West Virginia takes on Arizona State in the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl on Jan. 2. Here’s an inside look at the game.
Matchup to watch: Arizona State WR D.J. Foster against West Virginia CB Daryl Worley. Foster, who switched from running back to receiver this season with an eye on boosting his NFL future, didn’t put up earth-shattering numbers (54 receptions, 544 yards) but should be a good test for Worley. The Mountaineers’ All-Big 12 defensive back really came on during the second half of the season with interceptions in four of West Virginia’s final five games. Foster enters the game with at least one reception in 52 straight games.
Stat to watch and why it matters: Keep an eye on West Virginia’s rush attempt totals. Dana Holgorsen’s offense is built around a strong running game that averages 235.25 rushing yards per game led by Wendell Smallwood. West Virginia is 6-2 when the Mountaineers have 45 rush attempts or more in 2015. Holgorsen’s squad wants to run the ball, so if it exceeds 45 rush attempts, that is a good sign West Virginia is controlling the game and having success.
Coaching edge and why: Neither team lived up to its own expectations in 2015. Arizona State was eyeing a Pac 12 title and West Virginia had designs on forcing itself into the Big 12 title race. Both teams underachieved so Holgorsen and Arizona State coach Todd Graham will want to get the offseason off to a good start with a win. The matchup between Arizona State’s balanced offense and West Virginia’s veteran defense is likely to decide the game. The Mountaineers finished second in the Big 12 with 1.45 points per drive allowed and Arizona State averages 2.12 points per drive.