Holiday Bowl: What to watch
Now that Texas Tech is done watching Shamu and Arizona State said goodbye to the pandas at the zoo, the only thing left to do is play the game. This year’s Holiday Bowl features two high-octane offenses, an ongoing quarterback battle and two head coaches that know one another well. Here are the stories to watch for Monday at the Q.
Kingsbury isn’t showing his hand
Texas Tech head coach Cliff Kingsbury led Mike Leach’s famed "Air-Raid" offense as the quarterback in the early 2000s and has brought that same style back to Lubbock. The Red Raiders average 56 passing attempts per game and they’re the second-highest passing offense in the FCS, throwing for nearly 400 yards per game.
But Kingsbury, the youngest head coach in the BCS at age 34, is leaving an element of surprise to the final game of the season, not revealing his starting quarterback.
"We’ll let them trot out there and y’all will see when everybody else sees," he said at this weekendâs head coaches’ press conference.
The candidates are freshman Davis Webb and sophomore Michael Brewer. Kingsbury is playing coy, declining to say which one looked better in practices.
"No, can’t identify that," Kingsbury said. "But I would say one is a sophomore he has more experience, the other is a true freshman who has played in more games. But both played the spread systems in high school, are familiar with what we do and have moved the football when we have been in. I wouldn’t be surprised if both of them end up playing."
— Texas Tech Athletics (@TechAthletics) December 28, 2013
The Sun Devils, who lost to Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship game, will once again be without star running back Marion Grice. Grice injured his leg at the Rose Bowl in ASU’s win over UCLA last month. He quietly left the game in the fourth quarter and was seen in obvious pain as he was carried to the locker room by trainers. Head coach Todd Graham had hoped Grice would be available for a bowl game following an absence in the Pac-12 Championship, but it appears as if one of the nationâs best all-purpose backs has played his last game in a Sun Devil uniform.
"He’s not practiced and just don’t want to. Probably not something we want to put him in that situation," Graham said. "He has a great future in the NFL and we’re in good shape there with D.J. Foster and the group that we have."
2 days until the Sun Devils dominate the Holiday Bowl. Do you #FearTheFork ?
— Sun Devil Athletics (@TheSunDevils) December 29, 2013
Texas Tech’s reach extends all the way to Southern California. The Red Raiders boast five area players, including linebacker Will Smith (Riverside/Notre Dame), the leading tackler.
The Sun Devils feature a bevy of local standouts, but none more important to the team than the Pac-12 Player of the Year Will Sutton. The 6-foot-1, 305-pound defensive tackle out of Corona Centennial was named a consensus All-American for the second-straight year and is one of the most dominant interior lineman in the country. A projected first-rounder, Sutton is an integral part of a disruptive defense.
"My absolute favorite player in 28 years on game day," Graham said. "He is explosive and talented. Never once this year did he ever get frustrated, say anything about his numbers and his numbers suffered because people slide the front to him and do things like that…
"I can’t say enough positive things about him, not just a great player but a great person a great leader."
— Texas Tech Athletics (@TechAthletics) December 29, 2013
Stay Classy, Big 12
Texas Tech will have the honor of being the final Big 12 team to play in the Holiday Bowl. The bowlâs contract with the conference ends in 2014 and the Big 10 will take its place, continuing to play against the a Pac-12 team. With the playoff system looming, the Rose Bowl is not obligated to take a Pac-12 team and the Holiday Bowl may be a likely landing spot for a Pac-12 team that doesn’t make a playoff.