The college football bowl season is upon us, and the Fresno State Bulldogs are back in a bowl game for the second consecutive year. Jeff Tedford’s Bulldogs are looking to follow up last season’s win in the Hawai’i Bowl by taking down a Power 5 conference foe this time around in Herm Edwards’ Arizona State Sun Devil. As the teams prepare to meet in Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday, it’s only fitting that we provide you a guide, in case you’re interested in placing a few shekels on the game.
Spread: Fresno State -4
The Bulldogs have proven to be one of the best defensive teams in the country this season, by both the traditional and advanced metrics. Tedford’s group has given up only 13.7 points per game this season, which ranked tied for second in the country behind only Mississippi State and tied with Clemson. In terms of the advanced stats, they drop a little further down, checking in at ninth in S&P+. They allowed 20 points or more just four times this season and both of their losses came by just a touchdown.
The team hasn’t been just defense, however. Oregon State transfer Marcus McMaryion has shined in his second season as the starter, completing over 69 percent of his passes for over 3,400 yards while throwing for 25 touchdowns against just three interceptions. The rushing attack doesn’t feature one dominant guy, but there are six players who have totaled more than 100 yards this season, four over 200, and two that have carried for more than 400. The offense has been effective enough to combine with a dominant defense en route to 11 wins.
Arizona State had a roller coaster season in the first year under Herm Edwards. They started off 2-0, with an upset win over Michigan State, then dropped four of their next five. Then they won four out of the final five, including a wild comeback victory over rival Arizona to end the season. The Sun Devils were solid offensively (30th S&P+) and slightly below average defensively (92nd S&P+). Quarterback Manny Wilkins was effective (63%, 2,896 yards 19 TD 4 INT), but the offense ran through running back Eno Benjamin. Benjamin carried 277 times for over 1,500 yards with 15 touchdowns, and his offensive line was named one of the semi-finalists for the Joe Moore Award for best offensive line in the country. Defensively, they were solid in preventing big plays, but struggled to consistently stop opponents.
From a betting perspective, the Bulldogs were a safe pick this season, going 9-4 overall against the spread and 8-3 as a favorite as they are in this game. The sun Devils were strong in their own right, going 5-2 as underdogs this season ATS. Still, the strength of this Fresno State defense would indicate that points will be tough to come by. They should cover while hitting the under. Fresno State -4; Under 53.5
Local Expert Quote
Joe Musso, CBS 13 Sacramento- “The big key in this one? Keeping the guys locked in in Sin City. I give the edge to Herm Edwards there, though the Sun Devils will be without top target N’Keal Harry, who has shifted his focus to the upcoming NFL draft. I like the Sun Devils by a touchdown.”