This game may not be the “granddaddy of them all,” but the GoDaddy.com Bowl will be monumental for both the Ball State Cardinals and the Arkansas State Red Wolves.
Based on familiarity, Arkansas State takes the cake as they have been to this bowl game three consecutive years. As for Ball State, the Cardinals want to show the MAC conference is a force to be reckoned with in postseason games after an 0-4 start. With Arkansas State’s biggest weakness being passing defense and Ball State’s biggest strength being passing offense, the Cardinals have the upper hand.
Motivation: Ask anybody involved with the team and the answer would be this: A bowl win. The team has made six bowl appearances, but they've never won. This is the team's second bowl game under coach Pete Lembo. Last year, they played in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl, where they lost against Central Florida, 38-17. Lembo does believe his team is “seasoned” and ready, since he majority of this team played in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s.
If You’ve Never Seen Them: This team relies on its passing game. Ranking ninth in passing offense, quarterback Keith Wenning leads the MAC in passing yards per game, throwing 34 touchdowns and only six intereceptions all year. He, along with Willie Snead on the receivng end, are said to be one of the best offensive duos in the country. Even running back Jahwan Edwards leads the MAC in rushing touchdowns (13).
Weakness: Although the same can be said for ASU, Ball State has a mediocre defense. They give up 420.8 yards of offense per game. They tied for most forced turnovers in the MAC, however, led by Jeffery Garrett's five interceptions. The team has shown a lot of improvements, and with good practice in their month off, their weakness may not be as visible.
Motivation: Arkansas State shared the Sun Belt conference championship with Louisiana-Lafayette. To be straightforward, they need this win to keep any name for themselves going into next year, because at this point, many are doubting. They just do not have any coaching stability. The team just hired its fifth head coach since 2010, but interim head coach will be John Thompson led the team to a bowl win last year. He said this is a great opportunity to take a look at the younger guys while remaining sharp with the older guys. The team should be lucky to have any leader at this point, and Thompson seems to be a great asset for the time being.
If You’ve Never Seen Them: On offense, you will quickly notice their run game. Statistically, they are fifth in their conference in total defense, yet first in rushing yardage. Running back Michael Gordon averages 6.8 yards per attempt. The team also has David Oku, a strong runner who pushes for those first downs; making these two a great duo. Quarterback Adam Kennedy has an accurate arm and makes excellent decisions. Returner J.D. McKissic holds the third spot in the nation in kickoff returns, and Brian Davis makes most of his field goal attempts, including five from 40 yards or more.
Weakness: Their clear weakness is what make the many followers unbelievers. Their defense just isn't impressive. They are inexperienced and have been inconsistent all year. They replaced eight defensive starters from last year, and it is apparent they have failed often at executing and communicating correctly. The Arkansas State pass defense is the biggest weakness of all, allowing 19 touchdowns this year. Qushaun Le and Ryan Carrethers lead the defense, but may still struggle at stopping their opponent’s offense.
Some question the availability of quarterback Adam Kennedy (knee), which would leave Fredi Knighten to finish the job. This would be a devastating predicament, but reports from the team make it seem improbable. If Knighten must play, Arkansas State will most likely be foreced to run the ball often.