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Sun Bowl for Sun Devils

By - Dec 04, 2017

By Christopher Gleason/For The Sporting Nation

The Arizona State Sun Devils (7-5, 6-3 Pac-12) are slated to face the No. 24 North Carolina State Wolfpack (8-4, 6-2 ACC) in the Sun Bowl Friday, December 29 in El Paso, Texas.

The trip east for bowl season is nothing new for the Sun Devils, as this will be their fourth Sun Bowl appearance in the last 20 years. It will be head coach Todd Graham’s second trip to El Paso, as he coached ASU to a 36-31 victory over Duke in the 2014 Sun Bowl.

“We’re looking forward to the great hospitality there in El Paso,” Graham said. “I’m excited that I’ll coach my last game at Arizona State there at the Sun Bowl.

Graham was fired days after ASU ended the regular season with a 42-30 victory over Arizona in the Territorial Cup. He is going to remain head coach through the bowl game and will be replaced by ESPN analyst Herm Edwards at season’s end.

“I look forward to honoring our seniors and honoring our football team,” Graham said. “This is a special time for us to reward these guys with a tremendous experience and (there’s) no place better… there’s nothing like the hospitality in El Paso.”

The Sun Devils have won their last three Sun Bowl appearances. However, ASU was a ranked team playing an unranked team in each of those games. This time, the script is flipped.

“It’s a very well-coached football team, a very disciplined football team,” Graham said. “(Their quarterback) is very efficient at taking care of the football.”

The Wolfpack are making their first trip to the Sun Bowl in program history and will be looking to make a statement. NC State finished the regular season with eight wins for only the second time in the last 15 seasons, and finished second in the ACC with a 6-2 conference record only to top-ranked, defending national champion Clemson.

“There’s been 11 nine-win teams total in 125 years,” head coach Dave Doeren said, “so hitting that mark would put us in that top 10 percent in program history. It would be great for the senior class.”

NC State hasn’t won nine games since 2010 with Tom O’Brien in charge. A win at the Sun Bowl would be Doeren’s best finish with the team since he became head coach in 2013. However, he knows it will be no easy task to get past the Sun Devils.

“I know that they’ve had very strong wins,” Doeren said. “I know (the coaches) field a very good football team and I look forward to the matchup and the hospitality.”

ASU will look to reach eight wins for the first time since 2014, which indeed was the last time it finished its season in El Paso. The game will kick off at 1 p.m. Arizona time.

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