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Arizona State, Wisconsin could drive Las Vegas Bowl sellout

Updated December 5, 2021 - 2:24 pm

Even before Sunday’s announcement of its matchup, the Las Vegas Bowl was expecting a big crowd for its Dec. 30 game.

Now bowl executive director John Saccenti hopes to sell out the game’s inaugural appearance at Allegiant Stadium.

In announcing Arizona State from the Pac-12 and Wisconsin from the Big Ten, the bowl is getting two fan bases expected to travel well. Saccenti said about 19,000 tickets remain to be sold.

“We could not have gotten off to a better start than we did with this matchup,” Saccenti said.

Arizona State (8-4) is led by three-year starting quarterback Jayden Daniels, who this season has passed for 2,222 yards and 10 touchdowns, with nine interceptions. He also has rushed for 670 yards and six TDs.

“The Las Vegas Bowl invitation provides a tremendous opportunity for our team and coaching staff to compete against a quality Big Ten program and close out the 2021 season,” Arizona State coach Herm Edwards said in a statement. “We are very excited to be able to play in Allegiant Stadium. A bowl game is a reward for a good season. I am grateful for our players and coaching staff to be able to enjoy this experience.”

The choice on the Pac-12 side came down to the Sun Devils and UCLA. Saccenti said the deciding factor was UCLA’s basketball schedule, considering the Bruins already played Gonzaga and UNLV in Las Vegas and will be back to play North Carolina on Dec. 18. On the same night of the bowl, UCLA hosts Arizona in a game with potentially national implications.

Expecting fans at a basketball-first school to plan another trip to Southern Nevada might have been too much, Saccenti acknowledged.

“We clearly looked at both of those teams as equal teams,” Saccenti said. “Similar record. Two feeder markets that are easy to drive here. Arizona State beat UCLA (42-23). That was one thing that was certainly attractive to us.”

Wisconsin (8-4) has a history of bringing large crowds to Las Vegas, appearing at Sam Boyd Stadium five times between 1986 and 2010 to play UNLV, with four of the games sellouts. The Badgers were responsible for the three largest crowds against UNLV in that stadium, including the record 42,075 fans who turned out for the 2002 meeting.

This year, Wisconsin went on a seven-game winning streak before ending the regular season with a 23-13 loss at Minnesota that cost the Badgers a share of the West Division title and a spot in the Big Ten Championship against Michigan.

“I’m extremely proud of our team for earning the right to play another game together. We are excited that opportunity will come in the Las Vegas Bowl,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said in a statement. “We look forward to the challenge of playing a very good Arizona State team.”

The bowl had targeted Wisconsin and Penn State leading up to the announcement. When the Outback Bowl took the Nittany Lions, that made the process clear for Las Vegas, “which was great because Wisconsin was certainly a team we were eyeing,” Saccenti said.

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.

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Las Vegas handicapper Bruce Marshall is editor of The Gold Sheet (Goldsheet.com). He provides the Review-Journal with college football tech notes and trends.