In the first of what will be a record-tying seven bowl bids for the Mid-American Conference, the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl will kick off action for both the MAC and the Sun Belt during the annual bowl traditions.
The Ohio Bobcats (8-4, 5-3 MAC) won their last three games and avoided their traditional November collapse, as the ‘Cats got a huge win against the Northern Illinois Huskies to end the season that nearly kept the Huskies from going to Detroit against Bowling Green.
This was all accomplished despite significant injuries that threatened the season for Ohio, especially on defense, where its starting running back was converted to linebacker due to personnel shortages at the position. This is the seventh straight year that Ohio is bowl-eligible, and the sixth bowl appearance in that span. Coach Frank Solich has managed to pull the pieces together for another successful run, and looks to collect some hardware this time around.
Appalachian State (10-2, 7-1 Sun Belt) has been a force to be reckoned with since joining the FBS level, and even before then–that is if you remember a certain season opener in 2007 against Michigan. That’s one the Mountaineers will remember forever; it’s also one that the Wolverines would like to forget.
The Mountaineers feature a spread offense predicated on the run (!) that has absolutely overwhelmed conference competition, averaging 385 rushing yards a game. The Mountaineers also ball on defense, fielding a scoring defense that ranks 13th in the nation. A lot of analysts cite the number and state that the number can’t be trusted, as when App State faced superior competition in Clemson and Arkansas State, the Mountaineers were blitzed for 40+ points. However, Ohio should prove to be an evenly-split matchup.
Where: Montgomery, AL at the Crampton Bowl (22,000)
When: December 19th, at 5:30 PM EST
Last year’s matchup: Bowling Green 33, South Alabama 28.
Conference all-time record for matchups: MAC 1-0, Sun Belt 0-1
Team all-time bowl records: Ohio (2-8), App State (debut)
Betting lines: unavailable as of publication.
Players to watch:
AJ Ouelette (RB)–Ouelette had a breakout year in 2014, as the walk-on true freshman took a majority of the carries as Ohio’s dependable power back. In 2015, early struggles blossomed into late clutch performances, as Ouelette has rushed for 100+ yards and a touchdown in the last two games. With the status of both Derrius Vick and JD Sprage in doubt at the quarterback spot, that could mean additional carries for both Ouelette and running mate Daz’Mond Patterson. On the season, Ouelette has 642 yards and five touchdowns on the season on the ground, with 11 receptions for 72 yards through the air.
Quentin Poling (LB)–Poling has been easily the most consistent player on offense or defense for the Bobcats, and has led a fantastic season at linebacker. Poling is second on the team in total tackles (58), tied for first in interceptions and return touchdowns (1), second in interception return yards (66), first in forced fumbles (2), and tied for first in sacks (4). The biggest surprise about those numbers? Poling missed two games, and still has the statistical lead or is nearby in all categories.
Marcus Cox (RB)–Cox has been a force at running back for a Mountaineers offense that ranks amongst the top 15 teams in scoring offense (37.9 points per game), averaging 100+ yards per game. The App State running stable is unbelievable, with all four primary rushers averaging five yards per carry and 3,326 rushing yards on the season. Cox has been the workhorse of the group, picking up 1,245 yards and eight touchdowns this season after a 1,415 yard season in 2014.
Latrell Gibbs (DB)–Latrell Gibbs is an underrated player who deserves to be talked about as one of the best defensive backs in the nation.
and a quick look at the stat sheet is a good indication of that talent. Gibbs has six interceptions on the season, and two return touchdowns, including a 91-yarder. Gibbs has 38 total tackles (two tackles-for-loss), and nine pass breakups to go along with 15 passes defended. Gibbs has even contributed on special teams, blocking a kick earlier in the season. Gibbs will look to take advantage of a limited receiving corps and uncertainty at the quarterback position for the Bobcats.
This will be a pretty wild battle between an amazing offense for App State and the stout offense of Ohio, and the old cliches will definitely apply to this matchup. However, at the end of the day, App State’s havoc-raising defense will be just too much for a Bobcat offense that has too many question marks. App State, 35, Ohio 24.