Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly has had a great year as the Sun Devils' signal-caller, and he should finish 2013 with a big game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
The Red Raiders have the fifth-best passing defense in the Big 12, allowing teams to throw for an average of 224.8 yards per game.
Kelly has been efficient through the air and on the ground, though, and should shred Tech's defense.
He threw for 270 yards per game. He also ran for almost 40 yards per game this year, good for second-best on the team. Kelly has developed into a true dual-threat quarterback, and the Red Raiders will certainly have their hands full defending him.
The Sun Devils will have to lean on Kelly heavily in the Holiday Bowl, as their star running backs Marion Grice and D.J. Foster are still nursing injuries.
Doug Haller of AZCentral.com says it doesn't appear as if Grice will even be able to play:
Graham again says RB Marion Grice is doubtful at best. Said he thought he had a chance but recovery has been slow. Grice not practicing.— Doug Haller (@DougHaller) December 28, 2013
This means Kelly will have plenty of opportunities to make plays.
Expect ASU to use some exotic packages like it did against Arizona. In ASU's rivalry game against the Wildcats, the Sun Devils used their tight ends a lot in different packages and made tight end De'marieya Nelson a running back.
This kept U of A on its heels all night and allowed Kelly to throw for 274 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 26 yards.
How many yards will Taylor Kelly throw for?
The junior quarterback from Idaho started the season with five straight games throwing for at least 300 yards.
He came back down to earth in the second half of ASU's season but should be able to crack the 300-yard mark in the Holiday Bowl.
A big reason for that is Texas Tech's secondary doesn't really have anyone to match up with Jaelen Strong, and that is a big problem for the Red Raiders. Strong's unique combination of size and speed will allow him to have a monster game. Kelly should be able to throw their back-shoulder fade to perfection all night.
Kelly also has a ton of offensive weapons at his disposal. Texas Tech will be spread too thin trying to defend them all.
The Red Raiders are also at the bottom of the Big 12 with only seven interceptions all year. And they struggle to get to the quarterback.
They rank eighth in the Big 12 in sacks, accumulating only 18 all season. To put that number in perspective, Sun Devil linebacker Carl Bradford has nearly half that much by himself.
ASU as a team has 40 sacks.
This all adds up to Kelly having a career game. He'll have plenty of time in the pocket and has more weapons at his disposal than he'll know what to do with.
Yes, Grice likely won't play, but look at what the Sun Devils did to Arizona.
The Wildcats have a much better defense than Texas Tech, and Arizona State torched them. The Wildcats also shut down Oregon just the week before they played ASU.
Texas Tech's only hope to slow down Kelly is to pressure him, and that task will be left to its linebacking corps.
Sadly for Red Raider nation though, their chances of sacking Kelly look slim. As Haller writes, if all of this comes true, and ASU wins, Kelly will have a mark on his resume most other quarterbacks in ASU history don't have:
If the Sun Devils defeat Texas Tech in Monday’s Holiday Bowl, Kelly would become the first ASU quarterback since Danny White to win multiple bowl games. White helped guide the Sun Devils to Fiesta Bowl wins from 1971-73. Since then no ASU quarterback has won more than once during the bowl season.
Expect Kelly to have a fantastic game as the Sun Devils win the Holiday Bowl.
Stats and information from cfbstats.com unless otherwise indicated.