Where: Cramton Bowl, Montgomery, Alabama
1. Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee State will face off in the Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Ala., on Dec. 16 in a matchup of two teams that were conference foes from 2001-13 in the Sun Belt Conference. In the last game for the Blue Raiders before they moved to Conference USA, they lost 45-0 to the Red Wolves with the Sun Belt title on the line. Don’t think that won’t come up a time or two in coach Rick Stockstill’s talks with his Blue Raiders, that his team has a chance at a bowl win and a little revenge.
2. The fact Middle Tennessee State is even in a bowl game is quite an accomplishment, considering the team was 3-5 heading into November. After winning three of its last four contests – and averaging 36 points over that stretch – Stockstill’s squad still didn’t think they’d made it on Selection Sunday, holding a season-ending team meeting before getting word of their selection by the Camellia Bowl. With new life, Middle Tennessee is looking to make the best of it – especially with the possibility of having a strong fan showing since the game is four hours away from Murfreesboro after their bowl games in the last two seasons were played in Hawaii and the Bahamas.
3. Arkansas State quarterback Justice Hansen will get a chance to prove himself on a big stage after a fantastic season that had some ups and downs. The junior threw for 3,630 yards and 34 touchdowns, including six games with three or more passing scores. But Hansen also had three contests with three or more interceptions, so he’ll need to be at his best if the Red Wolves are to win their second straight bowl game.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Arkansas State -3.5
ABOUT MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE (6-6, 4-4 Conference USA): Quarterback Brent Stockstill really has taken over since returning from a cracked sternum and separated collarbone, which he suffered in the second game of the season. Middle Tennessee State was 3-5 when Stockstill took over as the starter again, and the team is 3-1 since his return, with the only loss coming in overtime. The junior has thrown for 1,440 yards and 14 touchdowns and has a very dangerous target in sophomore wide receiver Ty Lee (74 catches, 916 yards, five touchdowns), meaning a big game in this contest could lead to an even bigger 2018 for the duo.
ABOUT ARKANSAS STATE (7-4, 6-2 Sun Belt): While the Red Wolves’ offense is potent behind Hansen, the big name for Arkansas State is defensive end Ja’Von Rolland-Jones, the two-time Sun Belt Player of the Year. Rolland-Jones already is the career sacks leader both at Arkansas State and in the Sun Belt Conference, and his 43.5 career sacks put him one shy of breaking the NCAA FBS record of 44, set by Arizona State’s Terrell Suggs. Rolland-Jones is able to take over a game with the pressure he applies, and he’ll be looking for a big game in his final contest as a Red Wolf, which would only mean good things for Arkansas State.