Middle Tennessee was one of the teams that dealt with massive injury problems this season. The good news is that the Blue Raiders are going to have Brett Stockstill under center for the Camellia Bowl. The bad news is that they have to play against an Arkansas State Red Wolves outfit that could easily embarrass them if they aren’t careful.
Arkansas State Bowl History
Arkansas State didn’t play in a bowl game from 1974 through 2005, and after losing the New Orleans Bowl, it didn’t get back to December football until 2011. The Red Wolves finally won their first bowl game in 2012 at the GoDaddy.com Bowl, a game they went on to win the next season as well.
Now, the Red Wolves are regulars in the bowl season, playing in a postseason game for the seventh straight year. The team only went 7-4 this year, but head coach Blake Anderson would love to bring home a second straight bowl trophy to Jonesboro.
Middle Tennessee Bowl History
Rick Stockstill is the only coach to ever bring MTSU to a bowl game. Andy McCollum failed to do so in his seven years on the job in Murfreesboro, but Stockstill immediately got the Blue Raiders to the postseason in 2006 at the Motor City Bowl.
Middle Tennessee scored its first-ever bowl win at the 2009 New Orleans Bowl, and it hasn’t won any of its four postseason appearances since that point. Though this team only finished 6-6 this year, it has an opportunity to claim a huge win for the program in its effort to try to join the ranks of the big boys in college football.
Why Arkansas State Will Win the Camellia Bowl
The Sun Belt was a top-heavy conference this year, and the Red Wolves were a big part of that. They should have won a share of the conference title, but they couldn’t keep Troy from coming back from down 11 with less than three minutes to play in the regular season finale.
There isn’t much shame in that loss, especially since Troy went on the road to Baton Rouge and beat LSU a few months ago.
The Red Wolves have proven they belong against the top-tier teams from the Group of Five. You don’t drop 51 points on Coastal Carolina and 67 on Louisiana-Monroe without being capable offensively.
Justice Hansen, one of the top quarterbacks in mid-major football, threw for 3,635 yards and 34 touchdowns, and he did all of that without having a single receiver amass even 700 yards. Trying to figure out where the ball is going on any given play is a huge chore for opposing defenses.
Why Middle Tennessee Will Win the Camellia Bowl
Having Stockstill back under center is a big deal. The coach’s son is set to wrap up a very successful career in Murfreesboro, throwing for 8,719 yards and 75 touchdowns against just 21 picks.
This offense just flat out operates better with Stockstill than it did with John Uruza. Though Stockstill only went 4-2 as a starter, his two losses came against Vanderbilt in Week 1 and in overtime against Western Kentucky on November 17. Both losses were forgivable for sure.
In the other four games he played, Stockstill threw three touchdowns in each, and he guided the team to at least 30 points in all four affairs.
Camellia Bowl Prediction
It almost feels a little insulting to us that Middle Tennessee is a betting underdog in this game. Arkansas State might have challenged Nebraska in Lincoln early in the season, but who didn’t give the Huskers a run for their money this season?
The way that Troy moved the ball up and down the field when it mattered most with the passing game scares the heck out of us. If the Camellia Bowl turns out to be a relatively close affair, can Arkansas State really come up with the stop that it needs at the end of the game?
We’ll contend that they can’t.
It’ll be a storybook ending for the Stockstill family at the Camellia Bowl, as the coach’s son will lead the comeback that ultimately wins the school’s second-ever bowl game.
Camellia Bowl Pick: Middle Tennessee 34, Arkansas State 30
Ready to join a contest for the first time at Contest General? Our Bowl Game Pick ‘Em Contest is the perfect way to start! Join today and prove that you’re the king of the bowls!