WHO: N.C. State (7-5) vs. Arizona State (7-5)
WHAT: The 84th Hyundai Sun Bowl
WHEN: 3 p.m. ET on CBS
WHERE: Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso, Texas
THE SKINNY: Do you like awkwardness? If so, do we have a bowl matchup for you.
Let’s start with the Sun Devils. Despite making the bizarre decision to hire Herm Edwards (who will likely show up in the broadcast booth at some point during the game), former head coach Todd Graham will still be coaching his team in this game as they look to win an eight game for the fourth time in his six-year tenure. Defensive coordinator Phil Bennett will also be sticking around but will leave the program after the game while offensive coordinator Billy Napier has turned over play-calling duties to Rob Likens after taking a head coaching job at Louisiana-Lafayette.
And that’s not even getting to the actual Sun Devils who will be playing in this one, though there are some pretty good ones. That includes quarterback Manny Wilkins and his favorite target in wideout N’Keal Harry, who is big, fast, physical and can come up with a circus catch if you give him just a sliver of daylight. Running backs Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage are both multipurpose threats out of the backfield and really came on strong to close the regular season.
Across the sideline, the biggest question facing the Wolfpack is if star defensive end Bradley Chubb will play in the game or not. He was one of, if not the, best defenders in college football in 2017 and made the trip with the team but it’s still unknown whether he’ll sit out to avoid injury and focus on the NFL. Chances are he will not play but State still has a really stout group up front even without him in the lineup.
Offensively, quarterback Ryan Finley has really developed nicely and played a big role in the team averaging just over 30 points per game this year. Of course, it helps to have weapons like Nyheim Hines at running back (5.7 ypc) and the super versatile Jaylen Samuels. Both are big play threats with every touch and have the potential to find some space in this game as well.
Given all the strange factors in this one, the Sun Bowl could play out about a dozen different ways. The Wolfpack could play uninspired after making the trip West and there might be an on-field issue if they’re missing their best player. Or it could be the Sun Devils get overly emotional given all that has gone on with their coaching staff leading up to kickoff? Something says they’ll meet somewhere in the middle of all that awkwardness and trade scores for a few drives before NCSU settles down to win things in the second half.
THE PICK: N.C. State 30, Arizona State 17
In a statement, Kansas State has confirmed the passing of head coach Bill Snyder‘s grandson and assistant coach Sean Snyder‘s son.
Emergency personnel were called to the home of Matthew Snyder Wednesday afternoon for what was described as a medical emergency. Other than the 22-year-old was deceased, no further details of the events surrounding his death have been released.
While neither of the long-time Wildcats coaches have, understandably, addressed the tragedy, K-State athletic director Gene Taylor did in a statement.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Snyder family during this very difficult time. We are deeply saddened to learn of this news and ask that the family’s privacy continue to be respected. Sean, Wanda, and the entire Snyder family are greatly appreciative of the outpouring of support displayed by the K-State Family as they cope with this tragedy.
This one seemingly comes from out of nowhere.
The starting quarterback for Lane Kiffin‘s resurgent FAU program for most of 2017, Jason Driskel was hoping again to trigger one of the most potent offenses in the country in 2018. Instead, Driskel announced on his personal Twitter account that he is retiring from the sport.
“After a lot of thinking, talking with friends and family, and prayer, I have made the decision to end my college football career,” Driskel, who has one year of eligibility remaining, wrote in the social media missive. “I undoubtedly will miss my teammates and the game with all of its trials and tribulations; but I will not regret the decision to move into the next chapter of my life.”
After going 1-2 the first three games of the 2017 season, Lane Kiffin benched starter Daniel Parr and inserted Driskel. After losing his first start at Buffalo, Driskel proceeded to help lead the Owls to 10 straight wins to close out the regular season with a school-record 11 wins. FAU won the Conference USA championship and also claimed the program’s first bowl win since 2008 for good measure.
Driskel passed for 2,247 yards, five touchdowns and just four interceptions in what turned out to be his last season at the school. He was also third on the Owls with 427 yards rushing, while his eight rushing touchdowns were second on the team.
With Driskel out, a pair of transfers, Florida State’s De'Andre Johnson and Oklahoma’s Chris Robinson, will likely battle for the starting job beginning in the spring. Even if he hadn’t retired, Driskel would’ve had to beat out that duo for the starting job, his head coach confirmed after the Boca Raton Bowl rout of Akron.
Tragedy has struck at the heart of the Kansas State football program.
According to the Manhattan Mercury, 22-year-old Matthew Snyder died Wednesday in Manhattan. Snyder is the grandson of legendary K-State head coach Bill Snyder and the son of longtime Wildcats assistant Sean Snyder.
Scant details surrounding the younger Snyder’s death have been released. From the Mercury‘s report:
Emergency personnel responded to a medical call Wednesday afternoon in the 3300 block of Claflin Avenue in Manhattan. Riley County police confirmed that there had been a death but declined to give any further information.
The house at 3309 Claflin Ave. belongs to KTMW LLC, which is owned by Sean and Wanda Snyder, according to county records.
The football program is expected to release a statement or statements on Matthew Snyder’s passing later on Thursday.
Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to those affected by the young man’s death.
Wednesday evening, Jeff George Jr. announced that he was leaving the Illinois football program as a graduate transfer. A short time later, another of his fellow Fighting Illini quarterbacks confirmed his exit as well — albeit with a twist.
On his personal Twitter account, Chayce Crouch announced that not only is he leaving the Illini but he’s leaving the sport, period. “I don’t think there’s anything left to give,” the redshirt junior wrote. “I have decided to hang up the cleats and end my career as a Fighting Illini.
“At this point in my life, this is what is best for me.”
Crouch started the first four games of the 2017 season before being benched in favor of George Jr. in early October; he started another game later on in the year. The Ohio native finishes his collegiate career completing 78 of his 157 passes for 852 yards, four touchdowns and six interceptions. He also ran for 360 yards and another four touchdowns on 108 carries.
With the departures of Crouch and George, rising sophomore Cam Thomas is the only scholarship quarterback currently on the Illini’s roster. A three-star recruit signed last December, MJ Rivers, won’t enroll until the summer. There’s also the possibility of adding another recruit during the “usual” February signing period, and there’s also the possibility (probability?) that a graduate transfer at the position will be added as well.