There were such high really hopes for West Virginia and also Arizona State coming into the 2015 season. The Mountaineers were considered a dark horse to compete for a big 12 Conference championship if the sun Devils to be considered  a competitor to complete for a spot in the college Football Playoff.

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Four months later both colleges finished the season in disappointed fashion. West Virginia’s loss come Kansas State in its regular season finale derailed a four-game win streak. Arizona State struggled mightily end the second fifty percent of that is schedule, losing 4 of its last six games to finish 6-6.

On paper, the Mountaineers and also Sun Devils room so evenly matched this could turn the end to be one of the most exciting bowl games to watch this postseason.

Motel 6 Cactus Bowl: West Virginia vs. Arizona State (Phoenix)

Kickoff: 10:15 p.m. ET (Saturday)TV: ESPNSpread: Even

Three things to Watch

1. Arizona State sirloin defense vs. Wendell Smallwood

Arizona State start this video game with the 20th-ranked rush defense in the nation, permitting only 124.4 yards per game. The Mountaineers get in this weekend with the 14th-ranked rushing violation per game, averaging 235.3 yards per game. Something will need to give.

The sunlight Devils have actually only faced one various other top 25 rushing strike this season and also that to be the Arizona Wildcats (No. 23). The sun Devils hosted the Wildcats to only 109 rushing yards in a 52-37 success on Nov. 21.

The Mountaineers’ Smallwood is ranked 12th in the country and 2nd in the large 12 in rushing through 120 yards per game. The sun Devils will have to shut under Smallwood to store the Mountaineers off the scoreboard, when this will certainly be the toughest rush defense West Virginia’s sphere carriers have confronted all season.

2. Skyler Howard vs. Mike Bercovici

Both quarterbacks have actually had similar seasons return Bercovici has 128 more pass attempts 보다 Howard. Neither team has actually a receiver with more than 1,000 yards, definition both quarterbacks like to spread the round around.


Wendell Smallwood and also Mike Bercovici will be the key players in this game. With the Mountaineers well versed going up versus pass-heavy offenses, the sun Devils’ aerial assault shouldn’t it is in that lot of a surprise.

During their existing three-game losing streak the sun Devils have allowed a 100-yard rusher in each game. If Smallwood is maybe to acquire traction ~ above the ground the Mountaineers could manage the tempo. However, if West Virginia is unable to find balance top top offense, the sunlight Devils’ 20th-ranked sirloin defense could make things challenging for the Mountaineers.

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West Virginia struggles to carry out much damage via the pass, which also is greatest weakness the Arizona State’s defense. If quarterback Skyler Howard deserve to rediscover his early-season form, the Mountaineers might be in the driver’s chair in Phoenix.

Prediction: West Virginia 31, Arizona State 30

— created by Jeremy Simon, that is component of the Athlon Contributor Network and editor-in-chief that, a need to visit for any and all West Virginia Mountaineer fans. Follow top top Twitter