SBS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl
Wisconsin and Arizona State meet in the nightcap on Thursday night in the SBS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl. The game will be played at Allegiant Stadium and airs at 10:30 PM ET on ESPN.
Wisconsin overcame a 1-3 start to finish 8-4 and almost make the Big Ten Championship. If not for a season-ending loss to Minnesota, the Badgers would have gone to Indy instead of Iowa.
Offensively, Wisconsin struggles. The identity for the Badgers has always been a reliable power-running game, and they eventually got that this year from freshman Braelon Allen, who accumulated 1,109 yards and 12 touchdowns after taking over for an injured Chez Mellusi. However, Wisconsin has not had enough from its passing game to take some of the pressure away from its backs. Quarterback Graham Mertz has followedup a promising 2020 performance with an awful 2021 in which he has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns. He has played better in recent games, but you do not really know which version of him you will get in this game.
Defense is the calling card for Wisconsin this year, and it will have to have a huge game in this one. The Badgers boast the best run defense, sixth-best scoring defense, and fifth-best pass defense. They are also the best defense in the country yardage-wise, allowing just 240.8 total yards per game.
Arizona State went 8-4 and finished in second place in the PAC-12 South. The season included a few strong opponents and a ranked win against UCLA.
The Sun Devils have few issues on offense. They average nearly 30 points and over 400 yards per game. However, much of that comes from the running game, which will have a big challenge against the Wisconsin defensive front. That will become even more difficult as leading rusher Rachaad White has opted out fo this game to prepare for the NFL and his backup has transferred to Ohio State. That means Daniyel Ngata will have to shoulder the load on the ground and there will be a good amount of pressure on QB Jayden Daniels and the passing game.
The Sun Devils also have a number of NFL prospects leading their defense but will be missing starting corners Jack Jones and Chase Lucas and linebacker Darien Butler from that group. That leaves DJ Davidson, Merlin Robertson, Kyle Soelle, and Deandre Pierce to lead the way.