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No. 16 Sun Devils ace Texas Tech in Holiday Bowl

Sunday - 12/29/2013, 2:40pm  ET

BERNIE WILSON
AP Sports Writer

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- It shouldn't take long Monday night for the Holiday Bowl to outshine its younger brother, the Poinsettia Bowl.

Four nights after Utah State won a snoozer over Northern Illinois, No. 16 Arizona State and Texas Tech are expected to liven up Qualcomm Stadium.

The Sun Devils average 41 points, having scored 53 or more points six times, including breaking 60 once.

The Red Raiders' uptempo offense averages 88 plays and 513 yards a game.

ASU's Todd Graham, the Pac-12 Coach of the Year, loves using the word "explosive" a lot, so naturally he's expecting "an explosive game and a game that will be fun for fans to watch."

Pac-12 South champion Arizona State (10-3) is coming off a 24-point loss to No. 5 Stanford in the conference championship game, the second time it lost to the Cardinal this season.

Texas Tech (7-5) is on an unsightly five-game losing streak that followed a 7-0 start.

"I think we started playing really good teams and that never helps," said first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury, a former Texas Tech quarterback. "We had some young guys and some young quarterbacks and you look at our turnover margin, we're second-to-last in the country and it's hard to be consistent and be a good team doing that. I just think we have to clean up in a lot of areas and grow up."

Graham said leading rusher and scorer Marion Grice probably won't play due to a leg injury.

Kingsbury said he's informed quarterbacks Davis Webb, a freshman, and Michael Brewer, a sophomore, who will start, but will keep everyone else guessing until Monday night.

Here are five things to look for when No. 14 Arizona State faces Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl.

WILL SUTTON: The Arizona State defensive tackle's numbers are down this year but not his impact. He is a repeat Associated Press All-American and repeat Pac-12 defensive player of the year.

"We've got some really good ones, but I've never seen guys that are your best players mature as much as what he has," Graham said, adding that Sutton is "my absolute favorite player in 28 years on game day." Graham expects Sutton to go on and have a great NFL career, in part "because he was recognized by his teammates as a leader. I would tell you when I first came, I don't know that that was on the map. So he bought in. He is explosive and talented. Never once this year did he ever get frustrated, say anything about his numbers, and his numbers suffered because people slide the front to him and do things like that which helped us because we were able to impact the quarterback by creating, knowing that people were going to do that."

RED RAIDERS QB: A good guess is that Webb would start after Baker Mayfield announced his intention to transfer and is no longer with the team. Webb started five straight games from Oct. 12-Nov. 9 and has thrown for 2,315 yards -- the same number Mayfield threw for -- and 16 touchdowns, with nine interceptions. Webb had an impressive debut, becoming the sixth Texas Tech QB to pass for at least 400 yards in his first career start, throwing for 415 in a victory against Iowa State.

TECH'S DROUGHT: The Red Raiders haven't won since Oct. 19, 37-27 at West Virginia, to improve to 7-0. Since then they've been roughed up by a Murderer's Row of Big 12 opponents, losing to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Baylor and Texas by an average of 20.6 points.

SUN DEVILS' OFFENSE: Taylor Kelly has thrown for 3,510 yards, third on the school's single-season list and is one of just seven Arizona State QBs to throw for more than 6,000 yards in a career. He's thrown for 28 touchdowns, with 11 interceptions. Kelly also has rushed for 473 yards and eight touchdowns, second on the team behind Marion Grice (996 yards, 14 touchdowns). But Grice is expected to miss this game due to a leg injury, which will boost D.J. Foster's role. Foster is third on the team with 369 yards and five scores.

ASU DEFENSE: The Sun Devils have intercepted 21 passes -- six by cornerback Robert Nelson -- and recovered 10 fumbles. They've returned five of those interceptions for touchdowns, tied for first in the country.

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Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson


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