Wisconsin vs. Arizona State: 5 things to know about the Badgers' Las Vegas Bowl opponent
Put your party hats on, Badgers fans, because Wisconsin is headed to the Las Vegas Bowl for a matchup with Arizona State on Dec. 30 at Allegiant Stadium. The game will kick off at 10:30 p.m. ET and can be seen on ESPN.
Wisconsin (8-4, 6-3 B1G West) will participate in a bowl game for the 20th consecutive season. The Badgers rattled off 7 straight victories after a 1-3 start, but that stretch will largely be forgotten when looking back on the 2021 season.
Wisconsin failed to get the job done in the regular season finale against Minnesota, costing the Badgers a spot in the B1G Championship Game and a chance at returning to the Rose Bowl.
Instead, the Badgers’ regular season ended on Thanksgiving weekend, and they will need to find motivation to close out the year strong heading into what will be an important offseason for Paul Chryst and the Wisconsin program as a whole.
As the coaching staff begins preparation for Arizona State, we’ll do the same. The Sun Devils also finished the regular season at 8-4, including 6-3 in the Pac-12. Here’s what’s up with ASU:
Under NCAA investigation
Arizona State already announced it will bring Herm Edwards back for a fifth season in 2022, but the Sun Devils’ season saw plenty of controversy. Last spring, the NCAA launched an investigation into the program for recruiting violations that included hosting high school prospects during the recruiting dead period brought on by COVID-19.
Arizona State placed assistant coaches Adam Breneman (tight ends), Prentice Gill (wide receivers) and Chris Hawkins (defensive backs) on administrative leave prior to the start of this season.
This is an NCAA investigation, so there’s no guessing where this will go, but that much movement right before the start of the year had to have an impact on a team that was a trendy pick to challenge for a Pac-12 title.
Who’s at quarterback?
Third-year starter Jayden Daniels is a huge part of the Arizona State offense, both in the passing game and in the Sun Devils’ rushing attack. He completed 66.4% of his passes this season for 2,221 yards with 10 touchdowns and 9 interceptions.
Through the first 4 games, Daniels completed 72.6% of his passes for an average of 202 yards per game with 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, but the passing game was not at its best to close out the year. In the final 4 contests, he completed 61% of his throws for an average of 121.8 yards per game with 3 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.
Daniels is also the team’s second leading rusher with 670 yards on 5.6 yards per carry and 6 touchdowns on the ground. He already announced he will be returning for another season in Tempe next year.
Without its best player
The Sun Devils will head into the Las Vegas Bowl without running back Rachaad White, who will get himself ready for the NFL Draft instead. The junior college transfer broke out in a shortened 2020 season, and he followed that up with a big year in his final college season.
White played in an 11 games and rushed for 1,006 yards on 5.5 yards per carry with 15 touchdowns, and he played a big role in the receiving game. White was second on the team in receptions (43) and receiving yards (456) and caught a touchdown pass. He is the type of player defenses would have to focus plenty of their attention on, but White will not suit up against Wisconsin.
The Sun Devils relied on a strong running game all season, so it will be interesting to see how the departures of their two top backs will impact the offense. DeaMonte Trayanum would’ve likely been the next man up without White, but he entered the transfer portal last week.
Arizona State is ranked No. 7 in yards per rush attempt against FBS opponents and ran the ball on a high percentage of its offensive snaps. The Sun Devils ran the ball on 58.6% of their plays during the regular season, which is the 24th highest rate in the country.
The only other running back on the roster with double-digit carries is Daniyel Ngata, who has carried the ball 45 times for 286 yards with 3 touchdowns, so he will likely have a big opportunity.
Arizona State has turned the ball over more than its fans would like. With an average of 1.7 turnovers per game, the Sun Devils are tied for No. 96 in the country in that category, and they are tied for 89th in turnover margin. Despite a slow start in creating turnovers, the Badgers have forced 1.9 turnovers per game, which is tied for No. 12 in the country, so they could grab a few takeaways and set up their offense in good position during the Las Vegas Bowl.