Ohio v. Appalachian State
Cramton Bowl — Montgomery, AL
December 19, 2015 — 5:30 pm Eastern (ESPN)
Why You Should Watch
If you have already worked your way through the earlier undercards live from Albuquerque and Las Vegas, you might as well keep your attention glued to the TV and veer those eyeballs eastward to Montgomery. The local press is selling the game as a springboard to greatness for teams that win… even though we have precisely one data point for that argument, given that the bowl game was inaugurated by Bowling Green and South Alabama last season. It was at least a close, hard-fought affair last season at the Cramton Bowl, and in this now-annual showdown between MAC and Sun Belt squads we might see the balance of power swing toward the other conference.
What Each Team Brings to the Table
Once again the Bobcats overachieved early and underachieved late, ending the school’s chances of reaching the MAC championship game for the first time since 2011. Ohio upset Marshall at home in interconference play, nearly knocked off Minnesota on the road, and was 5-1 when Western Michigan came to town on October 17. They didn’t do many things badly this year, but neither were they statistically overwhelming in any category. The one place where Ohio has experienced its greatest pitfalls in 2015 is in the red zone — the offense can’t seem to score with any regularity once it gets inside the opponent’s 20, while opposition offenses came away with points nearly nine out of ever 10 times they reached that spot on the field. Hopefully the three-game winning streak to end the season (including an upset at Northern Illinois) is a harbinger of good things to come from Frank Solich’s squad.
Appalachian State Mountaineers
Appalachian State, meanwhile, had the number-one red zone defense in the country, holding opponents scoreless on three out of every eight trips to their 20, and ranked in the top 25 offensively in the corresponding category. The Mountaineers are one of the best rushing attacks in the country, but they are also one of the five best teams nationally in passing efficiency. Their offense is predicated on opening up big plays downfield via the ground game, and it has already earned Appalachian State 10 wins this season. Only an early-November loss to Arkansas State prevented the Mountaineers from winning the Sun Belt conference, and they will be motivated in their first-ever trip to a bowl game after transitioning from the FCS ranks last year. All of the ingredients are in place for Scott Satterfield’s crew to have a strong outing in Alabama.
What is Likely to Happen
Appalachian State, as of posting time, is a 7.5-point favorite according to Las Vegas. That line is actually down from 8.5 points earlier in the week, though the Mountaineers have the offense and the defense to dominate Ohio on both sides of the ball. Add in the fact that a trip to Montgomery means far more for App State than it does for the Bobcats, who have gone bowling all but two years since 2007. Looking at how their respective seasons played out, the Mountaineers are simply better at both scoring and keeping other teams from scoring. Satterfield won’t need to get gimmicky in this game, as Appalachian State takes care of business for all four quarters. Derrius Vick is in four a rough day against the Mountaineer defense, and his counterpart Taylor Lamb could have a record-breaking day (at least in terms of this young bowl game’s record books).
Appalachian State 41, Ohio 24
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