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December 25, 2005
Rutgers (7-4) vs. Arizona State (6-5)
Chase Field, Phoenix, Arizona
Line: Arizona State -10
Doug: Arizona State -10
This is one of those games where I really want to start typing with a lot of exclamation points, pick a Rutgers upset, head to a bar decked out in scarlet, and whoop it up for every Rutgers first down. Maybe it's the rags to riches Rutgers story, maybe it's the upset potential, maybe it's the pure dislike for all things Pac-10. I REALLY want to pick Rutgers to win this game. I really do.
Three big factors at work:
Out of all the bowl games, I think the motivation factor (which is huge in bowl games) for Rutgers might rate the highest out of all the bowl teams. This is Rutgers we are talking about. Freaking Rutgers. One of the worst Division I-A programs in the country. A perennial doormat.
Some stats for you to chew on:
1. Rutgers has had four winning seasons since 1984. Four in twenty one years. 2. Rutgers hasn't appeared in a bowl game in 27 years. Ironically, their last appearance in the now defunct Garden State Bowl in 1978 was against Arizona State. 3. They lost 25 consecutive games in Big East conference play from 1999-2003.
You think they might be a little excited about this game? Me too. The Insight Bowl is the biggest thing to happen to Rutgers football since the 70s. Pretty sure they'll be fired up. If anything, I'm expecting them to be a little tight to start the game. Imagine, a team that is too nervous to play in the freaking Insight Bowl.
With all due respect to Tres Moses, in terms of talent alone, I gotta think Arizona State has the big edge here. The Sun Devils have a pretty potent passing attack (led by standout WR Derek Hagan), and they have scored on pretty much everybody they've played. At times, ASU has looked outstanding. If they show up ready to play, I could very easily see them running Rutgers off the field.
ASU is also significantly more battle tested than Rutgers. ASU has played all the relevant Pac 10 teams, and even played LSU and Northwestern. That's a pretty good schedule when it's all said and done. Taking a closer look at Rutgers' schedule, they were blown out by Louisville and lost by double digits at home to West Virginia and South Florida. Those performances make you wonder how good Rutgers really is this year.
3. Fear of losing
If I was Dirk Koetter, I would be lying awake at night worried about the possibility of losing this game. That has to serve as motivation to get your team fired up. ASU is playing a virtual home game against a program that hasn't won a bowl game in its entire history.
If Arizona State blows this game, Dirk Koetter should just start cleaning out his desk. I don't care that the ink hasn't even dried on a new extension signed last month. If he loses to Rutgers, he loses all credibility as a head coach.
Summary: Not really sure how to call this game. If I take Arizona State to cover the 10 points, it's inevitable that I'll be all hot and bothered when ASU comes out flat, Rutgers makes some early big plays to get some confidence, and the game remains close throughout. If I take Rutgers to cover, I'll be bracing for the disappointment of ASU throwing the ball all over the field, taking early command of the game, and never looking back.
I've been going back and forth on this, and I'm changing my mind. ASU in a rout.
ASU 38 Rutgers 21
Under - 63
Matt: Arizona State -10 I was tempted to pick Rutgers here. I really was. Great story. Coach seems like a good guy. And they have a pretty good offense. But then i remembered, this is Rutgers we are talking about. Just like Allen Iverson has his famous "Practice" speech, I literally said out loud "Rutgers? C'mon man, we talking about Rutgers." They are a nice team. But it's Rutgers. The same team that lost to a dreadful Illinois team, was beat down by South Florida and Louisville, and has all the makings of the classic 'happy to be here' bowl team. Just recently there was an article on espn where one of the players was saying they've been lounging at the pool all day since they've gotten into town. Even though the school is giving students $300 in travel money, and paying for all students tickets, I still think there is only going to be one Scarlet Nation in Phoenix this bowl season. In other words, Arizona State is playing a home game and no amount of traveling Rutgers fans is going to change that.
Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said it best when he said that Arizona State is the best 6-5 team in the country. I don't ususally have much respect for Pac 10 teams not named USC, but I have to give ASU credit in that they went out and played LSU and Northwestern nonconference, thrashing NW and losing on a controversial call to LSU. They are in the Pac 10 so obviously they have an explosive offense even though starter Sam Keller was hurt during the season.
In the end, I think the fear of losing to Rutgers motivates ASU and Rutgers is just happy to be out of New Jersey for the holidays. Rutgers keeps it close for a half, but ASU blows it open in the second half.