January 3, 2014
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GoDaddy Bowl (ESPN, 9:00 p.m. ET)
Matchup: Arkansas State (7-5 SU, 6-5-1 ATS) vs. Ball State (10-2 SU, 8-4 ATS)
Venue: Ladd-Peebles Stadium
Location: Mobile, AL
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Ball State -7.5, 64.5
Arkansas State attempts to defend its win from last year’s GoDaddy Bowl when it takes on Ball State, which is looking for its first bowl victory in school history.
The Red Wolves (6-6 ATS) won four of their final five games on the season (both SU and ATS) on their way to their third straight GoDaddy Bowl appearance. They finished second in the Sun Belt Conference this season and had a chance to be the conference champions, but could not defeat Western Kentucky in their final game, losing 34-31 on the road.
After falling to Northern Illinois in the bowl game two seasons ago, Arkansas State won its bowl game last year, 17-13, against Kent State while covering the 3-point spread as favorites. The Cardinals (8-4 ATS) finished second in the Mid-American Conference’s Western division behind Northern Illinois, which was their only loss during the regular season. They really dominated in conference play though, scoring 39.4 PPG and outscoring MAC opponents by an average of 15.0 PPG.
Ball State is 0-6 SU in its bowl history, losing the three most recent postseason games ATS (all since 2007), all as the underdog. But on Sunday, the Cardinals are the heavy favorites, and Pete Lembo is 19-8 ATS (70%) in games played on turf as the Ball State head coach.
However, Arkansas State is 7-0 ATS versus good passing teams (250+ passing YPG) over the past three seasons.
QB Adam Kennedy (knee) of Arkansas State is questionable for this game, and would be missed as the team’s second best rusher on the season.
The Red Wolves did most of their damage on offense using the ground game, and rank 24th in the nation with 206 rushing YPG. QB Adam Kennedy contributed greatly to that number with 514 rushing yards (3.5 YPC) and four touchdowns on the ground. He was solid, yet unspectacular, throwing the ball though with 2,349 passing yards (7.6 YPA), 11 touchdowns and six interceptions. He had only two games on the season where he threw multiple touchdowns including throwing four in a 48-24 win against Idaho in the team’s sixth game. Since then, he has averaged only 17.8 passing attempts per game. If he Kennedy is unable to play, sophomore QB Fredi Knighton (19-for-28, 100 yards, 3.6 YPA, 1 TD, 0 INT) would get the start.
With 717 rushing yards on 106 attempts (6.8 YPC) and 10 touchdowns, sophomore HB Michael Gordon was the team’s leading rusher. He was tremendous over the last four games of the season, compiling 558 total yards (140 YPG) with seven total touchdowns. Arkansas State spread the ball out to their receivers and had seven different players with more than 100 yards on the season.
Senior WR Julian Jones led the team with 630 receiving yards (12.4 avg.) and 4 TD, but has not had more than four receptions or 80 yards in any of his past six games.
The Arkansas State defense was average, allowing 26.7 PPG to their opponents (65th in FBS). The Red Wolves gave up a hefty 184 rushing YPG on 4.8 YPC, but were much better defending the pass, allowing opposing quarterbacks to throw for 234 YPG on 7.2 YPA on a mere 55.5% completions. Although they forced just 19 turnovers for the entire season, seven of those takeaways occurred in the past two games.
Ball State ranks ninth in the nation with 333.3 passing YPG, which is a big reason the team currently ranks 12th among all FBS teams in scoring (40.1 PPG). Senior QB Keith Wenning was extremely effective with 3,933 passing yards (8.7 YPA), 34 TD and only 6 INT. He is coming off his best game of the season against Miami (OH) where he completed 27-of-33 passes (82%) for 445 yards and six touchdowns with 0 INT. Wenning threw for 300+ yards and multiple touchdowns in 10-of-12 games this season and also added five rushing touchdowns.
The Cardinals had two receivers go over 1,000 yards on the year with junior WR Willie Snead catching 97 balls for 1,429 yards (14.7 avg.) with 14 touchdowns, and sophomore WR Jordan Williams tallying 68 catches for 1,016 yards (14.9 avg.) and 10 touchdowns. Snead finished the season with four straight games of 100+ yards and totaled six touchdowns.
Junior HB Jahwan Edwards was overshadowed by the passing game, but ran very well all season with 964 yards on 184 attempts (5.2 YPC) and 13 touchdowns over 10 games this year.
Senior DE Jonathan Newsome (57 tackles, 8 sacks) and the rest of the Cardinals defense allowed 24.8 PPG to their opponents (49th in FBS) and gave up 24 points or less in all their conference wins on the season. Ball State also allowed gobs of yardage, both on the ground (195 rushing YPG on 4.7 YPC) and through the air (226 passing YPG, 6.7 YPA, 61% completions), but was able to combat that by forcing multiple turnovers in 10-of-12 games this year, and totaling 30 takeaways for the season.
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