The college football bowl season is upon us. With 39 games spread out over the next two and a half weeks there is plenty of opportunity to add a little bonus to your holiday gift pile. Our bowl picks series will let you know who we think will come out on top against the spread. All lines and totals courtesy of Sportsline. Find all our picks here. All lines are as of the date of publication.
Hyundai Sun Bowl
Arizona State (7-5) vs. North Carolina State (8-4)
Spread: N.C. State -6.5
Spread: Arizona State made one of the more interesting (and confusing) hires of the coaching carousel, bringing in Herm Edwards to replace Todd Graham. Edwards hasn’t coached in college since the 80’s but, he’ll take over the program next year. As for this game, it will be Graham’s final one as head coach, and that could play a factor in how the Sun Devils play. College kids are emotional and wanting to send Graham out with a win could lead to a surprise here.
The Sun Devils were productive offensively (31.9 PPG) and below average defensively (31.2 PPG) which is about par for the course in recent years. QB Manny Wilkins was efficient this season, completing 63.5 percent of his passes for just under 3,000 yards (2,918) and 17 touchdowns with just five picks. His top target was big-bodied (6’4″ 216 lbs) sophomore WR N’Keal Harry who had 73 receptions for 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns. The running game was led by the dual-threat of Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage (338 carries 1,634 yards 18 TDs combined) and really drove the offense this season as the Devils averaged 44 rushing attempts per game. The problem is that the defense gave up more yards per game than the offense produced (447 to 428) and allowed opponents easy pickings by air and on the ground (268.1 YPG passing, 179.2 rushing). To beat N.C. State, they’ll have to outscore the Wolfpack in a shootout.
That might be tough to do considering that QB Ryan Finley piloted this offense to averaging over 30 points and 449 yards per game this season. Finley and RB Nyheim Hines were the main catalysts for those averages this year as the duo combined for 28 touchdowns this season. The Wolfpack could be without their No. 4 receiver Stephen Louis, who is listed as questionable for this game due to an ankle injury. Speaking of injuries, the big one is currently bothering star defensive end Bradley Chubb, who’s dealing with an upper-body injury and is listed as questionable. The Wolfpack defense as a unit was strong this season however, giving up just under 25 points and 378 yards per game. The were strong against the run, allowing just 3.9 yards per carry and 132 yards per game, which suits them well in this match-up against the dynamic Richard-Ballage tandem.
N.C. State wasn’t good ATS this year going just 4-7-1, while ASU was 7-5. The Wolfpack were particularly bad as favorites going 1-5-1 while the Sun Devils were 5-3. While I don’t like picking teams with new coaches in bowl season, this may be a case to do it considering just how bad N.C. State has been at covering this year. ASU +6.5
Total: Both teams struggled against the over/under line this year with the Wolfpack checking in at 4-8 and the Sun Devils going 5-7. ASU’s defense isn’t very good and N.C. State will likely have its best player at less than 100 percent. Over 59.5