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2021 Boca Raton Bowl: Western Kentucky vs Appalachian State — Three Players to Watch

A classic case of styles make fights headlines the Boca Raton Bowl as WKU’s aerial attack will clash with App State’s ground game.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 03 C-USA Championship Game - Western Kentucky at UTSA Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Our preview content for Saturday’s Boca Raton Bowl carries on as we spotlight three players to keep an eye on as Western Kentucky and Appalachian State will do battle on the campus of Florida Atlantic University.

The Hilltoppers and Mountaineers both played in their respective conference championship games and are looking to close out the year with a postseason victory.

According to DraftKings, Appalachian State is a 2.5-point favorite with the over/under set at 67.5 points.*

*Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.

Bailey Zappe

The Hilltoppers go as far as their all-world quarterback takes them. The Houston Baptist transfer has exceeded all expectations in making the transition to the FBS level, throwing for 5,545 yards and 56 touchdowns in 2021. There’s a strong possibility that he could reach 6,000 yards and tie or break former LSU quarterback Joe Burrow’s FBS record of 60 touchdown passes. Zappe will look to find standout wide receiver Jerreth Sterns, who has hauled in 137 passes for 1,718 yards and 14 scores, along with Mitchell Tinsley who also has over 1,000 yards on the year.

Nate Noel/Camerun Peoples

For App State, establishing their potent run game will be a key factor in putting points on the scoreboard — and keeping the dynamic Western Kentucky offense on the sidelines. Their two-headed attack of Nate Noel and Camerun Peoples has rushed for almost 2,000 yards and 18 touchdowns on the season. Getting the ground game going early and helping put quarterback Chase Brice in manageable down-and-distance situations will play a major factor in deciding the contest.

DeAngelo Malone

The two-time Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year will look to end his collegiate career with a bang. Defensive end DeAngelo Malone has been an excellent pass rusher over his decorated career in Bowling Green, recording 31.5 sacks in five seasons and an eye-popping 58 tackles for loss.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 30 First Responder Bowl - Western Kentucky v Western Michigan
Malone has been a force for several years now in Bowling Green.
Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

While getting to the quarterback is certainly desired in this contest, his ability to help defend the App State run game will serve just as crucial as his pass-rushing exploits. The Hilltoppers have struggled against potent rushing attacks at points in the season, so Malone will need an excellent effort against the run and pass.