Since 1999, the GoDaddy bowl has been one of the more exciting bowls to watch. This year should not disappoint viewers and fans alike, though this season has already seen it's share of exciting finishes (thanks Bowling Green, Western Kentucky, Arizona State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Houston).
Red Wolves Connection
Arkansas State, the Sun Belt Conference representative for the GoDaddy Bowl, finds itself in both old and new territory in the 2015 edition of the game. While this will be the fourth consecutive appearance in Mobile, it will be the first without an interim head coach. Yes, Blake Anderson decided to stick around for a second season at the helm of the Red Wolves.
The A-State beat writer for Underdog Dynasty has a great post to familiarize fans with the Red Wolves. Check it out over here.
There is something to be said about the current Arkansas State senior class. These 14 seniors have seen five different head coaches in the past five years, their 35 wins over the last four seasons ranks among the top 25 teams in the nation in total wins over that time period, and the second best winning record in ASU's 100 years of football.
These seniors are also 2-1 in their three GoDaddy Bowl appearances with wins in their last two.
Toledo Is Back Bowling
Toledo, the MAC representative for the GoDaddy Bowl, is returning to Mobile for their second appearance in the game and their first since 2005. The Rockets earned a bowl invite for the fourth time in the last five seasons after failing to score an invitation last year.
Go Big Or Go Home
Both Toledo and Arkansas State feature potent offenses, which has been a staple of this annual game in Mobile, AL. The Rockets average 34.4 points per game and 486.3 yards of total offense per game while the Red Wolves average 36.1 points and 477.2 yards per game.
Actually, each team enters the game after finishing the regular season with big offensive exhibitions.
Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside threw five touchdowns, three in the first quarter alone, in a 52-16 win over Eastern Michigan. He was an impressive 14-of-18 for 323 yards with two touchdown passes of 50+ yards.
Arkansas State came alive in the second half in their 68-35 win over New Mexico State by rolling up 568 of their Sun Belt record 764 yards of total offense. Both Michael Gordon and Johnsten White rushed for over 100 yards while quarterback Fredi Knighten threw for 296 yards.
With the game scheduled as the next-to-last bowl game of the season, it allows injured players from both teams to heal and return to their lineup. The extra preparation time is probably why this bowl game has become one of the more anticipated games each year.
This game should feature tons of rushing yards as both teams combine to run the ball around 99 times a game for around 476 yards per game. While Arkansas State's rush defense is a mere 93rd in the nation, Toledo's comes in at 17th.
The X-factor for the Red Wolves is Fredi Knighten. He's not big but he averages over 300 all-purpose yards a game. His play earned him the 2013 GoDaddy Bowl MVP after leading the Red Wolves on a three-play, 55-yard game-winning drive in the final 1:25 of the game. But Knighten can be inconsistent. The offense, under his guidance, tends to have explosive streaks then cold streaks.
But you can also point to the Red Wolves defense as a huge factor in the game. If they play like they have all season against the rush, it's going to be a long game for them.
Rarely do you see an offensive lineman garner much attention much less earn a conference MVP award. But that is exactly what Toledo's Greg Mancz accomplished this season, even after missing the last three games due to a knee injury.
Mancz, and his fellow linemen, have helped the sophomore running back Kareem Hunt run for over 100 yards in each game he has played for the Rockets. He has nearly doubled the rushing yards of next closest rusher.
The X-factor for Toledo may not be just one man, but rather a combination of Hunt, Mancz and the rest of the offensive line.
Toledo is favored by three points, but does that take into account Arkansas State's near homefield advantage at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in January bowl games? If it doesn't, then you might as well call this game even because only South Alabama is more familiar with this stadium than the Red Wolves. If it's true that the home team gets a 3-point advantage, then this is anyone's game to win.
With this bowl season so far and the history between #FunBelt and #MACtion teams, you should watch this game all the way to the final whistle.