Arkansas State Red Wolves (9-3SU,8-4ATS) vs.No. 25 Kent State Golden Flashes(11-2SU,10-2-1 ATS)
Date/Time:Sunday, January 6th, 2013, 9:00 p.m. EST
Where:Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Ala.
byBadger,Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread:ASU -4/KSU +4
The 25th-ranked Kent State Golden Flashes came just a few short plays away from crashing the BCS party and getting a multi-million dollar payday, so as a consolation prize they will instead be the underdogs in theGoDaddy.com Bowl against the Arkansas State Red Wolves at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on January 6thon ESPN.
They could have easily called this game the Need a New Head Coach Bowl, since both Kent States Darrell Hazell and Arkansas States Gus Malzahn have taken jobs further up the food chain since the season ended. But when you have success at a smaller school the big boys come calling, and success is exactly what both the Flashes and the Red Wolves had in 2012.
Kent State was sitting at 11-1 and nearly became the Mid-American Conference (MAC) team to bust into a BCS bowl game as an at-large team, but they lost in double overtime to Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship game, 44-37, and the Huskies crashed the party instead. The title-game loss took a little of the shine off of what was a breakout season for the Golden Flashes, who won the MAC East for the first time since the conference expanded and will be going to their first bowl game since 1972.
The Flashes 11-2 season was only five days old when Hazell took the job at Purdue, but in a rare twist, the administration at Kent State is going to allow Hazell to continue to coach the team in the bowl game. Its hard to imagine how that dynamic will play out with the team, knowing the coach that has taken you this far is already out the door to greener pastures.
For Arkansas State this feels like dj vu all over again.
Arkansas State finished as one of the hottest teams in the land, going on a seven game win streak to win the Sun Belt Conference for a second consecutive year and second straight invite to theGoDaddy.comBowl. And just like last year, their head coach left before the championship banner could even be hung, as Hugh Freeze left for Ole Miss last year and this year Malzahn is going back to Auburn after just one year in Jonesboro.
The Red Wolves have already hired their new head coach, Texas co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin, who made a name for himself from his days as the Boise State offensive coordinator. But with Harsin watching, the Red Wolves defensive coordinator John Thompson will coach the team in the bowl game.
As I mentioned already, oddsmakers installed Arkansas State as 5-point favorites when the game went up on the board. The number has come down to minus -4.5 or -4 at most online sportsbooks, as some of the early money has come in on the ranked team as underdogs in this game.
The over/under total opened at 61 and held for the most part at most of the offshore sportsbooks on the Web, but it has gone up to 61.5 or 62 at most of the books in Las Vegas.
The main reason the Red Wolves are considered the favorite in this game is because they have the two-time Sun Belt Player of the Year on their team, quarterback Ryan Aplin. Aplin has thrown for 3,110 yards and 23 touchdowns and leads the Red Wolves high-powered attack that finished 17thin FBS with 482 yards a game. Aplin isnt the only playmaker on the team though as running back David Oku (1,043 yards) has 15 touchdowns and receiver Julian Jones is a huge deep threat with a 30.3 yards per catch average and over half of his receptions this season have gone for scores (13 catches, 7 TD).
But again, the loss of Malzahn is an intangible you cant measure. Malzahn called the plays and installed this offense after taking Auburn and Cam Newton to the National title. Aplin will help with continuity, and his decision making (only 4 INT) will be key against a Kent State defense that thrives on turnovers, but has struggled to stop the pass throughout the season (allowing 277 ypg -112th).
The Kent State offense features one of the best one-two running games in college football, with Dri Archer (1,352 yards, 15 TD) and Trayion Durham (1,248, 14) both equally dangerous out of the backfield. Archer is also the Flashes best receiver (15.4 ypc), and one of the most dangerous kick returners in the game with a 35.8 yard average.
Last year the Red Wolves struggled in theGoDaddy.comBowl, losing to Northern Illinois, 38-20, when they committed five turnovers including three interceptions by Aplin (as 1-point favorites). Aplin has vowed to not make the same mistakes this year, but without stability on the sidelines its hard to not expect the same results.
Kent State went 3-1 ATS this season in non-conference games, but historically they have struggled (5-13 ATS in L18) when they play outside the MAC.
The best betting trend from the Arkansas State sideline is the under, which has gone 14-4-1 in their last 19 non-Sun Belt games.
Badger’sPick to Cover the Point Spread:With all of the coaches coming and going for both teams I dont know how you can possibly get a good read on this game. But since both teams possess some pretty dynamic talent on offense, if I play anything on this game Ill probably take a shot at the over. With a few more weeks before this game kicks off, I may sit and watch to see which way the line and total moves, but for now Im taking the over of 61. I could easily see 70-80 points scored here.
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