Sunday, January 5, 2014
GoDaddy Bowl preview
By Jeff Barlis
Ball State (10-2) enters the GoDaddy Bowl (9 p.m. ET Sunday, ESPN) still looking for its first bowl win in program history. At 0-6, the Cardinals have the worst all-time record in bowl games, just below Western Michigan's 0-5 mark. They'll face Arkansas State (7-5), a rising program with a 27-11 record since 2011.
Who to watch: Keith Wenning is one of the best QBs you've never heard of. Ball State's all-time leading passer, Wenning led the Cardinals to 10 wins and threw for 3,933 yards and 34 touchdowns with only six interceptions. Ball State is one of just four FBS teams with two 1,000-yard receivers -- Willie Snead (1,429) and Jordan Williams (1,016). Trying to keep up will be Arkansas State quarterback Adam Kennedy, who has found success in his senior year after transferring from Utah State. Hitting on 69.4 percent of his passes, Kennedy has the fifth-best completion percentage in the FBS. ASU sophomore running back Michael Gordon averages 6.8 yards a carry and is coming in hot. Two of his two best games of the season came in the least three games -- 184 yards rushing against Texas State and 132 against Western Kentucky.
What to watch: Arkansas State might be the away team, but it clearly has home-field advantage playing in the GoDaddy Bowl for the third straight year. The Red Wolves won the Sun Belt Conference for the third year in a row and also saw their head coach hired away for the third straight season. Following in the footsteps of Hugh Freeze to Ole Miss, and Gus Malzahn to Auburn, Bryan Harsin left to take over Boise State. Defensive coordinator John Thompson will be the Red Wolves' interim coach for a second consecutive GoDaddy Bowl. Look for Arkansas State to play with edge, as new head coach Blake Anderson will be watching and evaluating.
Why to watch: The coach on the other sideline, Pete Lembo, is no slouch either. With a 25-12 record and back-to-back bowl appearances over the past three seasons at Ball State, Lembo is a hot name. Since breaking into the head coaching ranks in 2001, he has won big at every stop (35-22 at Elon and 44-14 at Lehigh) and reportedly interviewed for openings at Wake Forest and UConn. Lembo's calling card is the passing game, and Ball State is ranked No. 17 in the nation in total offense, averaging 486.6 yard a game. Look for plenty of fireworks, as Arkansas State averages 414.2 yards a game.
Prediction: Ball State 41, Arkansas State 31