EL PASO (CBSMiami/SportsDirect) – The 2015 Hyundai Sun Bowl featuring the Miami Hurricanes and Washington State Cougars could end up being one of the better games of the weekend.
There are several key storylines surrounding the two teams heading into Saturday’s game in El Paso, Texas.
1- Miami (Fla.) goes after its first postseason victory since 2006 when it takes on Washington State in the Hyundai Sun Bowl on Dec. 26 at El Paso, Texas.
The Hurricanes won four of five games after coach Al Golden was fired and Larry Scott, who took over in an interim basis, will try to end the school’s five-game losing streak in bowl games since beating Nevada 21-20 in the 2006 MPC Computers Bowl at Boise, ID.
The Cougars built their best record (8-4) since 2003, when they went 10-3 with a Holiday Bowl victory, and have played only one postseason game since (2013 New Mexico Bowl).
2- Two efficient, productive 6-4 sophomore quarterbacks face off when Miami’s Brad Kaaya meets Luke Falk of the Cougars.
Kaaya, who missed 1 1/2 games with a concussion in midseason, has thrown for at least 3,000 yards in two straight years while connecting for 41 touchdowns with 16 interceptions (12 as a freshman).
Falk returned to practice after missing the regular-season finale against Washington with a concussion and has completed 70.7 percent of his passes with 36 TDs and 4,266 yards this season but isn’t expected to have top receiver Gabe Marks (ankle).
3- The teams are tied for 83rd in the nation in scoring defense (28.8), and a big play on that side of the ball could turn the tide in a game that features two high-powered offenses.
Washington State leads the nation in red-zone conversions for TDs at 94.3 percent but is near the bottom in sacks allowed (39).
The Hurricanes have 15 interceptions, led by six from Artie Burns, and 24 sacks while ranking seventh in the country in turnover margin (plus-13).
TV: 2 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Washington State –3
ABOUT MIAMI (8-4, 5-3 ACC): Kaaya was hampered by an inconsistent rushing attack that ranks 116th in the nation but still threw for 3,019 yards with 15 touchdowns and gives 2016 coach Mark Richt a dependable quarterback around whom to build.
Wide receivers Stacy Coley, Rashawn Scott and Herb Waters each have at least 38 receptions and 600 yards as Kaaya has completed 61.7 percent of his throws.
Joseph Yearby needs 61 rushing yards to reach 1,000 and the Hurricanes boast one of the top kickers in the nation in Michael Badgley, who has made 24-of-27 attempts inside 50 yards.
ABOUT WASHINGTON STATE (8-4, 6-3 Pac-12): Falk, who was named to the All-Pac 12 first team, leads an offense that has nine players with at least 200 receiving yards.
Marks, who was injured in the 45-10 loss to Washington on Nov. 27th, is fourth in the nation in receptions (99), tied for fourth in receiving TDs (14) and 19th in receiving yards (1,125), while Dom Williams has made 73 catches and is three yards shy of 1,000.
Defensive lineman Hercules Mata’afa (six sacks) was named a freshman All-American by USA Today and sophomore linebacker Peyton Pelluer leads the team with 98 tackles.
Listen to the Miami Hurricanes take on the Washington State Cougars in the 2015 Hyundai Sun Bowl on Saturday, December 26th at 2:00 p.m. on Sports Radio 560 WQAM, your official radio home for the Canes!
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