The Arizona State Sun Devils have a chance to earn their second Sun Bowl victory since 2014 in what will be Todd Graham's final game as ASU head coach.
The 7-5 Devils will have a tough test Friday at 1 p.m. when they take on the 8-4 NC State Wolfpack in the 84th Hyundai Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas. Will ASU send Graham out on a high note? Here are a pair of predictions from the ABC15 sports team.
ABC15 sports anchor Jason Snavely
A lot has happened since ASU's last football game Nov. 25. Todd Graham was fired; they hired an ESPN analyst to take his place. Their offensive coordinator unexpectedly left. They’ll try to tell you they’ve prepared for the Sun Bowl like any other game. There’s just no way that’s true.
One thing we can be certain of: This game will be anything but normal for the Sun Devils. I think it’ll be downright awkward -- not just for the coaches and players, but the fans, as well. We’re about to see Graham lead the Devils onto the field for the last time. If it were up to Graham, it wouldn't be the last time. It's like a boyfriend that's dumped before prom, and still shows up to the dance. How can this not be awkward?
I’m sure the team would like to send him out with a win, but I just don’t see it happening. It’s just too hard to keep a team focused and motivate that team when it’s no longer yours. The Todd Graham era at ASU will end with a loss. For the record, I hope I’m wrong. #ForksUp!
NC State 41, ASU 31
ABC15.com sportswriter Shane Dale
Both teams have balanced offenses with quarterbacks who rarely make mistakes and elite wide receivers. NC State has a decisive edge on defense, as the Wolfpack have allowed 6.4 fewer points and 70 fewer yards per game this season.
But I'm taking the Sun Devils in this game simply because of that big intangible -- the "let's win one more game for Coach Graham" factor. Say what you want about Graham -- his guys seem to love playing for him and were not happy to see him let go. Yes, the coaching situation (including the coming and going of assistants) has been one giant distraction for the Devils, but I think the team will be able to put that aside for 3 1/2 hours Friday night.
Look for ASU wide receiver N'Keal Harry to be the difference as he guides the Devils to their second Sun Bowl win in four years and gives Graham a memorable going-away gift.
ASU 38, NC State 30