GoDaddy.com Bowl Preview
January 4, 2013
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ARKANSAS STATE RED WOLVES (9-3) vs. KENT STATE GOLDEN FLASHES (11-2)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Arkansas St -3.5 & 61
Opening Line & Total: Red Wolves -5 & 61
A pair of offense-heavy schools look for their first-ever bowl wins on Sunday night in Mobile, AL when Arkansas State meets up with Kent State.
Arkansas State is 0-3-1 SU in its bowl history, while Kent State is 0-2 SU all-time. But the Red Wolves are making their second straight GoDaddy.com Bowl appearance while the Golden Flashes haven't been bowling since the 1972 Tangerine Bowl. ASU has won seven straight games (6-1 ATS), scoring 34+ points in every win. QB Ryan Aplin has thrown for 16 TD and just 2 INT in this stretch.
KSU has scored 28+ points in 10 straight games, averaging 37.2 PPG during this span (9-1 SU and ATS). The Flashes possess a pair of 1,200-yard rushers in Dri Archer (1,352 yds, 15 TD) and Trayion Durham (1,248 yds, 14 TD), leading to an FBS-best-tying +21 turnover margin.
The Red Wolves will be led by defensive coordinator John Thompson, who was named the interim head coach when Gus Malzahn took the job at Auburn. KSU's head man Darrell Hazell is leaving for Purdue, but he will be coaching his team in this contest.
The Golden Flashes ended their season with a heart-breaking overtime loss to Northern Illinois in the MAC title game, but this is a tough (11-2 ATS) and disciplined (+21 TO margin, tied for tops in FBS) team that is determined to win its first bowl, keeping Hazell around for just that purpose. Kent State is an excellent rushing team with a dynamic duo of Dri Archer and Trayion Durham, who have combined for 2,600 rushing yards and 29 TD. And Arkansas State is 4-20 ATS (17%) versus teams averaging at least 4.75 yards per carry since 1992.
Aplin has gained more than 300 yards in each of the past four games, totaling 1,464 yards (366 YPG). He also threw for 353 yards in last year's GoDaddy.com Bowl, but his three interceptions proved costly in the 38-20 loss to Northern Illinois. But this season, Aplin has the services of talented freshman WR J.D. McKissic who leads the team with 92 catches and 909 yards. In the past four games, McKissic has piled up 396 yards on 42 receptions.
The Red Wolves actually run the ball more efficiently (217 YPG, 21st in nation) than they throw it (264 YPG, 40th in FBS). Junior RB David Oku (1,056 rush yds, 15 TD) has been an absolute workhorse this year with 225 carries (18.8 per game), including 122 carries (20.3 per game) over the past six contests. Oku has only three 100-yard efforts with all this work, but two have come in the past three games, where he's rumbled for 326 yards and 6 TD. ASU's offense has turned the ball over just twice in the past five games combined.
On defense, the school ranks 51st in the nation in both scoring defense (25.4 PPG) and total defense (387 YPG). Although the Red Wolves have held each of their past five opponents to less than 90 rushing yards, they are allowing 322 passing YPG in this stretch. This is especially troubling since they are giving up all this yardage despite having forced 12 turnovers in these five contests.
Kent State ranks 16th in FBS in rushing offense (228 YPG), and had gained more than 200 yards on the ground in five straight games before being held to 70 yards on 42 carries in the MAC Championship game loss to Northern Illinois. Archer has five games of 125+ rushing yards this season, but has been held to just 68 yards (2.7 YPC) in his past two games combined. He has been a great receiver all year though, with 539 yards and 4 TD through the air, including 139 yards in the past two contests. Durham has six 100-yard games in his sophomore season thanks to double-digit carries in each contest.
Senior QB Spencer Keith threw just 3 INT in his first nine games combined, but has tossed six picks in the past four contests. For the season, he's thrown for 1,864 yards (6.2 YPA) with 12 TD and 9 INT, and he knows he must be a lot more accurate than he has been in his past two games, completing just 24-of-56 passes (42.9%).
Like ASU, the Flashes also struggle against good passing offenses, allowing 277 YPG (T-14th most in FBS). But they create a ton of turnovers (24 in past seven games) due to a fierce pass rush recording 2.54 sacks per game (26th in FBS).