Too bad there aren't betting odds available for which bowl games will attract the smallest crowds in the stands, and the fewest viewers camped in front of television sets. If there was, the GoDaddy Bowl would be my pick to take both honors.
That's not to take anything away from the Arkansas State Red
Wolves and Ball State Cardinals who meet in the contest formerly known as the
Mobile Alabama Bowl and GMAC Bowl. Yet
another postseason contest teleivised by ESPN, kickoff is set for a few minutes
past 9 PM (ET) on January 5 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
Join SBR's NCAAF Bowl Contest and make the most of this year's Bowl season.
State is giving up 9 at
most sports books, some sporting spreads of -8.5. The total opened at 61, but that number is
now up to 63.5 on SBR's live college football odds.
Several factors come together to make this first meeting
between the schools a tough sell. First
and foremost, neither Arkansas State nor Ball
State is a 'national
brand.' The GoDaddy Bowl is also the
second such contest in Alabama that weekend,
the other being the BBVA Compass Bowl up in Birmingham, so you're splitting local
dollars. It's also taking place Sunday
evening when most folks are preparing to send their kids back to school and
themselves back to work after the holidays, not to mention most of the nation's
focus that weekend will be on the first round of the NFL playoffs.
About the only reason most heterosexual males that aren't
fans of either team, or don't have action on the outcome, will tune in is the
chance to catch a scantily-clad Danica Patrick in a GoDaddy commercial.
3rd-Straight Appearance In Mobile
The fourth official GoDaddy Bowl has a familiar face as Arkansas State makes its third consecutive
appearance. The Red Wolves clipped Kent State
last January, 17-13, as 3 point favorites in a game that never got past the
halfway mark of a 63.5 point total. Northern Illinois, a slight underdog, pasted a 38-20
score on the Wolves the previous January in another game that fell short of the
State (7-5 straight up,
6-6 against the spread) is making this trip with its third different head coach
in as many seasons. Bryan Harsin, who
was in his first season at Arkansas State, has resigned to take the Boise State
job vacated by Chris Petersen's decision to go to work for the Washington
Huskies. John Thompson, who served as
the defensive coordinator under Harsin, has been named the ASU interim head
coach for this game.
The Red Wolves shared Sun Belt honors with UL-Lafayette this
season, each with 5-2 conference marks. Arkansas State
had a chance to win the league crown for itself, but dropped a 34-31 decision
at Western Kentucky in the season finale.
Cardinals' Air Show
Meets Wolves' Ground Attack
State looks to generate
offense on the ground (207 ypg, 29th in country), the Cardinals will be moving
the chains primarily through the air. Ball State
(10-2 SU, 8-4 ATS) averaged over 333 yards per contest via the pass, ninth in
the nation and more than vaunted programs like Clemson,
Florida State and Oregon produced.
Head coach Pete Lembo's attack is directed by senior Keith Wenning who wraps up a fine career at Ball State
with this contest. Wenning was only 67
yards shy of the 4,000-yard passing mark with a 34/6 TD-to-interception ratio
to rank 12th in passing rating. It helps
when you have a receiver like Willie Snead who hauled in 97 of Wenning's 296
completions, good enough for 1,429 yards and 14 scores. Jordan Williams also eclipsed the 1,000 yard
receiving mark with 68 catches and 10 touchdowns.
Defense was not the strength of either the Red Wolves or
Cardinals during the 2013 campaign, and both teams are statistically vulnerable
to the other's offensive prowess. Still,
I don't see this total being reached and will offer the 'under' for my college football picks.
My pick: Arkansas
State-Ball State Under 63.5
Season: 31-15 (+14.5)