Sun Bowl Primer: New Years Eve Clash Between the Sun Devils and Seminoles
By Peter Bouloukos,
December 30, 2019 4:48 PM

2019 SUN BOWL- The Florida State Seminoles hired Mike Norvell on December 8th from the Memphis Tigers, his first-ever head coaching job.  Coach Norvell was the Arizona State Sun Devils Quarterbacks Coach, Offensive Coordinator and Assistant Head Coach under Todd Graham.


Although Mike Norvell will not be making the play calls he has already made a positive impact on the Seminole culture.  Former Florida State All-American Defensive Lineman Odell Haggins, who stepped in after coach Willie Taggart was fired following a 27-10 loss to Miami on November 2nd, will be running the show for Florida State.   

“They feel the energy in Coach Norvell,” said interim Coach Haggins who is leading the Seminoles (6-6) into the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas.  The game marks an FSU return to the postseason after their run of 36 consecutive bowls was snapped in 2018. The Sun Devils (7-5) will play in their second bowl game in as many years under CEO Herm Edwards, who replaced Todd Graham (46-32 Record at ASU) after the 2017 season. 

Arizona State is lead by True Freshman QB Jayden Daniels (193-310 for 2,748 yards) who passed for 17 touchdowns with 2 interceptions for a 153.5 QBR.  Daniels has rushed the ball 113 times for 319 yards adding 3 more touchdowns in an offense that at times was suspect in play-calling, an issue that saw Herm Edwards relieving Rob Likens of his OC position immediately following the regular season.   

Arizona State will play without running back Eno Benjamin and All-American wide receiver/kick returner Brandon Aiyuk. Both standouts are preparing for the NFL draft and have no business doing otherwise.  

The Sun Devils closed the regular season with an upset victory over No. 6 Oregon (31-28) keeping the Ducks from a likely CFP appearance. That was followed by a victory over Arizona (24-14). The Sun Devils were 3-1 against ranked teams this year but suffered a losing streak mid-season that sunk their hopes of a Pac-12 South Championship. CEO Herm Edwards is 9-9 in conference play and is 0-1 in Bowl Games.  

Frank Darby will replace Brandon Aiyuk as the Sun Devils’ primary deep threat, and Freshman A.J. Carter should step-up in the backfield along with Senior Receiver Kyle Williams who could showcase his talents to NFL Scouts from three positions in the Sun Bowl.  

The Seminoles defense has surrendered an average of 436.0 yards per game, including 152.5 on the ground.  “They’re bigger bodies than we’re used to,” said Arizona State Senior Center Cohl Cabral (6’5” 305-pounds) with regard to the Seminole Defensive front.  Not having the experience of Eno Benjamin in the backfield to pick up blitzing defenders or stunting linemen could be a big story in this New Year’s Eve contest.  

2019 Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl

For various reasons, FSU will be without 16 players as of the time of this article. Sophomore quarterback James Blackman (170-266 for 2,095 yards) has passed for 16 touchdowns with 7 interceptions, and his play will dictate the success for the Seminoles. Blackman is an easier target in the backfield for opposing defenses, having only rushed the ball for 48 yards and 1 score this season. 

Explosive NFL prospect WR Tamorrion Terry has 51 receptions for 1,023 yards and was a second-team All-ACC selection. Terry averaged 20.1 yards per catch and scored 8 touchdowns.  “It feels great to be able to come out and have another game to practice for,” Blackman said. “For the seniors, give them something to fight for before they leave.”

But Florida State is without Junior RB Cam Akers who is now preparing for the NFL draft. Due to injury, the Seminoles will also be without 5’11” 205-pound Khalan Laborn who rushed for 297-yards with a 4.7 per carry average.  How well Arizona State’s defense can take down or hurry James Blackman at QB is key.  

Former ASU DC Danny Gonzalez left to become the Head Coach at New Mexico, and perhaps Arizona State will be more aggressive and prepared from the first snap. Gonzalez’s Defense was stout at times, but suspect all season.  

ASU allowed too many explosive plays and early scores by opponents this season. Sometimes they looked ill-prepared in the game-planning department. The Devils’ 3-3-5 Defense ranks 42nd nationally in scoring defense (23.1 ppg) and 21st in rushing yards allowed per game (116.8).

In comes new ASU Defensive Coordinator Tony White who inherits plenty of speed, talent, agility, and strength.  Opposing Quarterbacks have averaged 23.3 completions on 36.3 attempts for 270.1 yards per game in what might be best described as a “conservative umbrella” in the secondary.  

In their five losses, the Sun Devils allowed opposing Quarterbacks to pass at a 71.1-percent success rate for almost 294 yards and 2.6 touchdowns per game. 

In the seven Sun Devil victories, the ground game was a heavy focus. Arizona State averaged 41 carries for 151.3 yards per win and 1.3-touchdowns.  The running game created huge windows for ASU receivers in space. Looking back, former OC Rob Likens failed to exploit mismatches in one-on-one coverage.  

Look for Jayden Daniels to have more opportunities to make reads and adjustments at the line of scrimmage against Florida State. 

In the month of November, Arizona State was 2-2 while averaging 405 yards per game. ASU enters the Sun Bowl with questions at Running Back, but they have eight game-tested receivers outside of Aiyuk who have all made important contributions in spots. 


StayTrue Apparel Co – Only a Sun Devil Knows the Feeling

The Florida State Seminoles can only hope to end a long season on a positive note when it lines up against the Arizona State Sun Devils at 12 pm MST Tuesday, December 31, 2019. The Seminoles, who fired coach Willie Taggart last month, are 6-1-1 ATS in their last eight games as underdogs in Bowl play. 

Arizona State opened as a 5.5-point favorite, which isn’t great news for diehard fans who like to put a little cheddar on the line. ASU has lost straight-up in three of its last four outings as chalk, part of an 0-8 streak ATS when laying points against the House.  

The Current Line:  ASU -4.5  

The Current Total:  54

The Place:  The Sun Bowl – El Paso – Texas

There have been a lot of moving parts in Tallahassee this year. Are the Florida State players emotionally drained at this point? The program has already hired its new Head Coach, Offensive Coordinator, and Defensive Coordinator, but Mike Norvell and his staff will not be involved with the Sun Bowl.

Arizona State has both new Offensive and Defensive Coordinators, but the feel in Tempe is “Next Coach Up.” The team is stacked with athletes across the board. 

CEO Herm Edwards knows he needs a Bowl Victory to show marked year-to-year improvement. With a win, ASU would finish 8-5 as compared to 7-6 in 2018. Herm has just a .500-record in Pac-12 play and lost to Fresno State in his first Bowl game last year with an extremely talented and experienced Sun Devil team. 


Seminoles vs Sun Devils


I see Jayden Daniels having a record performance from the pocket, with no shortage of RPO looks and prescribed runs. Florida State needs to bring pressure with hopes of collapsing the pocket on Daniels. Look for the Sun Devils to empty the backfield and play with some tempo early.

Yes, FSU is 6-6 and playing without some top-level talent, but this game is Must-See-TV if you want a glimpse into the first Sun Devil squad of the new decade. Arizona State covers the 4.5-points and blows out Florida State.

ASU 38  FSU 16.
ASU -4.5


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