Sun Bowl Preview and Prediction: Miami vs. Washington State

The first-ever game between the Hurricanes and Cougars features two of the nation's top passing offenses

The Washington State Cougars will play in their second bowl game in three seasons as they will take on the Miami Hurricanes in the 2015 Hyundai Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas. In 2013, the Cougars lost a close game to the Colorado State Rams 48-45 in the New Mexico Bowl.

 

Miami will be making its third straight bowl appearance as last season the Hurricanes lost 24-21 to the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Independence Bowl.

 

The Sun Bowl will mark the first time Washington State and Miami have played each other on the gridiron and each enter this game with identical 8-4 records. The Cougars last played in the Sun Bowl in 2001 when they defeated the Purdue Boilermakers 33-27. Miami last played in the Sun Bowl in 2010 when they lost to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 33-17.

 

Miami vs. Washington State (El Paso, Texas)

 

Kickoff: 2 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV: CBS

Spread: Washington State -3

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Return of Luke Falk

After not playing in the team’s 45-10 loss to the Washington Huskies, Falk will be back under center for the Cougars. The sophomore missed the Apple Cup after he was taken off the field with a head injury during Washington State’s 27-3 home win over Colorado on Nov. 21. That came a week after he suffered a similar head injury against UCLA.

 

Falk easily leads FBS in passing yards per game with 387.8. He also is tied for fourth in touchdown passes with 36 while throwing only eight interceptions.

 

Entering this game, the Hurricanes have been solid against the pass (196.3 ypg allowed), but they haven’t played a passing attack like the Cougars’. Gabe Marks and Dom Williams are two of the best wide receivers Miami will face all season, so it will not be easy slowing down Washington State’s offense.

 

2. Hurricanes’ Offense

For as good as the Cougars’ offense is, the Hurricanes’ is just as talented. Miami also has a gifted quarterback in Brad Kaaya and a lot of weapons.

Joseph Yearby has rushed for 939 yards and six touchdowns. He also has 23 receptions for 273 yards and two scores.

Miami also has its own group of talented pass catchers in Stacy Coley, Herb Waters, Rashawn Scott and tight end David Njoku. The Hurricanes may have to put up a lot of points to keep up with the Cougars, but they are certainly capable of doing just that.

 

3. Washington State Defense

The Cougars rank 93rd in FBS in yards allowed per game, but they have the ability to make it tough on Miami. The Cougars can get a lot of pressure with its front seven and they also are capable of attacking from all angles.

 

Miami’s offensive line has been inconsistent this season as the Hurricanes lost several 2014 starters to the NFL Draft. If the Cougars’ defense can harass Kaaya, Washington State should have some opportunities for turnovers during the game.

 

Final Analysis

 

Miami’s defense has struggled against big-play offenses this season. The Hurricanes gave up 58 points to Clemson and 59 points to North Carolina in ACC play. With all the talent of the Cougars’ offense, the Hurricanes’ defense could be in some trouble once again.

 

The difference between the Clemson and North Carolina games and this one is Kaaya and the Hurricanes can go toe-to-toe with Washington State from an offensive standpoint. While it should be an entertaining contest, the Cougars should be able to make enough stops to secure the victory.

 

Prediction: Washington State 41, Miami 34

 

— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.

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