Fight Hunger Bowl 2012: Key Sun Devils Players Whom Navy Must Contain

Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistDecember 28, 2012

BOULDER, CO - OCTOBER 11:  Linebacker Brandon Magee #8 of the Arizona State Sun Devils plays defense against the Colorado Buffaloes at Folsom Field on October 11, 2012 in Boulder, Colorado. Arizona State defeated Colorado 51-17.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The 2012 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl pits the Navy Midshipmen against the Arizona State Sun Devils, two teams fittingly hungry to secure a bowl-game victory.

The Sun Devils (7-5) haven't won a bowl game since 2005, when they bested Rutgers 45-50 in the Insight Bowl. Since then, they're 0-3 in postseason play, losing by an average of 22.3 points per game.

Navy (8-4) won the Texas Bowl in 2009 but hasn't taken home postseason hardware since. Its only bowl game in the past two years was a 35-14 massacre at the hands of San Diego State.

Come Saturday, both teams will be looking to avenge recent bowl-game disasters. If Navy wants to be said victor, here are three guys it'll need to contain.


DT Will Sutton

Due to the nature of the position, it takes a special player to earn postseason hardware at defensive tackle. Will Sutton is that type of special player.

The junior tackle from Corona, California was named the Pac-12's Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year in 2012 after racking up 10.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss. He joins the fairly elite company of Adam Archuleta, Terrell Suggs and Dale Robinson as Sun Devils who have won the award named after their fallen former alumnus.

Although Sutton's dominance has been spread consistently throughout the season, he's been auspiciously prone to monster performances. The most notable one was a nine-tackle, three-sack performance against the Cal Bears in Berkley.

Navy doesn't drop back to pass all that often, which should spare the offense from Sutton the sack artist. But Sutton the havoc-wreaker will still be present in full force, shooting gaps relentlessly and making backfield tackles.

If Navy doesn't find a way to counteract him, he could throw a wrench in the patented running game.


QB Taylor Kelly

With the loss of departed incumbent Brock Osweiler, new head coach Todd Graham wasn't sure what to expect from the quarterback position. In sophomore Taylor Kelly, he got a solid player with the potential to become even better.

Kelly spearheaded a balanced Sun Devils attack this year with precocious aplomb. Arizona State finished the season ranked 45th nationally in passing yards and 39th in rushing.

The 258.5 passing yards per game were particularly impressive, considering the Sun Devils' absence of true, bona fide receiving threats. A lot of those numbers came on the strength of Kelly's right arm.

On four separate occasions this year against Pac-12 competition, Kelly threw four-plus touchdowns with no interceptions. That's a third of Arizona State's games.

If Navy allows him to produce with similar efficiency, it can kiss this game goodbye.


LB Brandon Magee

Filling the massive, idiosyncratic hole left by Vontaze Burfict, Brandon Magee has emerged as one of the top linebackers in the Pac-12.

Magee lines up as a weak-side backer but produces like a "Mike." He finished the season with 105 total tackles and 6.5 sacks—numbers warranting inclusion on the All-Pac-12 Second Team.

He saved his best for last too, which could mean trouble for Navy. In the Sun Devils' final four games, Magee posted 10-plus tackles three times, including a dominant, 17-tackle performance against rival Arizona.

Navy obviously relies on the ground game to keep the chains moving. Accordingly, Arizona State will rely on Magee to prevent the chains from moving.

The Midshipmen would be well-served to keep a body on him always.