The Blue Raiders' season didn't look like one that would end in bowling for the majority of the year. But for coach Rick Stockstill (quarterback Brent's father), this season is a step back from their 8-5 record a year ago.
Middle Tennessee started the season at 3-5 but found a way to win three of the last four games to get to bowl eligibility.
One of the more interesting matchups of the weekend is the Camellia Bowl pitting the Arkansas State Red Wolves against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders. That doesn't bode well, though the defense has been picking up the slack for much of the season holding opponents to just 24 points and 350 yards per game.
The offense goes as Stockstill goes, but the defense has quietly enjoyed a solid year, ranked 31st overall as per ESPN. In the six games he has played quarterback, the Blue Raiders are averaging 30 points per game. Two years ago, he wore a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Christmas sweater on the sideline at the Red Wolves' bowl game. Middle Tennessee's defense is led by former Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer, who was sacked after the 2015 season and was briefly Maryland's defensive coordinator under DJ Durkin before leaving during his first spring practice due to an undisclosed family issue. The Blue Raiders were 6-6 in the 2017 regular season, and finished 71st in S&P+. No receiver has more than 700 yards, but six guys have at least 300, giving them multiple options. Joining Hansen on the first-team offense are tight end Blake Mack and offensive lineman Lanard Bonner. Arkansas State will be looking for a bit of a rebound after closing out the season with a 32-25 loss to the unranked Troy Trojans. Given the small spread and Arkansas State's ability to score in volume, go ahead and take the Red Wolves to cover. Stockstill, a junior, holds school career records in passing yards (8,719), touchdown passes (75), passing yards per game (290.6) and completions (710). The Red Wolves could have similar success and find a way to win the bowl game.
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The difference could come down to which defense is more prepared to stop the other, and that's an advantage that Middle Tennessee has.
MTSU allowed fewer than 200 passing yards in seven games this season.
In a game between two potent offenses, it generally comes down to two things.
This isn't the first time Cefalo has donned a look like this one for a postseason football game. Stockstill is 3-4 all-time against the Red Wolves.