Although the planned trip to Pasadena was diverted 125 miles south to San Diego, the goals for the Sun Devil football team remain the same: Compete with character, class, and most importantly, raise the championship trophy.
The Devils have a shot at an 11-win season, a chance to gain more momentum going into the final weeks of the recruiting cycle, and an opportunity to send one of the greatest senior classes in ASU history out with a bang.
The DieHard Storyline for the 2013 Holiday Bowl includes the high-powered Sun Devil offense against an athletic Texas Tech defense, the ASU “Bird Gang” defensive backs looking for more interceptions and a new QB leading the Red Raiders “air raid” attack.
How the Sun Devils Will Win the 2013 Holiday Bowl
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Sun Devils on Offense
The Devils will be facing an undersized but athletic Texas Tech front seven, and OC Mike Norvell will most likely look to soften the interior defense with an agressive running game between the tackles. Once the Red Raider defense sells out to stop the run, it becomes a “take what the defense gives you” philosophy for Taylor Kelly and the ASU offense.
A healthy DJ Foster, one-on-one matchups with Jaelen Strong, and quick-reads by Kelly should have their way with the Tech defense. Also expect to see a game plan with a few counter, misdirection, and play action wrinkles to keep the Red Raider defense out of position.
Most importantly, Kelly will be the key to success with smart reads on the athletic defensive ends crashing down to stop the inside run. The Sun Devils version of the triple option will be paramount in not allowing the Tech front seven to key on any one player or offensive scheme.
It’s also worth noting that the Texas Tech defense gave up an astounding 48.6 points per game in the final five contests of the season, and none of those teams possess more firepower on offense than the Sun Devils.
ASU on Defense
All indications are that the ASU “Hell’s Gate” defense is completely healthy, and the senior-laden defensive unit will be looking to close out their college career on a high note. It will be a challenge as the Red Raider offense produced an above average 88 plays and 513 total yards per game in 2013.
The Texas Tech “Air Raid” offense will keep ASU in plenty of Nickel and Dime defensive formations (5 and 6 defensive backs, respectively) to contain a very pass-heavy, 4 and 5 receiver set formations. However, the Sun Devils have picked off 21 passes (5 for touchdowns), and recovered 10 fumbles. Pressure on new QB Davis Webb will be crucial in slowing down the hyper speed Red Raider attack and allow the ASU “Bird Gang” secondary an opportunity to get more turnovers.
The biggest concern for ASU might be how soundly some of the opposing tight ends have beaten the defense this season for huge, momentum-changing plays. Texas Tech Head Coach and former QB Kliff Kingsbury has no doubt seen the film, and will look to get all-world TE Jace Amaro in mismatch situations against the ASU linebackers.
I expect to see a very similar ASU defensive scheme that was employed earlier in the season against Washington State to take away the pass with blanket coverage (safeties over the top) and blitz packages that we’ve not yet seen. If ASU can force the Red Raiders to play catch-up while committing to shutting down the big play passing game, I don’t think this game will be close and the Devils will emerge with the victory.
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It’s been a quick journey from Camp Tontozona to San Diego, and now we’re down to one final game to close out an amazing 2013 season for ASU. With only 60 more minutes of Sun Devil football left until next year, take the time to enjoy every moment Sun Devil fans. After the Holiday Bowl, It will be a while until the team takes the field again.