SportsPac12: ASU-Fresno State Las Vegas Bowl Prediction and Preview
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ASU-Fresno State Las Vegas Bowl Prediction and Preview

December 13, 2018

The Sun Devils are underdogs in the Las Vegas Bowl vs. Fresno State on Saturday. | Getty Images

Arizona State vs. Fresno State: Las Vegas Bowl Details, Prediction, and Preview


Arizona State (7-5, 5-4) vs #21 Fresno State (11-2, 7-1)
Saturday, December 15, 12:30 p.m. PT, ABC
Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, NV

Straight-Up: Arizona State in a Close Win
Against the Spread: Arizona State  (+4.5)

Of course the Smart Postseason Money is on Fresno State. 

The Smart Preseason Money never expected the Sun Devils to go bowling in the first place. The “Herm Edwards Experiment” was supposed to stumble out of the gate dazed and clueless, limping through an embarrassing first season, before ending in disaster.

Instead, ASU promptly upset then-No. 15 Michigan State, and withstood four single-touchdown losses in its next five games. The Devils went on to win four of its last five, taking down eventual South Champion Utah, and overcoming a late 19-point deficit in the Territorial Cup to beat Arizona.

Still, the Smart Money has its reasons for favoring the Bulldogs in the Las Vegas Bowl. For starters, Arizona State will be without prospective NFL receiver N’Keal Harry, who chose to sit the game out to preserve his future. The Devils will miss his leadership as much as his hands.

There's also the matter of how the two teams fared against common opponents UCLA and San Diego State. The Devils got all they wanted from the Bruins, winning by three, and lost to the Aztecs in a wild contest that came down to the last, controversial play. Fresno State, meanwhile, trounced UCLA by 24 in Pasadena early, and held SDSU scoreless in the second half to win by nine.

The numbers against the spread favor the Bulldogs as well.

  • ASU is 1-6 ATS in its last seven vs. the Mountain West 
  • ASU is 1-5 ATS in its last six neutral-site games 
  • ASU is 2-7 ATS in its last 9 bowl games 
  • Fresno State is 14-4 ATS in its last 18 games 
  • Fresno State is 8-2 ATS in its last 10 non-conference games
  • Fresno State is 4-1 ATS in its last five games in December
The Devils are 5-2 against the spread as an underdog, though, and they seem to play best when the odds are stacked against them.

Fresno State cruised to an 8-1 start in the regular season, largely by not making many mistakes: the Bulldogs won the turnover battle by an incredible 13-to-1 margin. An early loss to Big Ten foe Minnesota revealed some cracks in its armor, as did its defeat to Boise State on the blue field. But Fresno State extracted its revenge on the Broncos in the MWC championship game, and would have played in a New Year's Day bowl, had UCF lost to Memphis.

Even without Harry at wideout, the Sun Devils should test Fresno State's defense. Running back Eno Benjamin is on the verge of a record-breaking season, and he's capable of picking up the slack. ASU's defensive line has given quarterbacks trouble all season, and should be able to pressure the Bulldogs' steady Marcus McMaryion, who has thrown only three picks against 25 touchdowns

All things considered, it figures to be a close, competitive game, and that favors the Devils, who are 4-1 this year in games decided by three points or less.

UPDATE: Arizona State will be without its leading tackler for the game. Linebacker Merlin Robertson, who logged 77 tackles and was named Pac-12 defensive Freshman of the Year, had a family emergency to attend to, and did not make the trip.

Notes: ASU leads the all-time series 3-0, but the two teams haven't played since 1941. Benjamin can set a new school record for rushing yards in a season by adding 42 more to his season total of 1,524. Manny Wilkins has completed 63% of his passes, connecting on 19 touchdowns, with only four interceptions. McMaryion is familiar with the Pac-12, having played at OSU before transferring to Fresno State, but the Beavers didn't play ASU while he was in Corvallis. 

11-2 (7-1, Mountain West)Overall/Conference Record7-5 (5-4, Pac-12 South)
No. 21CFP Committee RankingNR
34.9Points per Game30.8
13.7Points Allowed25.1
420.4Yards per Game427.0
274.2Passing Yards per Game241.3
146.2Rushing Yards per Game185.7
323.8Yards Allowed per Game401.8
194.1Passing Yards Allowed per Game238.7
129.8Rushing Yards Allowed per Game163.1
Marcus McMaryion
3,453 yards (25 TDS, 3 INTS)
Passing Yardage and TD LeadersManny Wilkins
2,896 yards (19 TDs, 4 INTs)
Ronnie Rivers
531 yards, 8 TDs
Rushing LeadersEno Benjamin
1,524 yards, 15 TDs
KeeSean Johnson
1,307 yards, 8 TDs
Receiving LeadersN'Keal Harry
1,088 yards, 9 TDs
Jeff Allison
121 total tackles
Defensive LeadersMerlin Robertson
77 total tackles

Pac-12 Bowl Game Schedule

—Saturday, December 15—
Las Vegas: Arizona State vs. Fresno State

—Wednesday, December 26—
Cheez-It: California vs. TCU

—Friday, December 28—
Alamo: Washington State vs. Iowa State

—Monday, December 31—
Sun: Stanford vs Pitt
Redbox: Oregon vs. Michigan State
Holiday: Utah vs. Northwestern

—Tuesday, January 1—
Rose: Washington vs. Ohio State