Who: Middle Tennessee (8-5) vs. Appalachian State (10-2)
What: New Orleans Bowl
When: 9 p.m. ET, Saturday, December 15
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana
Spread: Appalachian State -7
How to watch: ESPN, WatchESPN
Former Appalachian State coach Scott Satterfield, who led the Mountaineers to four consecutive bowl games (and three straight bowl wins entering this bowl season) and three seasons with at least 10 wins during his five years coaching App State at the FBS level, was recently hired to be the head coach at Louisville. That means Appalachian State will be one of the schools that will play under a transitional coaching staff this December.
Mark Ivey, who was previously the assistant head coach and defensive line coach, was named the team’s interim head coach for the bowl game.
For the first time in program history, the Mountaineers were ranked in the AP Top 25 Poll this season. Their 2018 campaign nearly started with a road win over No. 10 Penn State, but they fell 45-38 in overtime. Their only other loss was at Georgia Southern, and they later won the Sun Belt Championship with a win over Louisiana.
The advanced metrics of Football Outsiders really like Appalachian State, which is ranked No. 13 in the site’s S&P+ rankings. Football Outsiders ranks the Mountaineers’ defense No. 10 in the country.
Middle Tennessee is ranked No. 61 in the S&P+ rankings, making this a potentially lopsided affair in New Orleans.
The Blue Raiders just missed out on claiming the Conference USA Championship, which they lost to UAB 27-25 after beating the Blazers the week prior. It was one of two losses MTSU had to C-USA opponents this season by three points or less, after they lost at Florida International 24-21. The Blue Raiders’ three other losses were on the road against SEC opponents Vanderbilt, Georgia and Kentucky.
Middle Tennessee quarterback Brent Stockstill (3,214 passing yards, 70.5%, 28 TD, 8 INT) versus Appalachian State’s defense will be an exciting matchup to watch. The Mountaineers have one of the best pass defenses in the country and they excel at preventing opponents’ first-down and red-zone conversions.
Points per game: 36.7 (20th)
Rushing yards per game: 241 (15th)
Touchdown percentage in the red zone: 69.4% (25th)
Points allowed per game: 15.7 (6th)
Rushing yards allowed per game: 131 (30th)
Passing yards allowed per game: 148 (3rd)
Total yards allowed per game: 279 (6th)
Opponent third down conversion percentage: 31.2% (10th)
Opponent fourth down conversion percentage: 30.0% (5th)
Opponent touchdown percentage in the red zone: 48.1% (13th)
Limiting opponent long scrimmage plays: 124 (6th)
Players to watch
QB Zac Thomas — 1,862 passing yards, 62.6%, 18 TD, 4 INT, 476 rushing yards, 10 TD
RB Darrynton Evans — 165 carries, 1,079 rushing yards, 7 TD
WR Corey Sutton — 36 receptions, 695 receiving yards, 8 TD
LB Akeem Davis-Gaither — 95 total tackles, 8.5 TFL, 7 PD, 2 FF
Passing yards per game: 255 (41st)
Red zone conversion percentage: 87.7% (37th)
Opponent red zone conversion percentage: 76.2% (17th)
Players to watch
QB Brent Stockstill — 3,214 passing yards, 70.5%, 28 TD, 8 INT
WR Ty Lee — 67 receptions, 828 receiving yards, 7 TD
S Reed Blankenship — 101 total tackles, 8.0 TFL, 2 INT, 7 PD
LB DQ Thomas — 69 total tackles, 14.5 TFL, 8.0 sacks, 3 PD