ARIZONA STATE FOOTBALL

What to know for the Arizona State-Wisconsin Las Vegas Bowl

Dec 30, 2021, 6:13 AM
Wisconsin running back Braelon Allen (0) rushes for a 53-yard touchdown, past Nebraska safety Myles...

Wisconsin running back Braelon Allen (0) rushes for a 53-yard touchdown, past Nebraska safety Myles Farmer (4) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

(AP Photo/Andy Manis)

Here’s everything you need to know to consume the Arizona State Sun Devils’ SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl appearance on Thursday against the Wisconsin Badgers.

Who: Arizona State (8-4) vs. Wisconsin (8-4) at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas

Time: Thursday, Dec. 30, 8:30 p.m. MST

TV: ESPN

Radio: 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station

Odds: Wisconsin by 6, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Series record: Arizona State leads 3-1.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

After failing to live up to preseason expectations of playing for a conference title, the winner between the Sun Devils and Badgers will at least get to end 2021 on an upbeat note. Wisconsin’s loss to Minnesota in the season finale cost it a place in the Big Ten championship game and halted a seven-game winning streak. Arizona State’s Pac-12 championship aspirations were thwarted with a second-half implosion at Utah and a first-half no-show at Washington State the following week, but the team responded by winning three of their last four.

KEY MATCHUP

Wisconsin RB Braelon Allen vs. Arizona State LB Kyle Soelle. It took a month for the freshman Allen to find himself before ripping off seven consecutive 100-yard games, totaling 1,013 yards and 11 touchdowns in that span to make his case for being the next great Badgers tailback. Soelle, who leads the Sun Devils with 82 tackles and was third on the team with 7 1/2 tackles for loss, will aim to contain Allen and make Wisconsin QB Graham Mertz prove he can throw the ball without turning it over.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Arizona State: QB Jayden Daniels is a dynamic runner, as his 36 carries of 10-plus yards were the most in the Pac-12 regardless of position this season. With 1,000-yard rusher Rachaad White opting out, Daniels will have to use his legs to create against the stingiest run defense in the FBS. Wisconsin allowed just 65 yards per game on the ground and 2.14 yards per carry.

Wisconsin: LB Leo Chenal was a machine, amassing 106 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and seven sacks in 10 games. This could be his last college game. Defensive coordinator and 10-year NFL veteran Jim Leonhard believes the junior is more than ready to make the jump. “I don’t know what else he has got to prove,” Leonhard said.

NEW DIGS

While Las Vegas went through significant reinventions over the past 30 years, its bowl game was played in Sam Boyd Stadium, an outdated venue 10 miles from the Strip, since its creation in 1992. That changes when the game finally moves to Allegiant Stadium, the palatial home of the NFL’s Raiders. Last year’s game was scheduled to be the first in its new setting before being canceled because of the pandemic. With it comes a change in tie-in, continuing its Pac-12 affiliation against an opponent from the Big Ten or SEC on a rotating basis.

REDEMPTION TIME

The Badgers’ 23-13 loss to Minnesota in their regular-season finale cost them a place in the Big Ten title game, but Wisconsin offensive lineman Logan Bruss believes the disappointment has turned into resolve over the past month.

“There was nobody that was content with how that turned out, obviously, but I think the time to kind of rest after the game and kind of recover yourself helped everybody a lot. And I think the energy has been really good out at practice these last few weeks, so I think everybody is excited to finish it off right,” he said.

THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM

Sun Devils quarterback Jayden Daniels didn’t have to do much in the 2019 Sun Bowl against Florida State, throwing for 195 yards and rushing for 36 in a 20-14 win. The junior will likely have to show more of his dual-threat skills to join Taylor Kelly and Danny White as the third Arizona State starter to win multiple bowl games.

KEEP IT UP

Wisconsin has won five of six bowl games under coach Paul Chryst. That includes a 42-28 victory over Wake Forest in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl last year, but the usual pomp and circumstance was reduced because of the pandemic. With the return of bowl activities and being in a setting like Las Vegas, Chryst is relying on his upperclassmen to prepare their inexperienced teammates for how to keep everything in perspective.

“Here we got two classes, we got last year’s freshmen and this year’s freshmen, that really haven’t been in what you say would be more of a traditional bowl (experience). I think the older guys have done a great job with this, and we’ve got to make sure that our younger guys understand,” Chryst said.

FACTS & FIGURES

Wisconsin is playing in its 20th consecutive bowl game. That is the second-longest streak in Big Ten history, trailing Michigan’s 33-year run from 1975-2007. … Arizona State is the only FBS defense not to allow a play of 50 yards or longer this season. … Mertz threw seven touchdowns against three interceptions in the Badgers’ eight wins. In four defeats, the sophomore had two touchdowns and seven interceptions. … The Sun Devils will not have three of their top defenders after LB Darien Butler, CB Jack Jones and CB Chase Lucas opted out to prepare for the NFL draft. Butler was tied for the team lead with 8 1/2 tackles for loss and three interceptions. Jones also had three picks and forced three fumbles. … Wisconsin is 5-1 in bowl games under coach Paul Chryst. … Arizona State is making its third appearance in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Sun Devils are 0-2 with losses to Boise State in 2011 and Fresno State in 2018. … This will be the first time the Las Vegas Bowl is held at Allegiant Stadium, home of the Raiders and UNLV, after last year’s game was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The game had been staged at Sam Boyd Stadium from 1992-2019.

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What to know for the Arizona State-Wisconsin Las Vegas Bowl