Posted: Wednesday December 21, 2005 3:03PM; Updated: Wednesday December 21, 2005 3:03PM
Bowl Breakdown: Insight
Arizona State (6-5) vs. Rutgers (7-4)
Dec. 27, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Bank One Ballpark (42,915)
SI.com's Cory McCartney analyzes the matchup.
Breaking down Arizona State
ASU wideout Derek Hagan averaged 15.5 yards a reception and his 101.2 receiving yards a game were eighth in the nation.
John W. McDonough/SI
Offensively, the Sun Devils are a handful. They're third in the nation in passing offense (364.9 yards a game), fourth in total offense (504.5) and 11th in scoring (36.1 points a game). They've got the Pac-10's all-time leading receiver Derek Hagan (1,113 yards, eight TDs this season), and despite the loss of starting quarterback Sam Keller to injury midway through the season, ASU hasn't missed a beat. Backup Rudy Carpenter has thrown for 1,806 yards and 13 touchdowns and has just two interceptions in 133 attempts.
The defense may be porous, giving up 29 points and 463 yards a game, but ASU has one of the nation's best linebackers in co-Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year Dale Robinson, who had 112 tackles. He hasn't gotten much help from the defensive line, which has struggled putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Breaking down Rutgers
The Scarlet Knights are bowl-bound for the first time in 27 years; their last postseason appearance was in the 1978 Garden State Bowl against Arizona State. Rutgers has shown balance on offense behind third-year starting quarterback Ryan Hart (1,761 yards, 15 TDs), but this team banks on its ability to run the ball and work the clock. Fullback/tailback Brian Leonard has a team-high 10 TDs, while Raymell Rice (1,012 yards) is the school's first 1,000-yard rusher in 11 years.
Defensive end Ryan Neill (nine sacks) leads a unit that has been most effective against the run, allowing 125.8 yards a game (31st nationally) and finished the regular-season by holding Cincinnati to minus-23 yards on the ground. But the Knights did give up 500 total yards in a 56-5 loss to Louisville, a team that ranks below ASU in most offensive categories.
This is an important step in the development of GregSchiano's program and the Scarlet Knights will no doubt be fired up. But this is essentially a home game for the Sun Devils, who are playing just 11 miles from campus. Emotion won't be enough to slow down Arizona State's potent offense.