Posted on December 29, 2021
The reborn Las Vegas Bowl takes place at Allegiant Stadium for the first time since the building was constructed.
The bowl has transformed itself by moving up in the Pac-12’s pecking order, and now features a revolving conference tie-in with the Big 10 and SEC through 2025.
This year, Arizona State represents the Conference against Wisconsin.
I preview the matchup here, and the picks of our football writers appear at the bottom.
Wisconsin v. Arizona State
Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas, NV
Thursday, December 30
7:30 pm PT, ESPN
Starters Rachaad White, Chase Lucas, Darien Butler, and Jack Jones have all opted-out of the game, while Chip Trayanum has transferred to Ohio State.
Missing its primary offensive threats that have combined for 22 touchdowns and over 1,800 yards of total offense, ASU’s lack of firepower could be on full display against Wisconsin’s elite defense.
The Badgers are allowing just 16.4 points per game, sixth-best in the country, and get it done by stopping the run. Wisconsin has the No. 1 rushing defense in the FBS, holding opponents to 65.2 yards per game.
That could spell disaster for an Arizona State team reliant on the ground game and down its top two running backs.
Third-string back Daniyel Ngata will be thrust into the starting role and will have a tremendous opportunity for his career. The second-year freshman is capable of getting the job done and might surprise the Wisconsin defense, if they underestimate him.
But the identity of the Sun Devils all year has been their rushing attack, and the unavailability of White and Trayanum figures to be tough to overcome.
Jayden Daniels will be under the highest amount of pressure he’s faced all season to deliver a strong performance.
His 10-to-9 touchdown-to-interception ratio has been masked by ASU’s potent ground game, allowing the Sun Devils to post eight wins despite the uncharacteristic mistakes.
Yet, without his running backs to move the ball, the third-year sophomore might have to put the team on his back. And the Wisconsin staff knows it.
With one of the top defenses in the country, the Badgers figure to bring the heat on Daniels from the opening snap.
Unconcerned with ASU’s depleted backfield, and confident in their ability to slow down whatever run game Herm Edwards’ team puts out, Wisconsin can afford to be aggressive.
The result could be a game filled with sacks and interceptions where the Sun Devils are forced to play from behind.
The X-Factor, though, is the play of Arizona State’s defense. The Badgers have a prolific true-freshman running back in Braelon Allen, and slowing down the 1,000+ yard rusher could be the key.
Wisconsin’s passing attack is poor, and it scores points primarily with its backfield. If Antonio Pierce schemes up a game plan to shut down Wisconsin’s run game, the Sun Devils may find a way to win.
But that’s a tough task facing a team in their 20th-straight bowl game that has avoided opt-outs for this matchup.
SportsPac12 Bowl Game Picks
Dec 31, Sun Bowl: Washington State vs. TBD
Jan 1, Rose Bowl: Utah vs. Ohio State
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