Sun Bowl Picks: Florida State vs. Arizona State
Florida State Seminoles (6-6 SU, 4-7-1 ATS) vs. Arizona State Sun Devils (7-5 SU, 5-7 ATS)
Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl
Date and Time: Tuesday, December 31. 2019 at 2PM EST
Where: Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas
Point Spread: FSU +3.5/ASU -3.5 (SportBet - Highest Parlays Odds in the World!)
Over/Under Total: 55.5
The Florida State Seminoles take on the Arizona State Sun Devils on December 31 in the Sun Bowl in El Paso. The Sun Devils finished the season on an up note with some late-season wins getting them to this spot. In their last game on November 30, they beat in-state rival Arizona, 24-14. At 6-6, Florida State also last played on the 30th, losing to Florida, 40-17, to cap off a season that fell well short of expectations. Which side is more bankable to produce in this spot?
Different Stations in Life
On the surface, there might not be a ton to separate the two teams, with a 7-win ASU bunch taking on a 6-6 Seminoles bunch. But in actuality, the headspaces between the two squads might be very different. On the one hand, you have an Arizona State team that finished the season with a big splash. Beating an Oregon team that had their sights set on the CFP shows what kind of high notes the Sun Devils can hit. The general feeling on this Herman Edwards-led team is one of a group feeling really good, trying hard the whole way, and showing a lot of pluck.
Compare that to the ‘Noles, who fell well short of expectations, so much that Charlie Strong was canned. Whenever a game was up for grabs, they came up short. Their best win of the season may have been a road win over Wake Forest, not exactly a standout highlight for a team that is accustomed to being a force in the ACC. Injuries haven’t helped, and it’s not all their fault with a string of crippling personnel woes. But there was minimal fight on this team this season, with a deflated spirit. Being with interim coach Odell Haggins shouldn’t hurt, as he has done well before in this role, but they landed in this bowl spot with a resounding thud, while ASU would appear to have exponentially more wind in their sails right now.
The stench of failure is apparent in the FSU locker-room. Players departing, guys red-shirting amid a failed season, and a former ballyhooed head coach not even making it to the end of the season all has a way of resonating, especially when a team has a month to ruminate in it prior to their next game. And not that Arizona State is dancing in the streets over a 7-5 season, but they have their head coach and are building toward something for next year, with most of the same guys in tow in 2020.
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Positive Signs from the ASU Offense
Over the course of the season, watching ASU quarterback Jayden Daniels develop was a treat. With 17 TD throws and just two picks, he did a tremendous job. And when the situation called for it, he showed that he is capable of lighting up an opposing defense. He has some nice weapons to unload on a Seminoles’ defense that suffered in spots. With one of the worst secondary-units in all of the Power Five Conferences, Florida State will be hard-pressed to contain Daniels, as he works with Brandon Aiyuk, Frank Darby, and some other useful aerial pieces. With a half-decent run-game that was showing fangs toward the end of the season, it’s a lot for FSU to contain. I think the ‘Noles could be up against it against a good aerially-inclined Pac-12 offense. And while it’s hard to carry on too much over a 7-5 team, it’s a part of their team that showed more consistency and bankability in the final stretch of the regular season.
Daylight for FSU
First off, Arizona State is far from unbeatable. Morale-related factors aside, there are still numerous matchup issues the Seminoles could potentially exploit. Whereas the ASU defense might have a higher ceiling than FSU’s, there have been issues all season. Their secondary hasn’t shined for the most part, and while they make plays here and there, they are readily-vulnerable and, on a given day, can leave a lot to be desired. The ASU pass-rush is almost non-existent. And in giving up over 28 points a game, it’s been a problem.
Florida State still has some horses, especially on offense. Considering the dilapidated state of their offensive line, QB Justin Blackman has been serviceable. Working with a great running back like Cam Akers helps, and he could do a lot of damage in this spot. As of now, he appears to be playing in this game, though he could conceivably elect to sit this out as he awaits the draft. With 1000-yard receiver Tamorrion Terry and other viable targets, Blackman could make some noise against a Sun Devils secondary that isn’t as bad as Florida State’s, but isn’t that far off.
As we point out all the things that make FSU a less-than-appealing bowl choice amidst all their issues, it’s only fair to acknowledge ASU’s numerous shortcomings. They are a very young team, and with that comes a lot of inconsistency and a lack of dependability. At 5-7 ATS, it’s not as if they’ve been overperforming left and right this season. Their defense has let them down on occasion and in losing to Oregon State, Colorado, and UCLA, they have shown they can hit some pretty low valleys.
Lay the Number on the Sun Devils
Granted, you can’t just go around gauging team-morale and use that as a sole indicator of how games will go. In bowl season, at this level, things like momentum, headspace, and morale count for something. And in a game that shakes out somewhat-evenly across a lot of areas, it’s something to look at. The Sun Devils are simply closer to their best-case scenario, while FSU is more lost at sea, and I don’t see how that won’t resonate in this spot. I see a close game opening up a little late, with the Sun Devils notching the bowl-win and cover in El Paso.
Loot’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Arizona State Sun Devils minus 3.5 points.
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