Arizona State and Texas enter this pre-New Year's Day bowl game with mixed emotions. While both teams are happy to be in a bowl game, they both had much higher expectations for the season.
The Arizona State Sun Devils felt slighted when they were unable to secure an invitation to a BCS Bowl game, while the Texas Longhorns entered the season with national title hopes—as they do each and every season.
Unfortunately, these two disinterested teams must battle to gain early momentum for next season's respective title races.
As for the game, both teams should be ready, due to the experienced coaches, who certainly know how to inspire their men for any game—especially one nationally televised on ESPN.
Dennis Erickson, a first year coach at Arizona State, came to Tempe with experience in the National Football League, and did a great job in his inaugural season by resurrecting a struggling program in the desert.
On the opposing sideline, Texas Head Coach Mack Brown has no interest in diminishing his already-impressive bowl record, which can only make this game fun to watch for even the casual football fan.
Both teams are very talented, as each of them defeated four teams on their regular-season schedule who reached postseason bowls. The Sun Devils enter the game on a high note after winning their rivalry game at home against the University of Arizona, while the Longhorn Nation is up in arms after a second-straight upset loss to Texas A&M.
Injuries have decimated the Texas team, but the Longhorns still have a few stars that will play in this game. Their strong rushing attack is anchored by junior running back Jamaal Charles. Charles, a former 100-meter NCAA track champion, has pure speed that allows him to take the ball long distances anytime he has the ball.
Alongside Charles—in the shotgun offense that Offensive Coordinator Greg Davis loves to run—is sophomore quarterback Colt McCoy. McCoy set Texas and national records his freshman year, but has struggled this season with injuries and poor decisions. He will be hoping to make some strides toward a solid season next year.
Meanwhile, ASU quarterback Rudy Carpenter is coming off a good season in the desert. Carpenter's performance may have improved because he finally felt the confidence of being named "the man" after his competition for the starting job, Sam Keller, transferred to the University of Nebraska.
Carpenter expects to have a good game against a Texas secondary that lost several players to the NFL last year, but that new secondary have incentives to play hard after being disrespected in the media.
In my humble opinion, I think this will be a good game to watch. The Arizona State defense comes into the game as one of the top in the nation, while the Longhorn offense is as high-powered as any. Meanwhile, the Sun Devil passing attack will be unleashed against the porous secondary of Texas, which used to be described as "Defensive Back University."
Look for the Texas ground game to have a little more success, and the Longhorns to take the game, 35-30.