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2017 Camellia Bowl Preview: Arkansas State vs Middle Tennessee

Old Sun Belt rivals meet for the first time since 2012 in Montgomery this Saturday.

Photo by Todd Bennett/Getty Images

2017 Camellia Bowl

Date/Start Time: Saturday, December 16th at 7pm

Location: Crampton Bowl, Montgomery, Alabama


Stream: Watch ESPN

Records: Arkansas State: 7-4, Middle Tennessee 6-6

Series History: Middle Tennessee leads the all-time series 9-5, but Arkansas State has won the last three meetings.

Betting line: Arkansas State -3.5, O/U 63

The 2017 edition of the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl is quickly shaping up to be a fun game to watch with two programs who know each other well, the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders and the Arkansas State Red Wolves. In their first meeting since Middle Tennessee left the Sun Belt, these teams both come into Montgomery with high-powered offenses that could turn this game into a shootout.

Arkansas State Outlook

Coming off of a 7-4 season where they lost in the Sun Belt Championship game, the Red Wolves look to continue their winning ways in bowl games behind the strength of their passing game. Lead by Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year Justice Hansen at quarteback, Arkansas State has averaged 340 passing yards per game and 38.5 points per game.

Arkansas State’s ability to throw the ball around the yard to many different receivers will be extremely tough for Middle Tennessee to stop all night. There will be big plays through the air in this game for State if they can take advantage. This game could look a lot like their other big wins this season if Hansen gets rolling early against a vulnerable MTSU defense.

As for the defense, it’s all about Ja'Von Rolland-Jones and the defensive front. Named Sun Belt Player of the Year for the second season in a row and second in the country in sacks, Rolland-Jones has the ability to take over this game and completely shut down the Blue Raiders. If Arkansas State doesn’t give Brent Stockstill time to throw, this game could be over quick.

Middle Tennessee Outlook

Finishing with a 6-6 record, the Blue Raiders snuck into a bowl game despite all of the injuries and setbacks they have faced all year. They have a chance to set that all behind them and build momentum into next season if they can just find a way to win this game.

Getting quarterback Brent Stockstill back was a huge moral boost for this team and his play has elevated the rest of the team’s play as well, winning three out of their last four games to become bowl eligible. His play will be key for the Blue Raiders to have a chance, because when Brent isn’t playing well, the rest of the team doesn’t either.

Middle Tennessee has to get someone in their rushing game going early in order to slow down the Arkansas State pass rush. The Blue Raiders are undefeated in games where they have a 100+ yard rusher, so expect them to try and establish it early.

For the Blue Raider defense, it’s all about getting pressure on Justice Hansen. Just like with Brent Stockstill, if you give Hansen time to throw, he will find the hole in the zone every time. Defensive end Walter Brady needs to have a big game for the Raiders and disrupt the pocket to help out his secondary.


I have no doubt that this game will be a high-scoring affair and will be a lot of fun for the national television audience. Both Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee will sling the ball around all night and are sure to provide some highlights. I give the edge to the Red Wolves on the back of their defensive front. I think it will be too much for Middle Tennessee to handle and will be the deciding factor.

Arkansas State 41, Middle Tennessee 28