The Saturday night bowl game on opening weekend, from my understanding, was always the New Orleans Bowl. That one is early in the afternoon, while the Camellia Bowl has taken its spot. This is one of those games that may remind you of a weekday matchup during the regular season. It better be an entertaining game to pull people in to watch, because Middle Tennessee and Arkansas State isn’t going to get too many people excited to tune-in. I kind of like these games, because the players may be a little more motivated to win than some of the bigger schools in marginal bowl games. Middle Tennessee were fortunate enough to receive a bowl invite with their record of 6-6. There were a few teams who went 6-6 and didn’t get an invite.
The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders will take on the Arkansas State Red Wolves who finished with a record of 7-4. The Red Wolves finished off the year with a 35-32 loss to Troy on a last-second touchdown pass. Middle Tennessee had a similar season, with ups and downs all over the map. Their best win came early in the year against Syracuse, an upset victory of 30-23 in Week 2. Other than that, they beat the teams they were supposed to, and lost to teams they were supposed to lose to for the most part. Their other wins came against Bowling Green, FIU, UTEP, Charlotte, and Old Dominion.
Arkansas State enters with a slew of marginal wins as well, but played Nebraska tough with a 43-36 loss. The Red Wolves are armed with one of the best quarterbacks that you’ve never heard of. He’s one of the better quarterbacks from the smaller conferences, and certainly top in the conference. Justice Hansen is an Oklahoma transfer, so he did have a bit of experience at a top-tier program.
Hansen has thrown for 34 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, along with a completion percentage of 67.6%. He won the Sun Belt Player of the Year award and rightfully so. Hansen isn’t a traditional dual-threat quarterback, but he has some wheels. He’s rushed for 388 yards and 6 touchdowns. Deceptive speed is one way of describing it. We’ll see if Middle Tennessee quarterback Brent Stockstill can match Hansen. Head below for our free Camellia Bowl pick between Middle Tennessee and Arkansas State.
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders vs. Arkansas State Red Wolves Betting Odds:
Middle Tennessee +3.5(-110)
vs. Arkansas State -3.5(-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Middle Tennessee vs. Arkansas State Pick:
Arkansas State is capable of putting a ton of points up in a hurry behind Justice Hansen. The Red Wolves are averaging 498 yards per game, which is 11th in the nation. No one gets to watch them at all, so they haven’t been able to watch Hansen sling it around. I can tell you he is really good, hence why he was named the best offensive player in the conference.
They are passing for 340.7 yards per game, 6th in the FBS. That puts them ahead of pass happy teams such as West Virginia and Texas Tech. Middle Tennessee are 46th against the pass, allowing an average of 212 yards per game. Pretty nice, but let’s see how they handle Hansen and Arkansas State. Two of the better passing offenses they played this season, the Blue Raiders gave up 41 points to Western Kentucky and 38 against FAU.
Middle Tennessee will have a healthy Brent Stockstill at the controls at quarterback. This is super important for them. They went 2-4 without him, and 4-2 when he was playing. In his last three starts, he threw for 7 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He may just have 14 touchdowns and 5 interceptions on the season, but note Stockstill was not playing the entire season. Those numbers would have been more impressive if he was a healthy starter.
Arkansas State can be exploited through the air. They are allowing 242.3 passing yards per game for 91st in the FBS. The Red Wolves are better at defending the run, 35th in the nation. I think this game is going to be a case of Stockstill having to keep up with Hansen, though. They’re going to need to air it out often. Running back Terelle West is healthy for this one, after getting injured early in the year. He was pegged to be the starter but that was derailed. He comes in with an average of 5.2 yards per carry. This season would have been much different if both he and Stockstill were healthy. I expect Hansen and Stockstill to steal the show, as they get into a high-scoring duel in the Camellia Bowl.
PICK: OVER 62.5 (-110)