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Fresno State finishes a solid season with a solid bowl win over Arizona State

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The Bulldogs are 12-2, and that ain’t an accident.

Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl - Fresno State v Arizona State Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

If you watched Fresno State for the first time in this game, then you saw what the rest of us have observed all season. The Bulldogs are a solid team, and you don’t win 12 games (for the first time in school history) by accident at any level of football.

Fresno State had 6.8 yards per-play in this game, 7.4 yards per-rush and exerted their will on defense when the game was in the balance. The game was tied at halftime, but the second half was a different story. It featured five ASU three and outs, one field goal drive, and another that ended in an interception.

And that was an inability by ASU to capitalize on Fresno mistakes too. Two interceptions thrown by the Bulldogs were gifts which turned into lumps of coal by the Sun Devils.

No matter what Herm Edwards says after the game ...

.... his team didn’t put two halves of good football together on offense.

Fresno State is not a sexy team, but they’re an effective one. That’s why they’re 12-2. The job Jeff Tedford has done in just two years to reform this program on the field just gets even more impressive.

Pregame stuff

This game looks like it’ll be a fun one — the 11-win Bulldogs finished the season ranked No. 21 in the final College Football Playoff rankings after winning the Mountain West Conference Championship, and are the 10th best team in the country per S&P+. The Sun Devils finished second in the Pac-12 South in Herm Edwards’ first season. Vegas thinks this one will be close, giving Fresno State a five-point edge. S&P+, meanwhile, gives the Bulldogs a 77 percent chance to win.

Who’s playing in the 2018 Las Vegas Bowl?

Arizona State (7-5, 5-4 in Pac-12)

The Sun Devils got made fun of a lot when they Edwards, who hadn’t coached at all since he was going 2-4 with the Chiefs a decade ago. But ASU insisted all along it had a plan, and, hey, maybe more people should’ve listened. The Sun Devils were one of the better teams in a down Pac-12 South, and they’d already clinched bowl eligibility by the time they knocked rival Arizona out of bowl contention in the Territorial Cup. QB Manny Wilkins and receiver N’Keal Harry are one of the most fun duos to watch in the country, though Harry has declared for the NFL Draft and it’s not clear he will play.

Fresno State (11-2, 7-1 in Mountain West)

The Bulldogs won the Mountain West by beating Boise State on the Broncos’ blue turf on Championship Saturday. Jeff Tedford’s launched a full-fledged revival of a program that’s had plenty of good years but had fallen on hard times before his arrival after 2016. The offense, led by QB Marcus McMaryion, is solid. And the defense is a top-15 unit, per S&P+, with a particular talent for smashing opposing running games. Fresno’s tremendous overall as it heads into its 16th bowl in 20 years.

Where is the Las Vegas Bowl?

Not Las Vegas, technically. It’s at Sam Boyd Stadium, the home field for UNLV, which is officially in Whitney, Nev. It’s about a 25-minute drive from the Vegas Strip.

Vegas has its own professional sports team now (and, in addition to the NHL’s Golden Knights, the Raiders on the way soon). But this event has been a cool spectacle in recent years as some of the best football to visit a major American city.