Sun Devils and Midshipmen Battle in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl

Taylor Kelly

Kelly could take advantage of a Navy defense that gave up a bunch of passing yards late in the season.

AT&T Park will be the site of today’s Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl between Navy and Arizona State. Both teams finished the season by beating their arch-rivals. Navy held off Army 17-13 when the Black Knights fumbled at the Navy 12 yard line while ASU defeated Arizona 41-34 after trailing for three quarters.

As you might imagine, the teams could not be more different. The Midshipmen rely on a heavy dose of running the football where they rank 6th in the nation with 275 yards a game on the ground. The Sun Devils are actually more balanced than you might think. They are ranked 45th in the country in passing but hey can run the ball too. They’re ranked 38th in rushing at 190 yards a game.

Navy Bowl Bowl Record: 7-9-1, have lost four of their last five bowl games

Arizona State Bowl Record:12-12-1, have lost three in a row

Keenan Reynolds

Reynolds could find running room against a leaky ASU defense.

When Navy Has the Ball – Head Coach Ken Niumatalolo makes no bones about what his team will do on offense. You average just 110 yards a game passing that speaks volumes. Navy QB Keenan Reynolds is the trigger-man for the triple-option offense. He threw for eight TDs and just one interception on the season while rushing for 10 touchdowns.

The Midshipmen may be catching a break in going against a Sun Devils’ defense that gave up over 200 yards on the ground in four of their last six games. Preparing for the triple-option is never easy and ASU Head Coach knows that. It’s assignment-football where a missed task can result in a big play for the offense. What ASU must be careful of is play-action. If Navy has any success rushing, then the pass does ultimately become a dangerous weapon for a team averaging just under 25 points per game.

When Arizona State Has the Ball – The Sun Devils average 36 points per game and had the Pac-12’s third best offense. QB Taylor Kelly threw 25 touchdown passes during the year but also is prone to interceptions as he threw nine in 2012. His top target when throwing the ball is Chris Coyle who had over 600 yards receiving and five touchdown receptions.

ASU can run the ball too. Backs Cameron Marshall and Marion Grice combined for just over 1,000 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns. Grice also had nine TD receptions and appears to be the hot-hand in the back-field as he ran for 156 yards against Arizona in the season finale.

Much like ASU struggles to stop the run, Navy has been torched by the pass in recent games. Prior to facing Army, the Midshipmen had given up over 700 yards through the air in just two games. Like their rushing attack, the passing is very balanced for ASU as they had six players with over 300 yards receiving.

Navy (+14) vs Arizona State – As I found out earlier in the week, one thing you just can’t ever account for is turnovers. I had Fresno State beating SMU in the Hawaii Bowl, but a couple of pick-sixes by the Mustangs made a huge difference in their upset of the Bulldogs. With Navy, it’s an even tougher task. This team has won seven of eight and will run the ball at will. If they take care of the ball and get some turnovers on defense, then I love their chances.

The Sun Devils will be in a similar position in terms of turnovers. Commit none and thier chances for victory go up significantly. What this game comes down to is who can limit the other’s strength the best. Can ASU slow down the Navy running game? Can Navy stop the passing attack of the Sun Devils? The over/under is 53 and I love the over in this one. I think the overall athleticism of ASU will be enough for the win, but I like Navy to in a fairly close contest.

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