Sunday, January 5: GoDaddy.com Bowl in Mobile, AL at 9:00 pm EST
Ball State Cardinals (10-2) vs. Arkansas State Red Wolves (7-5)
By the end of the GoDaddy.com Bowl, one of these teams will have its first win over a bowl-eligible team that wasn't snubbed come selection time.
Vegas line/spread: Ball State by 8 1/2 (over/under 63.5)
The Cardinals are a sizable favorite, and scoring is expected to be fairly high.
|Game-comparisons||win %||vs. Spread
Ball State wins nearly 3/4 of the game comparisons, but just over 1/2 with the spread take into account. The Cardinals are only #65 in the Strength power rating, but Arkansas State is #105.
Strength power rating: Ball State 38, Arkansas St 28 by Median rating: Ball State 37-28
Ball State scoring offense: #31 vs. Arkansas St scoring defense: #97
Ball State scoring defense: #111 vs. Arkansas St scoring offense: #113
The Strength power rating projects Ball State as about a 10-point winner. Ball State's offense is almost top 25 in quality and the Red Wolves defense isn't a good match. When Arkansas State has the ball things are pretty even—both teams rank 111 or above. Those rankings are from the All-Division power rating, so all teams are included. Among just FBS schools Arkansas State's offense is #94 and Ball State's defense is #87.
Yardage analysis: Ball State 42, Arkansas St 31 per-play: Ball State 40, Arkansas St 30
Yardage differential: Ball State #82 vs. Arkansas St #106
Ball State total offense: #35 vs. Arkansas St total defense: #103
Ball State total defense: #113 vs. Arkansas St total offense: #96
It's roughly the same story when comparing yardage components. This projection calls for Ball State to top 500 yards of total offense while outgaining the Red Wolves by about 80 yards.
Adjustments to yardage estimate: Ball State 43, Arkansas St 33
- Interceptions: Interception totals would suggest an edge for Ball State, but using total pass defenses (picks + breakups) gives better predictive value. Here, Arkansas State gets a big boost, as they should have an extra interception on average. We add nearly 4 points.
- Forced fumbles: This one goes the other way, to Ball State, by around 1 1/2 points.
- Sacks: Ball State should have a big edge here, as Arkansas State ranks #114 in sacks by the defense and #104 on QB protections. It should be around 3-0 for Ball State, and we give them 6 points.
- Red zone%: Arkansas State's very good red zone offense gives them a boost here, of around 3 points.
- 3rd-down%: The Red Wolves should have better-than-average success on third down while the Cardinals have a lower rate. We add over a point to Arkansas State and dock Ball State almost as much.
- Special Teams: Ball State has the #21 special teams but Arkansas State is #10, excelling on field goals and punt returns. That gives about 1/2 point to the Wolves.
Summary: There was a lot of back and forth but in the end, the teams finished where they were in the Strength power rating, with Ball State by 10 points.
When Ball State has the ball
|Ball State rushing offense: #97
||Arkansas St rushing defense: #97
Jahwan Edwards leads the team with 964 yards, while #2 rusher Horactio Banks (595 yards) is out for the year with an ACL tear. The Arkansas State rushing defense is just as bad as Ball State's rushing offense; look for not much over 150 yards.
|Ball State passing offense: #12||Arkansas St passing defense: #98 per att: #80|
|Ball State interceptions thrown ranking: #27||Arkansas St interceptions picked ranking: #92|
|Ball State quarterback protection rank: #11||Arkansas St pass rush rank: #114|
Ball State is a passing team, and Keith Wenning is their star. He is close to 4,000 yards for the year with 34 TDs and just 6 interceptions. Willie Snead has over 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns, Jordan Williams tops 1,000 with 10 TDs, and Jamill Smith adds 855 and 8. Arkansas State's piss-poor pass defense will probably give up around 350 yards.
Based on the interception rankins and just 6 picks Wenning has nothing to worry about against the Red Wolves, but they have so many pass breakups that it implies they're due to get more interceptions. We'll see. But the Cardinals definitely have little concern with the Wolves' pass rush, which has an average 24 sacks but againt very sack-prone teams. Wenning has been sacked just 11 times.
When Arkansas State has the ball
|Arkansas St rushing offense: #59
||Ball State rushing defense: #98
Michael Gordon is #3 in attempts but leads the team with 717 yards; QB Adam Kennedy is #2 with 514 and David Oku has 511 this year so far. The Red Wolves should have over 200 yards against the Cardinals on the ground.
|Arkansas St passing offense: #101||Ball State passing defense: #112 per att: #92|
|Arkansas St interceptions thrown ranking: #28||Ball State interceptions picked ranking: #65|
|Arkansas St quarterback protection rank: #104||Ball State pass rush rank: #33|
Adam Kennedy has completed 70% of his attempts for 2,337 yards and 11 touchdowns vs. 6 interceptions. Julian Jones and JD McKissic combine for almost 1,200 yards and 8 TDs receiving. Production isn't huge, but against Ball State's pass defense they could have around 225 yards.
Sacks are the biggest potential problem for the Red Wolves as Kennedy has been saked 27 times and Ball State gets pretty good pressure. Jonathan Newsome leads the Cardinal D with 8 sacks.
Ball State's season (10-2)
Wins vs. bowl-eligible teams (2)
Wins vs. BCS Top 25 teams (0)
Losses (2) to losing teams (0)
- Illinois St W 51-28
- Army W 40-14
- @ North Texas L 27-34
- @ Eastern Michigan W 51-20
- Toledo W 31-24
- @ Virginia W 48-27
- Kent St W 27-24
- @ Western Michigan W 38-17
- @ Akron W 42-24
- Central Michigan W 44-24
- @ #23 Northern Illinois L 27-48
- Miami OH W 55-14
Ball State's secret to having a 10-win season? Have an easy schedule. Also, you have to be consistent so that you aren't upset along the way.
The Cardinals outclassed Illinois State and Army to the tune of 90-42 but lost at North Texas 34-27. After that they went on a 7-game winning streak where they beat Virginia on the road, 48-27, bowl-snubs Toledo (31-24) and Central Michigan (44-24), and four other MAC teams that didn't qualify. The streak ended at Northern Illinois 48-27, but the Cardinals spanked hapless (and winless) Miami of Ohio 55-14 to finish with 10 wins.
Arkansas State's season (7-5)
Wins vs. bowl-eligible teams (4)
Wins vs. BCS Top 25 teams (0)
Losses (5) to losing teams (1)
- Ark.-Pine Bluff W 62-11
- @ #2 Auburn L 9-38
- Troy W 41-34
- @ Memphis L 7-31
- @ #8 Missouri L 19-41
- Idaho W 48-24
- Louisiana-Lafayette L 7-23
- @ South Alabama W 17-16
- @ Louisiana-Monroe W 42-14
- Texas St W 38-21
- Georgia St W 35-33
- @ Western Kentucky L 31-34
Arkansas State beat four bowl-eligible teams in 2013—one more than Ball State did—but none of the four was selected for a bowl game. The Red Wolves beat Troy 41-34, South Alabama 17-16, ULM 42-14, and Texas State 38-21. All four teams finished 6-6 but none are going bowling this season.
Of the 5 teams they lost to, four are eligible and three are going bowling. Of course #2 Auburn and #8 Missouri both are in major bowls; ULL is in the New Orleans bowl; Western Kentucky was 8-4 but unselected; and Memphis finished 3-9.
Arkansas State's season started poorly at 3-4, but four straight wins—three of the bowl-eligible teams and winless Georgia State—put the Wolves in the postseason again.
Arkansas State QB Adam Kennedy is questionable for the game but we assume that means he'll play. Ball State's #2 rusher (Grant) is out for the season and hasn't played for several games.
Psychology/Motivation - Some (unscientific) factors that may come into play during the game:
- Ball State's season: +1 win; Arkansas St's season: -2 wins
- Ball State's momentum: +0 wins; Arkansas St's momentum: +1 win
- Ball State won final game: YES; Arkansas St won final game: NO
- Ball State glad to be there? yes; Arkansas St glad to be there: yes
- Ball State time zones from home: 1; Arkansas St time zones from home: 0;
- Ball State coaching situation: stable; Arkansas St coaching situation: coach left
Though Arkansas State went 9-3 last year and 7-5 this year, they ended up in the same bowl for the 3rd straight year—and after seeing five of their fellow Sun Belt teams qualify but get snubbed, they're probably thankful for what they got. Ball State added a win and got an upgrade to a faux-January bowl.
The Cardinals rebounded well from their loss to Northern Illinois and beat Miami of Ohio convincingly; Arkansas State struggled against Georgia State and fell to Western Kentucky in their last two games. Further, coach Brian Harsin bolted for the Boise State job, making him their third one-and-done head coach. After Huge Freeze left two years ago the Red Wolves lost 38-20 to Northern Illinois, and after Gus Malzahn left they beat Kent State 17-13. The school just hired Blake Anderson (OC North Carolina) as the new head coach and the interim coach for the bowl will be defensive coordinator John Thompson.
Neither of these teams is very good, and they owe most of their success to their easy schedules. Between the two, these teams defeated just six bowl-qualifiers—and none of those is actually playing in a bowl game this postseason.
But a good comparison is how they played against the very worst teams in the nation, late in the season. Ball State hosted 0-12 Miami of Ohio and won, 55-14. Arkansas State took on 0-12 Georgia State and won 35-33.
Arkansas State has a few more problems: their quarterback is questionable for the game and their coach left. But we're assuming Kennedy will play, and this is the third GoDaddy.com Bowl in a row for the Red Wolves without their coach. They're used to it.
The bottom line that keeps coming up is that both teams have bad defenses, and only one team can claim to have a pretty good offense. Ball State is also pretty consistent in beating inferior teams, a group that includes the Red Wolves.
Prediction: Ball State 42, Arkansas St 28
More previews, odds, and predictions: View the complete 2013-2014 bowl game schedule.