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December 10, 2018

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Las Vegas Bowl director sees competitive matchup between Arizona State, Fresno State

LV Bowl presser

Las Vegas Bowl

Showgirls pose with the Las Vegas Bowl trophy and helmets of the game’s 2018 participants, Arizona State and Fresno State, on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018, at the bowl’s headquarters in Henderson.

Showgirls smiled as photographers shot away, posing with the helmets of the college football teams about to meet in Las Vegas.

The Las Vegas Bowl today announced the 2018 game will feature Arizona State and No. 21 Fresno State — the first meeting between the schools since 1941. Kickoff is 12:30 p.m. Dec. 15 at Sam Boyd Stadium and televised on ABC.

“I’m very excited about the possibility of having another great crowd, and two passionate fan bases that love their teams,” Las Vegas Bowl executive director John Saccenti said. “I expect two really good teams that are coached really well, and we’re just hoping for a blockbuster game.”

Arizona State made its only other trip to the Las Vegas Bowl in 2011, and Fresno State is making its third trip and first since 2013.

If things went differently Saturday night, the bowl would have featured a repeat team and a repeat game. Saccenti said the winner of Saturday’s Mountain West title game would have received an invite, and Fresno State beat Boise State in overtime. Boise State defeated Oregon last year in the Las Vegas Bowl, and played Arizona State in the game in 2011.

Saccenti said while he would have been fine to have Boise State back, he’s still happy to see a new matchup.

“Very happy,” Saccenti said. “You never want a repeat team, you want to get some new teams in there.”

Fresno State (11-2 )lost at Minnesota and at Boise State in the regular season, and soundly defeated UCLA on the road. It is the program’s second straight year with double-digit wins.

“It’s a great opportunity for our program and our fans to experience a premier bowl game,” Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford said in a statement.

Arizona State went 7-5 and finished second in the Pac-12 Conference South Division. The Sun Devils started 2-0 after an upset home win against Michigan State, then erased a 19-point deficit in the fourth quarter against rival Arizona in the last game of the year.

“We look forward to representing Arizona State University and our fans in Las Vegas,” Arizona State coach Herm Edwards said in a statement. “A bowl game is a reward for a good season and I am happy for our players and coaching staff to be able to have this experience.”

Saccenti expects an electric atmosphere and hopes to hear by next weekend that the game will be sold out. He's optimistic for a high-scoring, close game.

“The last couple of years, some of the games have been a little bit one-sided,” Saccenti said. “We want a really competitive game and I think we’re going to get that.”