MOTEL 6 CACTUS BOWL STORYLINES
1. A pair of prolific offenses square off in the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl when West Virginia travels to Phoenix to take on Arizona State on Jan. 2. Both teams rank in the top 30 nationally in total offense and in the top 50 in scoring, and both boast balanced attacks. Each team has scored 30 points or more in seven of its 12 games and topped 40 points four times.
2. West Virginia has recorded 23 interceptions among its 31 turnovers – both ranked second nationally – and has posted two or more takeaways eight times. With one more interception, the Mountaineers would match the school record set in 1948 and tied in 2000. Arizona State had a huge edge in turnover margin its first three years under coach Todd Graham but has 19 takeaways and 19 giveaways this season and has been outscored 68-49 in points off turnovers.
3. Arizona State leads the nation in sacks per game (3.67) and ranks fourth in tackles for loss (8.9 per game). When the Sun Devils don’t make a big play behind the line of scrimmage, though, they’re prone to giving up big plays. They’ve allowed at least 449 total yards in five straight games including a season-high 680 in a 48-46 loss at California in the regular-season finale.
TV: 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: West Virginia -1
ABOUT WEST VIRGINIA (7-5, 4-5 Big 12): The Mountaineers boast the dynamic offense coach Dana Holgorsen’s teams have come to be known for with quarterback Skyler Howard leading a balanced attack. Howard has passed for 2,613 yards with 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions while adding 479 yards and six touchdowns on the ground to complement running back Wendell Smallwood (1,447 rushing yards, 9 TDs). The defense, led by All-Big 12 linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, was torched for more than 600 yards in consecutive games against Baylor and TCU in October but played well down the stretch, holding its last three opponents to an average of 265.7 total yards and keeping all three under 100 yards rushing.
ABOUT ARIZONA STATE (6-6, 4-5 Pac-12): Quarterback Mike Bercovici (3,437 yards, 26 TDs, 9 INTs) ranks in the top three in school history in most single-season passing categories and does a nice job of spreading the ball around with a trio of receivers with at least 50 receptions and 500 yards, including Devin Lucien (57 receptions, 931 yards, 7 TDs) and D.J. Foster (54 receptions, 544 yards, 3 TDs), who has caught at least one pass in a Pac-12 record 52 consecutive games. The Sun Devils can also move the ball on the ground, though, as Demario Richard (1,056 rushing yards, 7 TDs) has topped 100 yards rushing in seven straight games. If it comes down to the kicking game, the Sun Devils could have the edge with junior kicker Zane Gonzalez, who ranks second in school history for field goals (69) and points (370) and needs just 11 points to surpass Luis Zendejas’ school scoring record.
PREDICTION: West Virginia 31, Arizona State 27