Match-up: Miami (ACC) vs. Washington State (PAC-12)
Spread: WSU (-2.5)
Location: El Paso, Texas.
When: Saturday, December 26th at 2 PM
Where to Watch: CBS
There were high expectations for this Miami team prior to the season, and judging off their talent level, rightfully so. However, things didn’t pan out quite the way they expected. As a result, Al Golden was let go immediately after getting demolished 58-0 at home vs. #1 Clemson, which happened to be the worst loss in program history. Since Golden’s departure, the Hurricanes finished 4-1 to end the regular season and with new head coach Mark Richt coming in next season from Georgia, things could be trending upward for this program. They come into this Sun Bowl game feeling very good about themselves after a big win on the road at Pittsburgh.
Players to Watch:
Brad Kaaya (QB): The sophomore quarterback had a solid year for the Hurricanes, throwing for over 3,000 yards along with a 15:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Kaaya was a prized recruit for former head coach Al Golden in the class of 2014, and he has shown some of that ability with his capability to make every throw possible, along with a tremendous amount of arm strength. While he is still a project, Kaaya has the potential to be one of the best signal callers in the country next year, and with more identity on offense, should be much better under a new coaching staff.
Joseph Yearby (RB): Yearby has been the steady force in the backfield for the Miami offense, and his combination of physicality and explosiveness could be a problem for the Washington State defense. Averaging nearly five yards per carry this year, expect the Hurricanes to feed Yearby the ball early and often in this one.
How Miami Can Win:
Brad Kaaya has to be on his “A” game. If he is, and they can establish a balance on offense, the Canes have a chance. Yes, getting into shootouts doesn’t bode well against a high powered Cougars offense, but the athletes on this Miami team will be a challenge for Washington State to handle from a defensive perspective.
Washington State Overview
It was a terrific year for Mike Leach, as he led his Cougars program to their best finish overall 6-3 in the Pac-12–since 2003. Washington State led the country in passing offense at 397 yards per game and recorded its first three-game conference-winning streak since 2003. After a humiliating season-opening defeat to Portland State, the Cougars rebounded in a big way, to beat ranked opponents Oregon and UCLA, and nearly pulled off a huge upset against #8 Stanford. The Cougars became bowl eligible for just the second time since 2003.
Players to Watch
Luke Falk (QB): Falk was one of the most underrated quarterbacks in college football all year long, period. His numbers speak for themselves: 4,266 passing yards, 36 touchdowns, and a remarkable 70% completion percentage. Just staggering numbers when you factor in the quality number of defenses he played. Under Mike Leach, Falk has thrived in the up-tempo offense and he will be a huge nightmare for the Miami defense.
Gabe Marks (WR): The electrifying wideout is the top guy in this explosive passing attack. Marks hauled in 99 catches for 1,125 yards and 14 touchdowns. He has improved as a player in each of his three seasons in Spokane, and he will be a force in this game if Miami allows him to.
How Washington State Can Win:
Do what they do best, and that’s throwing the football all game long. Listen, this Miami defense will not slow down Falk one bit, and Washington State wants this game in the 40’s. If this game is a shootout, Washington State will win. On the flip side, if Miami can blitz Falk and throw this offense out of rhythm, the game will slow down and the better athletes will take over, which favors Miami.
Final Score Prediction: Washington State wins 41-38.
Christian Reilly- @CReillyTV
Photo Credits: http://www.bigstory.ap.org/article/002ced7e8b284e6fa22ec68aa8a930b1/washington-state-qb-luke-falk-leaves-game-vs-no-18-ucla