This year’s Holiday Bowl features two of the more potent offenses in the country: the Arizona State Sun Devils and the Texas Tech Red Raiders. Texas Tech boasts one of the best passing attacks in the nation, but as the saying goes, “defense wins championships,” and the Red Raider defense is not as effective as their counterparts on the other side of the ball.
Texas Tech began the 2013 campaign 7-0 with a notable win over TCU and was ranked tenth in the AP Polls during the peak of its season. After suffering their first loss 38-30 on the road against Oklahoma, the Red Raiders lost every game after that, bringing them to a five-game losing streak entering the match-up with ASU. During their five game skid the Red Raider defense allowed 48.6 points per game.
Arizona State is ranked ninth in the nation in points for the season, averaging 41 per game, meanwhile Texas Tech ranks 90th in points against averaging 31.2. The key match-up on the field will be the Red Raider defense against the Sun Devil offense. While the battle between TTU’s offense against ASU’s defense may be the centerpiece of conversations about the game, the contest between ASU’s offense and TTU’s defense will be crucial.
Texas Tech’s defense, ranked 83rd nationally, has allowed an average of 419.1 yards per game a total of 5,029 yards this season, placing them in the bottom half of the defensive category among other Big 12 teams. They will have a tough time with ASU’s offense, which is one of the best in the Pac-12 and averages 460.8 yards per game.
Turnovers and restricting the Sun Devil passing attack will be the keys for TTU’s defense. The Red Raiders are one of the worst teams in college football when it comes to the turnover margin; with a -13, they are ranked 121st. TTU’s secondary will look to force interceptions and contain ASU’s leading receiver, Jaelen Strong.
Texas Tech sophomore linebacker Pete Robertson leads the Red Raiders with two interceptions, and has also recorded 30 solo tackles, two and a half sacks, and two forced fumbles. Senior linebacker Will Smith leads the team with four and a half sacks and 76 solo tackles.
ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly will need to have a solid performance if the Sun Devils want to win this game, and if they do prevail, he will be the first ASU quarterback since Danny White (who led ASU to Fiesta Bowl wins in 1971-73) to win multiple bowl games.
Kelly will have to carry more of the load than usual as ASU’s leading rusher, running back Marion Grice, is unlikely to play in the game. Running back/receiver D.J. Foster injured his knee during the Stanford game, but he will likely play. Expect Foster and tight end/running back De’Marieya Nelson to take over most of the rushing duties, as they have been while Grice has been out.
Coincidentally, the two schools have recently agreed to a two-game series during the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
Kickoff for the Holiday Bowl is set for Monday, December 30, 2013, at 10:15 PM ET on ESPN.