Arkansas State v. Louisiana Tech
Mercedes Benz Superdome — New Orleans, LA
December 19, 2015 — 9:00 pm Eastern (ESPN)
Why You Should Watch
For the first time since 2010, a team besides Louisiana-Lafayette will represent the Sun Belt in the New Orleans Bowl. It has been a decade since Arkansas State last played in this contest, and they will take on a Louisiana Tech team that has never played in the NFL stadium within its home state. These two teams should be plenty excited for the opportunity to spend the first weekend of bowl season in the Big Easy, and the football should be high-quality as well. Both teams bring potent offenses to the Superdome, and we could see the scoreboard short out as both teams put up points galore. The New Orleans Bowl should serve as the perfect nightcap for the first full day of the bowl season.
What Each Team Brings to the Table
Arkansas State Red Wolves
Arkansas State swept undefeated through the Sun Belt to finish as the undisputed league champion. The Red Wolves’ version of high-powered offense is predicated on their ground game, with thousand-yard rusher Michael Gordon backed up by four other players that notched triple-digit yardage on the season. Johnston White led the team with 14 touchdowns on the ground, and another of that quartet was senior quarterback Fredi Knighten, who added nearly 1700 yards and 19 passing touchdowns to his 358 rushing yards. The Red Wolves defense was one of the dozen best in the country in forcing turnovers, and they allowed teams to convert just one-third of their third- and fourth-down attempts. Blake Anderson’s team lost to USC, Missouri, and Toledo, but otherwise dominated the rest of its competition throughout the season.
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
Louisiana Tech looked like one of the biggest Access Bowl contenders from the Group of Five in the preseason, but despite gaudy offensive numbers and a strong run defense the Bulldogs managed just eight wins and failed to reach the Conference USA title game after losing to Southern Miss in the regular-season finale. They took Kansas State to triple overtime, nearly getting a Power Five upset on its resume, but they couldn’t take care of business against Western Kentucky early or the Golden Eagles late. Transfer quarterback Jeff Driskel has been far better in Ruston than he was for Florida, throwing for just under 300 yards per game and adding 24 touchdowns in the process. Tech is one of the 20 least-penalized teams in the country, which should bode well for their chances to hang in there against Arkansas State in the Superdome.
What is Likely to Happen
There should be fireworks galore in New Orleans on the opening Saturday of the postseason, as two strong offenses tear up the Superdome turf putting points up at will. Driskel and Knighten are going to drive their respective units up and down the field, with the defenses struggling to keep up in their wake. Despite losing their last game heading into the postseason, Tech is favored by two in this showdown. This could be the first bowl game of the season that will challenge the 100-combined-points mark, and we are likely going to see at least a half-dozen lead changes through this contest. These two teams haven’t played one another in nearly two decades, and they should be motivated to end the season on a high note. In the end the Red Wolves should get the upper hand, wearing down the clock before kicking a field goal to win at the final gun.
Arkansas State 48, Louisiana Tech 45
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