Wisconsin Badgers vs Arizona State Sun Devils in SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl

The Wisconsin Badgers (8-4) and Arizona State Sun Devils (8-4) meet tonight in the SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl at Allegiant Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 9:30 PM (Central Time) and will be nationally televised on ESPN.

Arizona State leads the all-time series 3-1.

As I write this, Wisconsin is favored by 7-points, per Bovada Sportsbook.

UW’s Injury Report:

Questionable:

Center Joe Tippmann

Right Tackle Logan Bruss (foot)

Here’s my five things about this game:

1) One last ride

Tonight will be the final game for a large senior class that includes quite a few multi-year starters and major contributors. Among them are Jack Sanbourn, Jake Ferguson, Scott Nelson, Matt Henningsen, Danny Davis, Kendric Pryor, and Caesar Williams.

After the ugly loss to Minnesota to conclude the regular season and deny the Badgers a trip to Indianapolis and the Big Ten title game, the entire team seems motivated to end the season on a high note and send this senior class off right.

2) Since I just mentioned motivation…

Wisconsin has plenty to prove to the fans and themselves after the debacle that was a loss to Minnesota and they have been approaching this game as such. No players have opted out of this bowl game, no key player is in the transfer portal and the roster is relatively healthy.

Arizona State on the other hand comes in without its top two running backs (Rachad White, NFL Draft, and Deamonte Trayanum, transfer portal), it’s second leading tackler (Darien Butler, NFL Draft), and two starting players in the secondary (Chase Lucas, NFL Draft, and Jack Jones, NFL Draft). Arizona State will also be without starting center Dohnovan West.

3) Good to go

It was very clear in the Minnesota game that Braelon Allen was not remotely close to 100 percent. Not to take anything away from Minnesota, but the explosiveness and power that Allen had shown in his seven consecutive games of 100+ yards wasn’t there.

After a month off with little-to-no contact, the 17-year old true freshman appears to be eager to go against the Sun Devils defense that finished the PAC-12 third in rushing defense, but ASU did struggle against the best rushing teams on their schedule. Arizona State played three teams (Oregon State, Utah, UCLA) that ranked in the top-20 in rushing game, and all three had more than 200 yards against the Sun Devils. Wisconsin ranks No. 14.

4) Defending Jayden Daniels

While Arizona State will be missing a couple key weapons on offense, quarterback Jayden Daniels will still be under center. Daniels came into the season with very high expectations and did not live up to them, unfortunately for the Sun Devils. He threw 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions and did not throw for more than 166 yards in the final four games.

However, the junior will provide a test for the Wisconsin defense because of his scrambling ability. Daniels ran for 670 yards and six touchdowns, finishing second on the ASU team in both categories.

UW struggled the last time they faced a mobile quarterback, allowing Nebraska’s Adrian Martinez to keep plays alive with his feet and throw for a season-high 351 yards. Wisconsin is going to have to be disciplined in their rush lanes and spy Daniels in an effort to keep him in the pocket and make him beat UW with his arm.

5) Finish strong!

Graham Mertz and Wisconsin’s passing game made significant strides in October and November after struggling mightily in the first four games. The sophomore quarterback played his best football in wins over Rutgers, Nebraska and Northwestern. He completed 71.9% of his passes, throwing six touchdowns and two interceptions in those three games.

Unfortunately, all of that progress faded away in the loss at Minnesota, as Mertz averaged just 4.5 yards per completion and threw his 10th interception of the season. There were miscommunications with receivers and the offense failed to score a touchdown for the first time all season.

With Arizona State missing its top two corners, Wisconsin should have an advantage on the outside with Davis and Pryor. Can Graham Mertz finish the season strong or could another tough outing force Wisconsin to dip into the transfer portal for a quarterback to compete for the starting job in 2022?

Numbers:

  • Wisconsin leads the country in total defense at 240.8 yards per game. UW has not finished the season No. 1 in the nation in total defense since 1951 when they allowed a school record 154.8 yards per game.
  • Paul Chryst is 5-1 in Bowl Games as UW’s head coach with the lone loss coming in the 2020 Rose Bowl against Oregon. ASU is 1-1 in bowl games under Herm Edwards with the lone loss coming in the 2018 Las Vegas Bowl against Fresno State.

My Prediction:

Wisconsin 31, Arizona State 17.

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