2018 New Orleans Bowl Preview

2018 New Orleans Bowl Preview
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2018 New Orleans Preview

There are five games set for Saturday to kick off the 2018 bowl season. Of those, the final one is between Appalachian State and Middle Tennessee which begins at 9:00 pm on ESPN looks like a good one. With our R+L Carriers 2018 New Orleans Bowl preview we will take a look at both teams and give a score prediction. But first, as they say “a word from our sponsor.”

Who Are R+L Carriers?

Based out of Wilmington, Ohio R+L Carriers is a freight shipping company which serves all 50 states plus Canada. They have been the sponsor of the New Orleans Bowl since 2006 and the game is played in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The game itself began in 2001 and matches up teams from Conference USA and the Sun Belt. Three schools Louisiana, North Texas and Southern Mississippi have made five appearances in the game, which is tied for most.

Now that we know a little about the history of the game, let’s look at the two teams. We will be starting with Appalachian State.

Moving On Without Their Leader

The Mountaineers come into Saturday’s game as winners of the Sun Belt defeating Louisiana 30-19. They are 10-2 on the season, the third time in four years they reached double digits in wins. Back in Week one, they nearly upset Penn State on the road losing 45-38 in overtime.

However, they come into this game minus their head coach. Scott Satterfield left on December 4th to take the job at Louisville replacing Bobby Petrino. He compiled a 51-24 record in six seasons and a 3-0 mark in bowl games. Defensive line coach Mark Ivey leads the club into the New Orleans Bowl.

Despite their impressive record, it hasn’t been easy for the Mountaineers. The lost top running back Jalin Moore to an ankle injury in October. However, Darrynton Evans stepped up big time rushing for 1,079 yards and seven touchdowns. In addition, quarterback, Zac Thomas has run for 476 yards and 10 scores.

The running game is the school’s bread and butter. For the season Appalachian State ranks 17th in the nation with 2,892 yards rushing and 15th averaging 241 yards per game.

On the other side of the ball, the defense is very strong while allowing only 15 points per contest. The unit only allowed more than 19 points twice this year holding all but three opponents to under 200 yards through the air. Who wins the matchup of the Appalachian State defense versus the prolific Middle Tennessee offense is a major key to the game.

Scouting The Blue Raiders

Under coach Rick Stockstill, Middle Tennessee comes into Saturday’s game sporting an 8-5 mark. However, included in their record is that three of the five losses came to SEC schools, Georgia 49-7, Kentucky 34-23 and Vanderbilt 35-7. 

The Blue Raiders are led by the coach’s son at quarterback in Brent Stockstill. As a senior, the Conference USA MVP ranks among the national leaders with 3,286 passing yards and 28 touchdowns. For his career, he has thrown for 12,165 yards with 105 touchdowns and only 33 interceptions. Furthermore, Stockstill ranks 32nd in NCAA history in passing yards and 21st in touchdowns.

Defensively, Middle Tennessee finished the season strong as they held four of their last seven opponents to under 17 points. Sophomore safety Wesley Bush leads the unit with six interceptions. That ties him for third in the country. As a result of an opportunistic defense, the Blue Raiders rank in the top 25 in interceptions with 14.

Overall the Blue Raiders are 4-7 all-time in bowl games with a 2-5 record under Stockstill. They last played in the New Orleans Bowl in 2009 defeating Southern Mississippi 42-32.  This is the fourth time the two schools have played with Middle Tennessee holding a 2-1 record. However, this is the first meeting since 1992 when both schools were still in the division 1-AA. As we continue on with our 2018 New Orleans Bowl Preview, it’s prediction time.

Who Wins The New Orleans Bowl?

Whenever a coach leaves to take a job at a more prestigious school one of two things happen. Either the team rallies around the interim coach or they roll over and play with little emotion. It’s difficult to see the Appalachian State players doing the latter.

On the other side of the ball, the Blue Raiders want to send the younger Stockstill out a winner in his final game. As mentioned earlier, this is easily the best matchup of the Saturday games and one of the best of the first couple of tiers of bowls.

Both teams are very opportunistic and the game could come down to turnovers. However, in the end, the Mountaineers are the better team and they get a hard fought win.

Appalachian State 31 Middle Tennessee 27

Thanks for checking out the 2018 New Orleans Bowl Preview here at Last Word On College Football. As a reminder don’t forget we have previews for every bowl game leading up to the national championship on January 7th.