New Orleans Bowl: Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders vs. Appalachian State Mountaineers (-7)
Sat., Dec. 15, 9:00 p.m. ET in New Orleans, LA
Three things to know before betting on the New Orleans Bowl:
1. Over the last three seasons, Middle Tennessee is 11-3 against the spread when coming off a straight-up loss. The Blue Raiders won their first bowl game since 2009 in last year’s Camellia Bowl, and they’ll now look to build on that against Appalachian State. It helps that, in some ways, the odds are stacked up against the Mountaineers here. Losing a head coach is common practice in college football, but Scott Satterfield has meant a lot to this Appalachian State program. Year in and year out, the Mountaineers have been a well-prepared team and they’re losing a coach that schemes as well as anyone. Not only that, but Satterfield also took the Louisville job very late in November. That didn’t give Appalachian State much time to prepare for his absence. He’ll be missed in this game.
2. Middle Tennessee has been a mediocre defensive team all season, which is never a good thing when facing any bowl-eligible team. It’s extra concerning when facing one like Appalachian State. The Mountaineers averaged 36.7 points per game this season, which was good for 20th in FBS. This team is capable of putting points on the board, which is why it was able to score at least 30 in three of its last four games. But one thing that does work in the Blue Raiders’ favor is the fact that the Mountaineers’ strength is in the running game. Appalachian State has a number of productive runners, but Zac Thomas isn’t exactly the world’s best passer. Considering the way Middle Tennessee plays offense, it’s a huge advantage that the team won’t necessarily have to worry about being shredded through the air.
3. Appalachian State allowed fewer passing yards per game than all but two teams in FBS this season. The Mountaineers also allowed only seven touchdowns through the air this season, which is tied for the second-best mark in the nation. Those types of numbers can be particularly daunting when preparing for a bowl game, but Middle Tennessee presents a challenge that Appalachian State hasn’t faced since taking on Trace McSorley and Penn State in the opening week of the season. Penn State put up 45 points in that game, showing that this Moutaineers defense is beatable when facing a team that has a good offensive line and a talented quarterback. Brent Stockstill is exactly that for this Blue Raiders team, as the senior has thrown for 3,214 yards with 28 touchdowns and only eight picks this year. Stockstill is an extremely accurate passer, and he has only had one multi-interception game this season. That came against a talented UAB defense in the Conference USA Championship Game, and it’s highly unlikely that he’ll cough it up more than once in back-to-back games. Playing in his final game at the school—and last one under his dad, head coach Rick Stockstill—the senior will do everything he can to keep his team in the contest.
Pick: Middle Tennessee +7
Confidence Level: High (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)