Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl
Navy (8-4) vs. Arizona State (7-5)
Dec. 29, 4 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
About the Midshipmen: The triple option offense is one that has given defensive coordinators fits for years and it’s what makes Navy one of the most difficult teams in the country for which to prepare. The Midshipmen average 275.6 rushing yards per game and 27 of the team’s 36 touchdowns have come on the ground. Freshman quarterback Keenan Reynolds had a rough start to his first season, but has progressively become the engine that runs this offense. He’s even given Navy a competent passing game, something that hasn’t been consistently present for quite some time.
About the Sun Devils: Arizona State started the season 5-1 before the wheels came off and the Sun Devils went on to lose four of their next six. Seven of quarterback Taylor Kelly’s nine interceptions came during the Sun Devils’ four-game slide that could have cost them bowl eligibility. Kelly, who passed for 2,772 yards and 25 touchdowns, is also one of four Arizona State players to rush for more than 400 yards this season. The Arizona State offense was balanced all season, but consistency has been something with which it’s struggled.
Key number: 22.3
Arizona State has lost its last three bowl appearances by an average of 22.3 points per game. The Sun Devils haven’t won a bowl game since beating Rutgers in 2005.
The breakdown: The triple option is incredibly difficult to simulate in practice and if defensive players aren’t disciplined and play their gaps, a team such as Navy could easily rattle off big run after big run. That’s what Navy is hoping to do against an Arizona State defense that allowed at least 200 yards rushing in four of its final six games. Arizona State struggled offensively down the stretch, but appears to have righted the ship in time for this bowl game. Both of these teams can put points on the board, it’s just a matter of whether Arizona State’s defense can handle such a stout rushing offense.
Frank Schwab: Arizona State 28, Navy 17
Since Keenan Reynolds took over as Navy's quarterback, the Midshipmen have been dangerous. But with weeks to prepare for the option, Arizona State should be able to contain Navy well enough to get a relatively easy win.
Graham Watson: Navy 31, Arizona State 21
The triple option offense can be physically draining on a defense and Navy is counting on that. Arizona State was suspect against the run in the final half of the season and I think that’s going to come back and bite the Sun Devils against this highly proficient running game.
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