For the first time in their careers, long-time friends Dennis Erickson and Mack Brown will face one another on the field. Erickson has helped revive Arizona State with a 10-2 season with losses only to USC and Oregon.
Longhorn fans are appropriately anxious about the matchup after the loss in College Station, so let's take a first look at the ASU offense and Texas defense. First, the numbers:
I suppose Texas fans could have hoped to draw a more run-oriented opponent for their bowl game, but let's face it: Stephen McGee threw for 700 yards against this Texas defense. Whomever the Longhorns drew for this bowl game, the game plan wasn't going to differ - throw, throw, throw.
The bad news for Texas is that passing offense has been the Sun Devils' strength this year. Rudy Carpenter had a great season for ASU and if Duane Akina has any hope of ending the season on a high note, he's going to have to figure out a way to keep the passing game in check. Junior wideout Michael Jones is the receiver Texas will need to try to keep a handle on - the 6-4 two-sport athlete (baseball) averages a healthy 17.5 yards per catch, finding the end zone 8 times this season. Arizona State provides balance, however, as five different receivers caught at least 20 passes this season. There's just no way around it: Texas either fixes the pass defense for the bowl game, or we're in for a wild shootout.