ASU Football: Who has the advantage in the Sun Bowl?

TEMPE, AZ - NOVEMBER 25: Quarterback Manny Wilkins
TEMPE, AZ - NOVEMBER 25: Quarterback Manny Wilkins /
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TEMPE, AZ – OCTOBER 14: Place kicker Brandon Ruiz
TEMPE, AZ – OCTOBER 14: Place kicker Brandon Ruiz /

Special Teams

After the graduations of placekicker Zane Gonzalez and punter Matt Haack, Arizona State opened up this season with freshman kicker Brandon Ruiz and sophomore punter Michael Sleep-Dalton starting for the first time.

Ruiz, who head coach Todd Graham raved about during fall practice, put together an impressive season making 18-of-25 field goal attempts with a season-long of 52 yards while also converting 45-of-46 extra points.

For punter Michael Sleep-Dalton, it was a bit of a shaky season, especially the San Diego State game, where he punted terribly in a 30-20 defeat.

Sleep-Dalton battled with an injury to his right foot in the beginning of the season, which may have played a part in his early-season struggles, but he has the capability of kicking with either leg.

The Australian punter finished strong with 59 punts, an average punt distance of 39.8 yards and 16 punts downed inside the 20-yard line.

For NC State, they’ve had instability at the placekicker position as Carson Wise was replaced after starting the first nine games of the season by Kyle Bambard.

Before being replaced, Wise converted just 6-of-12 field goal attempts with Bambard not performing much better converting just 3-of-7 attempts over the course of three-plus games.

Punter A.J. Cole has been solid for the Wolfpack recording 53 punts, an average distance of 43.8 yards with 23 punts downed inside the 20-yard line.

An edge Arizona State will have is their ability to block kicks as they lead the nation with six blocked kicks and five blocked punts.

While neither team has a kick return for a touchdown, NC State have had two punt return for touchdowns while Arizona State has one.

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Special teams will be crucial in this game for field positioning, and if the game goes down to the wire with a kick needed in the closing minutes, Arizona State will have more confidence in Ruiz than NC State will in their kickers.

Advantage: Arizona State