Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl
Who: Navy vs. Arizona State.
When: 4 p.m.
Where: AT&T Park, San Francisco.
Radio: WFED (1500 AM), WNAV (1430 AM).
Records: Midshipmen 8-4; Sun Devils 7-5.
Keep it close: The Midshipmen aren’t built for comebacks from large deficits, so a priority will be winning time of possession and not allowing their opponent, in this case Arizona State’s spread offense, to dictate the pace. After lopsided losses to three FBS teams in their first four games, Navy has surged to seven victories in eight games thanks to that formula, and the Midshipmen are 4-0 in games decided by eight points or fewer. That’s a significant improvement over last year, when they were 2-5 in such games.
Control the middle: Navy’s offense often goes as the fullback does, meaning the Midshipmen are going to have to devote considerable resources to limiting Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton. The junior was named Pac-12 defensive player of the year and first-team all-American after finishing first on the Sun Devils with 10½ sacks and 20 tackles for loss. If Sutton spends most of his time in the Navy backfield, the Midshipmen could be in for a long afternoon as they seek to win a bowl game for just the second time in six appearances.
Mind the mistakes: It’s no secret Arizona State is bigger, stronger and much deeper than Navy, which is accustomed to being undersized and the underdog. The Midshipmen have been able to push opponents from the power conferences, though, in part because they rarely commit penalties and usually finish with fewer turnovers. Navy must protect the football on Saturday in order to have a chance, and the Midshipmen certainly can’t hope to win by allowing the Sun Devils extra yards in penalties.
— Gene Wang