On New Year’s Eve Florida State will take on the Arizona State Sun Devils in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas. The game will be televised on CBS at 2 PM Eastern.
The Sun Devils had a very streaky season winning 5 out of its first 6 games, followed by a 4 game losing streak only to finish the year with 2 wins to secure a bowl berth and a 7-5 record. The 7 wins came against Kent State, Sacramento State, Michigan State, California, Washington State, Oregon and Arizona with the 5 losses coming against Colorado, Utah, UCLA, USC and Oregon State.
Arizona State is led by former Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets head coach Herman Edwards. Edwards also played for the Philadelphia Eagles and was an analyst for ESPN.
Florida State is 3-1 against Arizona State all-time with the last win coming in 1984 in Tempe, Arizona.
Current roster notes
Cornerback Stanford Samuels has left the program to prepare for the NFL draft. Cam Akers is with the team but will not participate in the Sun Bowl.
Defensive end Janarius Robinson and tackle Corey Durden announced that they would return for their senior seasons.
New coaching hires
New head coach Mike Norvell has started to put together his coaching staff. Norvell has decided to retain defensive line coach Odell Haggins and wide receiver coach Ron Dugans. He has added offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Kenny Dillingham, who previously coached at Auburn and Memphis. Defensive coordinator Adam Fuller, who coached at Memphis and Marshall, will be joining the staff as well.
Former TCU O-Line coach, Chris Thomsen, will also be joining the staff as tight ends coach. Chris Marve from Mississippi State via Vanderbilt has come on to the staff to coach linebackers. The offensive line coach from Charlotte, Alan Atkins, has been brought into the same position at Florida State. Former Nebraska defensive coordinator Jeff Papuchis will coach special-teams and defensive ends. This past weekend Norvell added defensive backs coach TJ Rushing, who previously coached at Memphis, to the staff.
Norvell addressed the quarterback depth in a big way by adding Tate Rodemaker from Valdosta and Chubba Purdy from Phoenix. Offensive line help was desperately needed, but with 3 linemen – Lloyd Willis, Zane Herring and Thomas Shrader – on the way and hopefully more tackles to come, FSU is closer to rectifying the situation.
FSU added 3 explosive wide receivers. Brian Robinson, Ja’Khi Douglas and Kentron Portier to an already talent rich receiver room. Hopefully, Malachi Wideman will join the class in February.
Shifty running back Lawrence Toafili and the 6’7’’ tight end Carter Boatwright have signed as well. Odell Haggins will have another huge defensive tackle in Emanual Rogers to work with. Defensive end Josh Griffis switched back to the Seminoles after meeting Norvell the weekend before. FSU added transfer defensive end Jarrett Jackson from Louisville also. Stephen Dix and Jayion McCluster have come to play linebacker in Adam Fullers defense. Cornerback Demorie Tate and safety Jadarius Green-McKnight round out the defensive signings. And last but not least punter Alex Mastromanno from Australia signed as well.
On Saturday former Texas A&M running back Jashaun Corbin and former Florida International right tackle Devontay Taylor decided to transfer to Florida State.
Florida State offense versus Arizona State defense
In offensive coordinator Kendal Briles’s last game at FSU he will be without his top 3 running backs. With Cam Akers, Khalan Laborn and Anthony Grant all sidelined it will be up to walk ons Deonte Sheffield and Tashaun Ward to shoulder the load. Sheffield has 9 carries for 48 yards and a touchdown this season. Inexperience in the backfield coupled with Arizona State’s stout run defense point towards very little production out of the run game.
With this in mind, I expect Jordan Travis to be in the game for most short yardage plays. Tight ends, Gabe Nabers, Tre’ McKitty and Cameron McDonald, will likely be in the H-Back or running back position on third and long. ASU ranks 20th in the FBS against the run (118 yards per game), but the good news for FSU is the Sun Devils are 110th against the pass. Having the 20th best defense against the run usually means that several players know how to get to the ball carrier and ASU can do just that with 10 defenders with over 48 tackles. Of those 10 players the 3 that stick out the most are end Jermayne Lole, linebacker Darien Butler and safety Evan Fields. Lole leads the team with 5 sacks with Butler and Fields tied for the team lead in tackles with 77.
Florida State defense versus Arizona State offense
In the 2019 campaign the Sun Devils offense has been spearheaded by freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels, star running back Eno Benjamin and likely first-round pick receiver Brandon Aiyuk. However, Arizona State will be without Benjamin (1,083 yards rushing) and Aiyuk (1,192 yards receiving) as they prepare for the NFL draft. I think Benjamin will be the bigger loss due to the fact that his backups Isaiah Floyd and AJ Carter have combined for 26 carries on season. Aiyuk is a huge loss as well, but Arizona State has two other experienced and talented wide receivers, Frank Darby and Kyle Williams, to throw to.
Florida State’s defensive tackles Corey Durden, Robert Cooper and Amari Gainer have been anchors of the defense as of late with 15.5 tackles for loss this year. Just like with the other side of the ball, the inexperience at running back and the strength of the defense being in the trenches, it will be up to the quarterback to make most, if not all, of the plays.
Arizona State punter Michael Turk has been a force this season. Of his 59 punts this year 53 of them have been for over 50 yards are downed inside the 20. Cristian Zendejas, the Sun Devil kicker, has been very consistent this season going 19/23 on field goals. He has not been asked to convert very many long field goals, with his long being only 43 yards.
FSU punter Tommy Martin has placed 17 of his 64 plants inside the 20 while Ricky Agauyo is a disappointing 54% on field goals this year. Arizona State definitely has the edge in this aspect of the game.
It looks like both teams will struggle to run the football, making it easier on the secondary to defend the explosive wide receivers. I give ASU the slight edge due to the steady run defense and special teams. Florida State 17 Arizona State 20.