2008 and last season coached Texas A&M’s offense and quarterbacks, including Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.

At Texas Tech, Kingsbury installed Leach’s “Air Raid” offense, and the the Red Raiders now rank second in the nation with 392.0 passing yards per game. This season, Texas Tech passed on 63.5 percent of offensive plays.

ASU has at least one Texas Tech connection, as offensive line coach Chris Thomsen held the same position at Texas Tech last season and coach the Red Raiders to a bowl win after Tommy Tuberville left to take the top job at Cincinnati.  

The Sun Devils begin bowl practice in Tempe on Friday afternoon.