Arkansas State vs. Ball State
Jan. 5, 2014
Arkansas State (7-5) will be playing in the GoDaddy.com Bowl without its head coach for the third consecutive season. Hugh Freeze left for Ole Miss in 2011, Gus Malzahn famously left for Auburn in 2012, and now Bryan Harsin has departed for Boise State.
North Carolina defensive coordinator Blake Anderson was hired by Arkansas State on Dec. 19, but Red Wolves defensive coordinator John Thompson will lead the team this time around against a high-scoring Ball State (10-2) team that averaged 40.1 points per game.
Arkansas State started the year with a 2-3 record before winning five of its last seven games to win the Sun Belt Conference for the third straight year. The Red Wolves’ defense gives up 26.7 points per game and gave up 33 and 34 points in its final two games, respectively. They face a tough task against the Cardinals passing game that averages 333.3 yards per game – ninth best in the country.
Ball State’s Keith Wenning threw for 3,933 yards and 34 touchdowns, torching MAC defenses weekly. He has an array of productive targets, especially wideout Willie Snead. Snead, a junior, caught 97 passes for 1,429 yards and 14 touchdowns. Jordan Williams (68 catches, 1016 yards, 10 TDs) and Jamill Smith (63 catches, 855 yards, 8 TDs) are also big threats for the Cardinals.
The Cardinals reached the 10-win plateau for the third time in school history and are looking to win the first bowl game in the program’s history. The Cardinals were blown out by UCF in the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl, 38-17, last year.
To finally notch that first bowl win, Ball State will need to key in on the Red Wolves’ dual-threat quarterback Adam Kennedy. Kennedy threw for 2,349 yards and ran for 514 to combine for 15 total touchdowns. His top targets are J.D. McKissic and Julian Jones, who have 73 and 51 catches respectively. Sophomore running back came on strong for the Red Wolves down the stretch with efforts of 184 yards and 132 yards against Texas State and Western Kentucky.
Red wolves are a lot smaller than the average gray wolf, but they are still pretty awesome. I’d imagine a red wolf would have no trouble making an unsuspecting cardinal its lunch. Arkansas State wins this one.
Graham: Ball State 38, Arkansas State 24. Ball State quarterback Keith Wenning has already had an outstanding career and he ends it by giving the Cardinals their first-ever bowl win. Arkansas State is going to be uninspired after losing its third coach in three years. This game won't be much of a contest.
Nick: Danica Patrick 100, Ball State 28, Arkansas State 20: Danica Patrick wins! Wait, what? She only has one win? How is she bowl eligible? Ball State's the better team here -- they were in the same class as Northern Illinois and Miami, and the Cardinals get the MAC a bowl win.
Sam: Ball State 34, Arkansas State 21. Ball State could have trouble with the run/pass capabilities of Kennedy, but not as much trouble as the Arkansas State defense will have with BSU's offense. Wenning is a senior and has had a great career. He and Snead will lead the Cardinals to the program's first bowl win.
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