The Arizona State Sun Devils (7-4, 5-4) travel to San Francisco to take on the Navy Midshipmen (8-4) on Dec. 29 at 4 pm ET, and the game will be broadcast on ESPN 2.
Both teams are going into the game on two-game winning streaks with the Sun Devils rout of the Washington State Cougars and an incredible fourth quarter comeback against in-state rival Arizona Wildcats. The Midshipmen bested Texas St. 21-10 and survived a scare from their rival—a 2-9 Army team.
While the Midshipmen have a better record coming into the game, I will break down the on-field matchups to show where the Sun Devils are better than their Navy counterparts and prove that the sum of the parts are better than the whole.
The Midshipmen have run a quarterback by committee, playing four different quarterbacks this season. Granted, there were only five passing attempts by two of the signal callers, and Keenan Reynolds has seen a bulk of the plays. throwing for 884 yards and eight touchdowns with only one interception.
Conversely, the Sun Devils have gone with Taylor Kelly and have subbed in Michael Eubank mostly in goal-line situations. Kelly finished fourth in the pass-happy Pac-12 Conference with 2,772 yards and second in the conference with 8.2 yards per pass.
Kelly and Eubank have combined for 29 touchdowns including four rushing scores for Eubank, which stands head and shoulders over the nine that Reynolds and Trey Miller have thrown and the 10 that Reynolds has run in.
The Sun Devils are second in the nation with 49 total sacks and third with 327 yards lost per sack, while Navy finished the season with 18 total sacks for 132 yards lost, good enough to finish in the top 100—barely.
Will Sutton and Carl Bradford are tied for No. 16 in the country with 10.5 sacks apiece. Senior linebacker Brandon Magee also added 6.5 sacks, and Junior Onyeali added six while Navy’s sack leader, Wes Henderson, only managed 3.5 sacks on the season.
The defense has also forced 106 tackles for a loss of 452 yards—a 8.83 average that ranks second best in the country.
The Sun Devils have 20 total interceptions on the season, good enough for fourth-best in the FBS including a sixth-best three touchdowns off interceptions. Their 389 interception yards puts them in fourth in the nation, and Alden Darby has a 70-yard pick-six against the USC Trojans.
Navy also squeaks into the top 100 with eight interceptions for 60 yards and two touchdowns.
The Sun Devils’ Keelan Johnson leads the team with five interceptions, which ties him for ninth-best in the country. Alden Darby’s 154 interception yards is enough to place fourth in the country.
Navy totaled eight interceptions on the year with their team leader, Mark Warren, finishing the regular season with three interceptions and a touchdown.
Offense: Receiving Corps
The Sun Devils’ 29 receiving touchdowns are tied for 16th-best in the country with over 3,100 total yards and over 258 yards per game.
Navy comes into the post season with only 1,325 total yards for a paltry 110 yards per game. Although they average two yards more per reception, their nine receiving touchdowns pale in comparison.
Arizona State tight end Chris Coyle is approaching two school records at a school that is known as “Tight End U.” With three more receptions and one more touchdown, Coyle will set the record for most receptions and touchdowns in a season by a tight end at Arizona State. He is currently third in the nation for receptions per game by a tight end with 4.65 and yards per game with 58.09.
Junior transfer running back Marion Grice leads the nation in receiving touchdowns by a running back with eight and ranks 15th in total touchdowns with 17.
Senior punter Josh Hubner finished the regular season 17th in the nation in pinning the ball within the 20-yard line with 24. His average of 45.3 yards per punt ranks him fifth in the nation while averaging a mere 7.2 yards per punt return.
Place kicker Alex Garoutte has hit 51 straight PATs going perfect on the season and has only missed once in his career.
Kickoff returner Rashad Ross also achieved perfection this season by being one of only 21 players to return a kickoff for 100 yards.
Punt returner Jamal Miles has 183 total punt return yards, including a 25-yard return. He is currently ranked as the most prolific punt returner in school history.