2017 Sun Bowl Expert Picks & Predictions: NC State vs. Arizona State
NC State Wolfpack vs. Arizona State Sun Devils, Friday Dec. 29, 3 p.m. ET
We're going to get to Herm Edwards in a minute. Trust me. It's by far the most interesting storyline around this Arizona State team - or in college football right now, for that matter. But he's not coaching this game, so before we get into that we should look at the matchup we have. Arizona State wound up just 7-5, dragged down by a very underwhelming defense. They were dangerous when least expected, though - they were double-digit underdogs four times this season, and they covered all four games and won three outright. Oddly, those four games were played consecutively. NC State had one more win than the Sun Devils, but had the same issue that so many mediocre teams did this year - they lost to their three best opponents. They also lost to Wake Forest, which is just embarrassing.
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Sun Bowl Betting Storylines
So, all things being equal, I would pick Arizona State as an underdog, and I would bet it very heavily. I trust their creativity more, and they have been a strong underdog. But this is not your normal circumstance. Todd Graham was an imperfect coach, but he didn't deserve to be fired, and he certainly wasn't worth firing with a double-digit buyout to deal with. When the school made that move it seemed obvious they had a good plan - like maybe Kevin Sumlin. That would have been acceptable. But no. What has followed has been the biggest coaching farce in recent history. It was ridiculous enough to make Tennessee, which tried to hire every coach in football including NC State's Dave Doeren, look fine in comparison.
Herm Edwards has a career coaching record in the NFL that is 20 games below .500, and he hasn't coached since 2008. His only college job came from 1987-89 as DB coach for San Jose State. He had no business being even in the discussion for any job - including the TV job that he had and was lousy at. Yet somehow he is the new head coach - and general overseer - of the Sun Devils. He didn't know the team's nickname at his press conference. He introduced a 'New Leadership Model' that is pure gibberish. He has been bizarre and clearly unprepared ever since. And both coordinators, who were supposed to stay and do the heavy lifting for Edwards, have left already. He's going to struggle to bring in staff of any quality because it is incredibly obvious that things are going to go horribly, and no decent coach wants to get tainted by that. So, since the team last played they have dealt with a ridiculous soap opera and all sorts of uncertainty. Needless to say, that is going to be a massive distraction.
And, to cap the craziness off in the most ridiculous way possible, Graham not only got fired and replaced so poorly, but he has to stick around and coach this game. I'm sure he'll be putting 110 percent into the game. Really, this coaching bizarreness is the only story worth discussing in this game.
Sun Bowl Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with NC State favored by six points, and that has since climbed to 6.5 in early action. Nearly two-thirds of bets have been on placed on the favorites, so if things continue in that way then we could easily see the key number of seven come into play. The total opened at 59.5 and has been steady there in early action.
The Wolfpack are 6-2-1 ATS in their last nine bowl games, but they have not covered a spread in their last four nonconference games, and they are just 1-3-1 ATS in their last five games overall. They have gone "over" the total in their last five bowl games and last seven neutral-site games but "under" in eight of their last nine games overall. Arizona State is 7-2 ATS in their last nine games overall. They are just 2-6 ATS in their last eight bowl games, though, and 2-9 ATS in their last 11 December games.
NC State vs. Arizona State Sun Bowl Expert Picks & Predictions
I don't have a lot of respect for NC State or the ACC this year beyond Clemson. But there is clearly and obviously no choice but to pick them against the spread here. They have stability and a lack of drama, while Arizona State has turned into a total joke. Arizona State is probably more talented and dynamic, but not by enough to overcome their handicaps here. The Wolfpack are the pick.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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