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National University Holiday Bowl Primer: Arizona State vs. Texas Tech

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Led by quarterback Taylor Kelly, No. 13 Arizona State enters the Holiday Bowl as a two-touchdown favorite against Texas Tech. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images.
Led by quarterback Taylor Kelly, No. 13 Arizona State enters the Holiday Bowl as a two-touchdown favorite against Texas Tech. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images.

Arizona State (10-3) vs. Texas Tech (7-5)

Texas Tech’s past reputation as a Big 12 doormat is all but gone as the Red Raiders have found success in recent years, and now they are a team to watch as a bowl underdog. The team enters on a five-game losing streak.

Arizona State’s second-year coach Todd Graham led the Sun Devils to an appearance in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl last year, and won the Pac-12 South this season, hosting the conference championship game against Stanford. The Sun Devils’ reputation of being a Pac-12 stepping stone is all but gone as well.

Arizona State

Motivation: After losing to the Cardinal in the Pac-12 championship, the Sun Devils should be hot — pun intended. Arizona State had two shots at the Cardinal this year, and fell short both times, the latter for a spot in the Rose Bowl, in which the Sun Devils have not participated since 1996.

If You’ve Never Seen Them: The 13th-ranked Sun Devils' success in the Pac-12 is a result of a balanced team, but the offense drives the cart. Quarterback Taylor Kelly has thrown for 3,510 yards and 28 TDs. Running back Marion Grice leads a strong run game headed by a large offensive line.

Weakness: The Sun Devils held their opponents to 280.9 yards per game during their seven-game winning streak, then gave up 517 yards of total offense in the Pac-12 championship, which they lost, 38-14. Arizona State needs to rely on its defense to stop the passing attack of the Red Raiders or else they will be in for a long night.

Texas Tech

Motivation: The Red Raiders have been in a slump the second half of the season after a surprising start. Texas Tech reached No. 10 in the polls before they lost to then-No. 17 Oklahoma, which started a mid-season fall. The Red Raiders need to win in order to salvage a winning season.

If You’ve Never Seen Them: The Red Raiders have one thing in mind when they hit the field: Control the air. Three different quarterbacks have headed the country's second-most productive passing offense: Davis Webb, Michael Brewer and Baker Mayfield, the dazzling walk-on freshman. Although Mayfield is transferring and won't play, Texas Tech still can pass the ball.

Weakness: As mentioned above, the Red Raiders will be without one of their offensive weapons in Mayfield, but that should not be the biggest of their worries. The Texas Tech defense has been the team’s worst enemy throughout the five-game slump. The Red Raiders gave up an average of 504.6 yards during the losing streak, including an average of 294 yards on the ground. Facing a balanced offense like Arizona State is going to be tough for the Red Raiders.

Las Vegas Line: ASU -14.

Related: Scouting The Holiday Bowl