2014 Sun Bowl Picks: Arizona State vs. Duke Odds and Expert Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 12/15/2014
Saturday, Dec. 27, 2 p.m. ET - Sun Bowl Stadium, El Paso, Texas
This is a devilish affair. Sun Devils vs. Blue Devils. Must. Resist. The. Temptation. To. Make. Bad. Puns.
A double-digit win total is an important milestone for a team - a sign that a year has been quite successful. Aside from a Sun Bowl title, that's the prize that is on the line here for each of these 9-3 squads. For Arizona State, it would be the chance to have back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time since 1973. Duke is looking for consecutive 10-win seasons for the first time ever. This is just their 10th bowl appearance, and this is the first time ever that they have ever played in bowls in three consecutive years. There is no rivalry or history between these schools and no real reason for them to have any feelings of ill will towards each other, but the goal of 10 wins will be a big driving force for both schools. So, will that be enough to make for an exciting game in what is often a less-than-exciting bowl?
Sun Bowl: Arizona State vs. Duke Storylines
Arizona State is no stranger to the Sun Bowl. This is their fifth appearance in the game, and they have a respectable 2-1-1 record in earlier appearances. They won their last Sun Bowl, but that came back in 2004, so it has very little relevance to the current program.
Neither of these teams is exceptional, but they are both pretty good in key ways - and it sets up a pretty decent clash. Arizona State can score points. Their 37 per game was 18th in the country. They have a thousand-yard rusher in D.J. Foster and thousand-yard receiver in Jaelen Strong, so they are versatile and dangerous. They do not have a particularly inspiring defense, so when they win they do it by outscoring instead of shutting down opponents. Duke does not have an offensive that is as powerful, and they don't have individual weapons like the Sun Devils do. How they tend to win is by limiting the amount of points that their opponents score. They have allowed 20.6 points per game - Top 20 in the country. They aren't particularly outstanding in any specific aspect of defense, but the package as a whole works for them. Will Arizona State have their way offensively, or will Duke be able to contain them? That's the only question you really need to answer to make a pick in this game.
Duke has been dealing with a bit of a distraction from their coaching ranks coming into this game. David Cutcliffe, who has done a great job with the Blue Devils, has been rumored to have been offered and rejected an offer from Michigan for their open position. It's a ridiculous rumor that was shot down by many sources, including Cutcliffe - Michigan is waiting for Jim Harbaugh before doing anything else, so the idea that they would even talk to Cutcliffe, never mind offering him a job, is ludicrous. Still, it was a juicy rumor that got plenty of attention, and whenever a coach is rumored to have wandering eyes it becomes a distraction. If the rumors gain any traction they can have a real and negative impact on how teams perform in their practices leading up to their bowl appearance. It's not hard to imagine that other programs would be more attractive than Duke for a coach or that other programs would be attracted to Cutcliffe, so this is something to watch heading into this game. You could also keep an eye on Todd Graham of Arizona State - the guy loves changing jobs more than anyone and has to be considered a factor in any open position.
Duke needs to score some points, and the guy who needs to step up as much as anyone to make that happen is receiver Jamison Crowder. The senior is one of those guys who seems that he has been playing college ball for about a decade, and this will be his last game - before he starts to play on Sundays, at least. He has had more than 1,000 yards in each of the last two seasons, and he needs only 58 yards against the Sun Devils to eclipse that mark for a third year. He's the best offensive weapon the Blue Devils have.
Sun Bowl: Arizona State vs. Duke Betting Odds and Trends
The game opened with Arizona State favored by eight. That has since fallen to 7.5 and has even been seen at the key number of 7. A solid majority of action has come in on the Sun Devils, so the movement strongly suggests that some strong sharp money action has hit Duke. The total sits at 66.5.
Duke has gone 4-0 ATS in their last four against teams with winning records and has gone "under" the total in five of six against winning teams. Arizona State has gone "over" the total in five of their last six played at a neutral site. Arizona State is 1-5 ATS in their last six bowl games.
2014 Sun Bowl Picks: Arizona State vs. Duke Expert Betting Predictions
In bowl handicapping you have to be sure not to pay too much attention to the conferences teams play in - it's the teams and not the conferences that play the games. This is one of those situations, though, where the conferences matter. Both teams have the same record, but Arizona State has played a much stronger schedule and has better quality wins as a result. They have also endured more adversity. Put another way, I just respect the Pac-12 dramatically more than I respect the ACC right now. For that reason alone I have to take the Sun Devils - especially if the key number of seven is available when I am making the bet.
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