Las Vegas Bowl Picks: Wisconsin vs. Arizona State
Wisconsin Badgers (8-4 SU, 6-6 ATS) v. Arizona State Sun Devils (8-4 SU, 5-7 ATS)
Las Vegas Bowl
When: Thursday, December 30 at 10:30 pm ET
Where: Allegiant Stadium - Las Vegas, NV
Point Spread: WIS -7/ASU +7 (BetOnline - Awesome sportsbook that pays the fastest bitcoin payouts on the web and offers handicapping contests that make your gambling experience AWESOME!)
Over/Under Total: 42.5
Many folks are ready to hit fast forward and get right to the College Football Playoff games, but the diehard fans are gearing up for the smorgasbord of college football that is Bowl Season. Bowl games start on December 17, and the dust settles on the 42 game frenzy in the new year. Not all of the matchups are must-see TV, but there are plenty of good ones, and The Las Vegas Bowl features a couple of 8-4 teams, with the Wisconsin Badgers taking on the Arizona State Sun Devils. This will be the 20th straight bowl appearance for Wisconsin, a streak that can only be bettered by Georgia and Oklahoma. ASU is playing in a bowl for the fifth straight season and has earned a berth in each season that Herm Edwards has been coach - we won’t count the 2-2 Covid-shortened 2020 season. On paper, this should be a good matchup as both teams feature a strong running attack and a solid defense. You may need some coffee to stay up through the end of this one, as the 42.5-point over/under total is the lowest of all the bowl games.
Wisconsin has struggled against good competition, going 3-8 against the spread in the last eleven games against an opponent with a winning record but has a 5-2 ATS record in the last seven bowl games. Arizona State is 3-8 ATS in their last eleven bowl contests but are on a good run against the Big Ten with an 8-2 ATS mark against that conference. ASU has failed to cover the spread in 9-of-12 neutral site games and is just 2-7 ATS in non-conference tilts. The under is 7-3 in the last ten when Wisconsin plays against an opponent with a winning record, and the under has hit in each of the last eight non-conference games for ASU. Wisconsin is seeing nearly 70% of the public money at -7, with the over getting about 58% of the action.
The Las Vegas Bowl is a little better destination now that the game is at Allegiant Stadium, but that is not enough for Rachaad White to suit up. White was a JUCO transfer in 2020 and averaged ten yards per carry for the Sun Devils while leading the team in scrimmage yards and touchdowns. He hit the 1,000-yard rushing mark this season with 15 touchdowns and was second on the team with 43 receptions but will skip the bowl game to start preparations for the NFL draft. That is a big loss for the 23rd ranked rushing offense and leaves sophomore Deamonte Trayanum to go against Wisconsin’s top-ranked run defense. QB Jayden Daniels was second on the team with 670 rushing yards and threw for 2,221 yards and ten touchdowns. Daniels averaged just over 125 passing yards over the last four games, but ASU was able to win three of those on the strength of their run game and defense. Ricky Pearsall led the Devils with 44 receptions and 515 yards, and Wisconsin will need to watch Pearsall in the trick-play department as he completed two passes this season with one touchdown. ASU’s defense finished 21st in total yards allowed, and their 20.9 points per game allowed just missed the top-25. This is not a big-play defense with DL Tyler Johnson’s four sacks leading the team, but they give up just 3.7 yards per rush and make the opponent sustain long drives in order to score.
Bowling Again as Usual
Wisconsin started the season 1-3, and it looked as if their impressive bowl streak could come to an end, but the Badgers were able to win seven straight over the weaker part of their schedule and earn the trip to Vegas. Losing the Axe to conclude the regular season stung this team, but Paul Chryst is one of the best coaches in the country when given extra prep time, and I would expect the best version of the Badgers. Braelon Allen notched 1,109 rushing yards in just 11 games and led the team with 12 rushing touchdowns. The true freshman wasn’t supposed to be pushed into action, but injuries and transfers paved the way for a breakout season that earned him second-team All-Big Ten honors. Graham Mertz has not been able to live up to his four-star hype at Wisconsin, but he threw for eleven touchdowns during the win streak, and Wisconsin has won every game in which he has not thrown an interception. The pass offense is ranked 118th, but there are quality playmakers on the outside in seniors Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor, while soon-to-be NFL TE Jake Ferguson led the team with 43 receptions. This defense is the best unit on the field and leads the nation in total yards allowed, rushing yards allowed, and held the opponent to a 2.2 yards per carry average. They also bring top-10 marks in third-down defense, QB rating allowed and their 16.4 points per game allowed was good for 6th in the country. Leo Chenal and Nick Herbig led the team with seven sacks apiece, with Jack Sanborn rounding out that group to be one of the best LB trios in the game.
Bet on Red
This is a second-tier bowl game, and motivation is hard to determine when kids aren’t playing for a prize they value highly. I completely understand Rachaad White’s business decision to sit this game out, but you wonder how the absence of ASU’s best playmaker will affect the team as a whole. Will they just mail it in if they get down and can’t crack the nation’s best defense? Will the public speculation that offensive coordinator Zak Hill is off to greener pastures overshadow game prep? Only that ASU locker room knows the answer to those questions, but I feel better about the motivations on the other side. For whatever reason, Wisconsin has never overlooked a bowl game. In fact, they have pulled minor upsets in just about every bowl game where they were perceived to be the lesser team, including beating USC in 2015 and back-to-back wins over Miami in 2017 and 2018 when the Hurricanes were sporting the turnover chain. Arizona State scored 28 points or more in all eight victories this season but failed to win any of the four where they were held to 21 or fewer. Wisconsin’s defense is called The Grit Factory for a reason, and ASU is going to be held in the 14-17 point range. I expect Paul Chryst to put together a strong starting script for an offense with a couple of brand new looks, and Wisconsin will play with an early lead. That is going to let the Badgers run the ball, control the clock and keep their defense fresh. Turnovers have been a big problem for ASU in some of their losses, and Wisconsin was among the best in the country in turnover margin over the back half of the season. A couple of short fields will spur the Badgers offense, and they leave Las Vegas with a 28-17 win.
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BIG AL's NCAA BOWL TOTAL OF THE YEAR (76-52)
Al McMordie's 76-52-1 his last 129 NCAA Football, including his 5* Game of the Year on Oklahoma St over Notre Dame, and his Bowl Total of the Week last Monday on Kansas State/LSU OVER the total. If you enjoyed those huge winners, then don't miss Big Al's #1 Over/Under this season. It's Big Al's NCAA Bowl Total of the Year! Go get it!