Arizona St. (9-2) vs. Penn St. (10-1)
Another between States—Penn and Arizona, two perennial Top 20 teams with two redoubtable coaches. Penn State's Joe Paterno has the nation's best winning percentage (81%); Arizona State's Frank Kush ranks third (73%). They've never met before, and after seeing each other's offense they might wish they never do again.
In winning 10 of 11, Penn State rang up 31.6 points and 422.4 yards a game. Arizona State (9-2) averaged 422.1 yards and 33.5 points. Both run as often as they pass. Both have explosive kick returners. Penn State's Jimmy Cefalo leads the nation (13.7 yards); Arizona State's John Harris is 11th with an 11.6 average. In Cefalo, Mickey Shuler and Scott Fitzkie, Lion Quarterback Chuck Fusina has the premier receiving corps in Penn State history. In All-America John Jefferson, Sun Devil Quarterback Dennis Sproul has a receiver whom Kush rates the best he's ever coached. Sproul hurt his back in the season finale and may sit out, but backup Fred Mortenson can throw, too.
On defense, All-America Guard Randy Sidler seems to give Penn State an edge. But you can't prove it statistically. The Lions gave up 14.2 points a game, the Sun Devils 13.0.
Ah, but consider the opposition. Ties excluded, Penn State's 11 opponents won 69 of 119 games, 57%, the highest percentage in the nation. Among them were Pittsburgh, which lost only to Notre Dame and Penn State and is also bowl-bound, and Kentucky (10-1), which would be, too, were the Wildcats not on probation. On the other hand, Arizona State's opponents won just 44 of 120 games, 36%, and none is in a bowl. Nine of those rivals had losing seasons, and three—Northwestern, Oregon State and Texas-El Paso—finished in the cellar of their respective conferences. Only Brigham Young and Colorado State were over .500. The Sun Devils had to hang on to beat the Cougars and were dumped 25-14 by the Rams.
In four Fiesta Bowl appearances, Kush's teams have never been beaten. Penn State is coming off back-to-back losses in the Sugar and the Gator. Both streaks should end Christmas Day.