It's a classic matchup of the Big Ten and Pac-12 as Wisconsin and Arizona State clash in the Las Vegas Bowl at Allegiant Stadium. The Las Vegas Bowl began in 1992, but was not played last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year's game will be a historic one, as it's the first time that a Big Ten team will appear.
The Pac-12 has a long history with the bowl, with Oregon being the first Pac-12 school to play in it, winning the 1997 Las Vegas Bowl 41-13 over Air Force. Arizona State will be the 19th appearance for the Pac-12 and the third appearance for the Sun Devils, which last played in the game in 2018 when they lost to Fresno State 31-20. Arizona State comes into this year's game after a second-place finish in the Pac-12 South. The Sun Devils went 8-4 overall and 6-3 in conference play and come into the game having won three of their last four.
Wisconsin is also 8-4 overall and 6-3 in conference play, rebounding from a slow start to the year. The Badgers began the season with a 1-3 record, but all three losses came to teams that were ranked at the time (Penn State, Notre Dame and Michigan). The Badgers recovered with a seven-game win streak that came to an end with a 23-13 loss to rival Minnesota during the final week of the regular season.
This will be the first meeting between the schools since Arizona State beat Wisconsin 32-30 during the 2013 season. Arizona State leads the all-time series 3-1.
Wisconsin vs. Arizona State: Need to know
Wisconsin has one of the best defenses in the country: While the team's offense tends to disappear at times, the Badgers can always rely on their defense. Wisconsin led the nation with 237 yards allowed per game and was also the best rushing defense per carry, allowing 2.0 yards per attempt. It finished second in yards per play allowed at 4.1 and allowed 30 points or more in only two games this season (losses to Notre Dame and Michigan). Linebacker Leo Chenal led the way with 106 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and seven sacks.
Braelon Allen helped turn Wisconsin's season around: Through Wisconsin's 1-3 start to the season, its 17-year-old freshman running back carried the ball only 12 times for 49 yards and a touchdown. That all changed when he got 18 carries against Illinois and rushed for 131 yards and a score in a 24-0 victory. From that point on, Allen became the focal point of the Wisconsin offense and it paid off. Allen rushed for 1,060 yards and 11 touchdowns over Wisconsin's final eight games, and the only team that kept him in check was Minnesota. Allen was held to 47 yards and 17 carries in the only game Wisconsin lost since he took over as starter.
The Sun Devils lean on RB Rachaad White: The plan for Arizona State coming into the season was that QB Jayden Daniels would take another step in his development and lead the Sun Devils to a possible conference title. That didn't happen. While Daniels had a career-high completion rate, his overall number suffered, and he threw only 10 touchdowns to nine interceptions. So it's no surprise the Sun Devils started leaning more heavily on their rushing attack behind Rachaad White, who rushed for 1,006 yards and 15 touchdowns on the season. His 15 rushing touchdowns were tied for second-most in the Pac-12 and 10th nationally.
How to watch Las Vegas Bowl live
Game: Las Vegas Bowl
Date: Thursday, December 30 | Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
Location: Allegiant Stadium -- Las Vegas, NV
TV: ESPN | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Las Vegas Bowl prediction, picks
Neither one of these offenses have been reliable in 2021, but while both defenses are stout, I trust Wisconsin's a lot more. Arizona State will want to lean on Rachaad White and its ground game, which plays right into Wisconsin's defensive strengths. The Badgers also have one of the best pass rushes in the country and Daniels has been prone to turning the ball over this season. I see that continuing in the face of all the pressure he's likely to see. So while you shouldn't expect the Badgers to blow this one open, they should cover. Prediction: Wisconsin (-6.5)
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