In the final installment of our “how you doing” for the year, we at B5Q review Wisconsin’s upcoming bowl opponent, the Arizona State Sun Devils (8-4 overall, 6-3 Pac-12). Taking part in the Las Vegas Bowl on Thursday night, the two teams last played in 2010 and 2013, splitting the two contests.
Let’s begin by taking a look at how the regular season went for head coach Herm Edwards and the Sun Devils...
- Win vs. Southern Utah 41-14
- Win vs. UNLV 37-10
- Loss at BYU 27-17
- Win vs. Colorado 35-13
- Win at UCLA 42-23
- Win vs. Stanford 28-10
- Loss at Utah 35-21
- Loss vs. Washington State 34-21
- Win vs. USC 31-16
- Win at Washington 35-30
- Loss at Oregon State 24-10
- Win vs. Arizona 38-15
Status of the offense:
Like the Badgers, Arizona State likes to establish the run. The Sun Devils average just over 200 yards per game on the ground, good for No. 24 in the country. In terms of total offense, they are middle of the pack with around 400 yards per game, with essentially an even yardage split between run and pass. Arizona State averaged roughly 30 points per game during the regular season but failed to score more than 21 points in all four of their losses.
In terms of personnel, quarterback Jayden Daniels is a multi-year starter that is a dual-threat. Daniels started all 12 games for ASU this season, and he managed to throw for 2,222 yards on 66% passing (185 per game). His 10 touchdowns to nine interceptions thrown was a dramatic step back from his freshman campaign in which he threw 17 touchdowns compared to only two interceptions. However, Daniels has been much more efficient as a runner this season. He is second on the team in rushing yards with 670 net yards (810 without sacks), and averaged 5.6 yards per carry with six additional touchdowns on the ground.
Daniels is a dynamic player and came into the season ranked as the fourth-ranked QB prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft by Mel Kiper. His numbers have not been quite as expected this season in terms of TD/INT ratio, but a case could be made that he is the best quarterback in terms of talent that the Badgers will have seen this season.
Beyond Daniels, senior running back Rachaad White was the other major name to watch on the offense all season long. He led the Sun Devils with over 1,000 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. The Kansas City native declared for the NFL Draft, however, and will not play in the bowl game.
Coming back home playing defense, ain’t no other way to do it! O-H #AnotherKidFromAkron pic.twitter.com/i7kOJU5DAo— DeaMonte Trayanum (@Chipperrz_) December 25, 2021
Second leading rusher DeaMonte Trayanum will also not play in the bowl after he surprisingly announced his intention to transfer back home to play for Ohio State next season on defense. Based on who else received carries this year, redshirt freshman Daniyel Ngata appears most likely to be next up in the rotation, but he only had 45 carries this season. He did manage 6.4 yards per carry and three touchdowns in limited action though.
Out wide Arizona State has multiple receiving options to turn to. Junior wide receiver Ricky Pearsall led the team this season with 515 yards and four touchdowns, but running back Rachaad White was second on the team in both receptions and yards (once again he will not play in the Las Vegas bowl). Outside of Pearsall, redshirt freshman LV Bunkley-Shelton flashed at times during the year at wide receiver. Most of his production came earlier in the season, but he still averaged around 33 yards per game and managed two touchdowns.
Given Wisconsin’s recent struggles with tight ends, 6-foot-8 receiving threat Curtis Hodges is someone to watch. He only recorded 20 receptions during the regular season, but he averaged over 18 yards per reception and finished third on the team in yards. He is a mismatch problem and will be someone that the Badgers will need to account for.
One other notable player who will miss the bowl game is starting center Dohnovan West, who is dealing with an injury. He is one of the better offensive line prospects that the Sun Devils had on their roster and he is projected to be an NFL Draft pick.
Status of the defense:
Arizona State’s offense was hit hard by opt-outs and NFL Draft declarations in preparation for the bowl game, but the defense was arguably hit harder.
Leading tackler Kyle Soelle will participate in the bowl game, and he is a consistent presence in the middle of their defense, but second-leading tackler Darien Butler will forego the game to prep for the NFL. That linebacking duo was strong throughout the season, so not having a player such as Butler who had 68 tackles, two sacks, and three interceptions is notable. Overall they helped lead ASU to the nation's No. 23 scoring defense by allowing around 21 points per game.
In God’s hands pic.twitter.com/50iMHWsWgp— Darien Butler (@DarienButler20) December 24, 2021
Arizona State’s defense is very well-rounded. Outside of having an average pass rush, the Sun Devils ranked anywhere from No. 15 to No. 33 in total defense, rushing defense, passing defense, and passing efficiency.
Along the defensive line, D.J. Davison is the third on the team with 57 tackles. The 6-foot-5 and 325-pound lineman is a handful in the trenches. Though he does not get to the quarterback often, he is tremendous against the run. Fellow d-lineman Tyler Johnson, who like Davison is also a graduate student, led the team with four sacks and is also a player to keep an eye on.
Cornerbacks Jack Jones and Chase Lucas formed one of the better cover tandems in the Pac-12 during the season for Arizona State. Both have chosen to sit out the bowl game however to focus on the NFL, which is good news for the Badgers. How the Sun Devils shuffle their secondary to adjust will be interesting to watch. There is talent in the secondary still, but the duo of Jones and Lucas were important pieces to their defense.
After a tumultuous off-season, Arizona State’s season was not as successful as many thought. Similar to Wisconsin, they come into the Las Vegas Bowl sitting at 8-4 overall with one of their losses to the conference champion. ASU has quite a few opt-outs to adjust to, but they do still have a dynamic NFL-caliber quarterback that can shift a game when he is at his best.
Wisconsin and Arizona State are similar teams in some ways and neither has lived up to expectations this season. Like many bowl games, this matchup will likely come down to execution and which team wants it more.