Fresno State, Arizona State set to meet in Las Vegas Bowl
Las Vegas Bowl: Arizona State (7-5) vs. No. 19 Fresno State (11-2), Dec. 15, 3:30 p.m. EST (ABC)
Line: Fresno State by 5
Series Record: Arizona State leads 3-0.
WHAT’S AT STAKE
The Mountain West Conference champion Bulldogs look to set a school record for wins in a season by knocking off their second Pac-12 opponent in 2018. Having already won at least 10 games in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1988-89, a bowl victory would all but assure Fresno State ends the season ranked for the third time in school history. The Sun Devils will try to cap off coach Herm Edwards’ first season with a bowl victory, which would mark the first time Arizona State has defeated Southern California, UCLA and rival Arizona and won its bowl game all in the same season. Upsetting the Bulldogs would also position the young Sun Devils as intriguing contenders in the muddled Pac-12 South going into 2019.
Arizona State RB Eno Benjamin vs. Fresno State’s run defense. Benjamin has rushed for 1,524 yards as a sophomore and needs 42 yards to set the school single-season record. Averaging 28 carries for 154.2 yards rushing over the final five games, Benjamin showed he could be the Sun Devils’ workhorse. However, he will have to contend with a stout Bulldogs front that has allowed 3.6 yards per carry and seven rushing touchdowns, tied for the fewest in the FBS.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Arizona State: QB Manny Wilkins has accomplished plenty for the Sun Devils, but a bowl win has eluded him. Wilkins rushed for 14 yards in a Cactus Bowl loss to West Virginia as a redshirt freshman and threw for 352 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions with a rushing touchdown in the Sun Bowl defeat to North Carolina State last season. The redshirt senior will be playing without his top target after junior wide receiver N’Keal Harry declared for the NFL draft in November.
Fresno State: DE Mykal Walker was the most disruptive force for the Bulldogs, leading the team with 13 1/2 tackles for loss and 4 1/2 sacks .Walker was at his best in the Mountain West championship game against Boise State with a career-high 12 tackles, including 2 1/2 tackles for loss, to help Fresno State to its first conference title since 2013.
FACTS & FIGURES
Fresno State WR KeeSean Johnson is the active FBS leader with 273 career receptions and has caught a pass in 49 consecutive games. ... Arizona State freshmen have accounted for 22 1/2 of the team’s 86 tackles for loss, including eight from linebacker Darien Butler. ... The Mountain West conference champion has won four straight bowl games, with San Diego State and Boise State each winning in the Las Vegas Bowl the past two seasons. .... Arizona State has lost its last two bowl games and is 2-6 in its past eight bowl appearances, including a 56-24 loss to Boise State in the 2011 Las Vegas Bowl. .... Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford is 21-6 in two seasons with the Bullodgs, including a 1-3 record against Power 5 opposition. ... This is the first meeting between Arizona State and Fresno State since 1941.