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2013 Preview - Ark St vs. Kent St
Posted Jan 5, 2013

2012-2013 Bowls - CFN's Preview & Prediction for the 2013

2013 GoDaddy.Com

Kent State vs. Arkansas St

- 2012-2013 CFN Bowl Central

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National Rankings
17th Total Offense 75th
52nd Total Defense 78th
21st Scoring Offense 33rd
50th Scoring Defense 48th
21st Rushing Offense 15th
52nd Run Defense 41st
41st Passing Offense 110th
58th Passing Defense 108th
25th Turnover Margin 2nd
Position Rankings
relative to each other
5 Highest - 1 Lowest
A   K
5 Quarterbacks 2.5
3 RBs 4.5
3.5 Receivers 2.5
4 O Line 3.5
2.5 D Line 3.5
3 Linebackers 3.5
2.5 Secondary 2
1.5 Spec Teams 3.5
2 Coaching 4
Arkansas State (9-3) vs. Kent State (11-2)
Jan. 6, 9 pm, ESPN

Here’s The Deal … It’s always the toughest bowl to sell, because everyone has waited through all the opening acts and is ready for Radiohead to come on. It hasn’t helped that the GoDaddy, formerly the GMAC, has been such a dog over the years, with a few notable exceptions - the Byron Leftwich game in 2001 when Marshall beat East Carolina in an epic comeback, and in 2010 when Central Michigan and Troy played the best game of the bowl season – and it certainly isn’t a plus trying to pump up a game between the Sun Belt and the MAC.

Making matters worse, both teams are in transitional periods.

Kent State lost Darrell Hazell to Purdue, and next year the Paul Haynes era kicks in to try to keep the production going after the dream season. Meanwhile, Arkansas State’s Gus Malzahn is off to Auburn and John Thompson will fill in for the bowl before Bryan Harsin takes over. It’s been an interesting time for both programs, but the excitement is there, the fan bases are expected to fill the house, and the game itself should be interesting if both teams play like they did throughout the season.

Kent State was within a whisper of going to the Orange Bowl to face Florida State, losing to Northern Illinois in double overtime in the MAC championship. Success is a new thing for a program that hasn’t won on a regular basis and hasn’t gone to a bowl since losing to Tampa in the 1972 Tangerine. Extremely well coached and very smart, the Golden Flashes don’t make a slew of big mistakes, they run the ball with a burst, and they seem to find ways to win. Yes, they got blown out by a miserable Kentucky team 47-14, but they beat Rutgers and they blew away the same Ohio team that blew away ULM in one of the minor bowl shockers.

Arkansas State started out the season a bit rocky, going 2-3, but two of the losses came on the road against Oregon and Nebraska. And then the offense kicked in on the way to a seven-win run blowing away almost everyone – including Louisiana-Lafayette and ULM – with just the 41-34 victory over Troy decided by fewer than double digits. The Red Wolves lost to Northern Illinois in last year’s GoDaddy after the defense sputtered and struggled, but the program knows what it’s like to win now and there’s enough experience returning to be far sharper and far better. 0-2 in bowl games – losing the 2005 New Orleans to Southern Miss – ending with a victory would be a big deal.

Both programs are looking for a first bowl victory and both are trying to close the season with something special. Both teams will care and both will bring the effort – and then it’ll be time to politely move aside for Notre Dame vs. Alabama.

Players to Watch: Arkansas State senior QB Ryan Aplin has been the star of the Sun Belt over the last three seasons, earning three straight all-conference honors and is the two-time Sun Belt Player of the Year. While he didn’t have the season quite like his tremendous 2011 campaign, he was still terrific throwing 23 touchdowns and four picks, cutting way down on his picks and not taking as many chances. He’s only 6-1 and 205 pounds, but he’s extremely quick and he’s tough; he can take a hit. Smart, accurate and the unquestioned team leader, this is his time to shine after throwing for 353 yards with a touchdown and three picks and a rushing touchdown against NIU last year.

Kent State has the game’s most dangerous weapon in do-it-all back Dri Archer, a speedy bolt of lightning who’s looking to make amends for a rough MAC championship, being held to 15 yards and a score, but with five catches for 81 yards, in the loss. A threat from anywhere on the field, he averaged almost ten yards per carry before the Northern Illinois game, and he proved himself throughout the season as a receiver and a dangerous kickoff returner with three scores in the first five games of the year. He’ll get at least 20 touches, with the potential to turn the game around with one play.

6-3, 235-pound weakside linebacker Nathan Herrold has been the team’s leading tackler over each of the last two season, taking his game to another level with 109 tackles with three picks. The big knock was that he didn’t do much against the pass, and then he changed things up and started doing far more against running backs out of the backfield. While he has had knee issues, he’s a terrific tackler with great range and hitting ability.

Kent State will win if … the special teams dominate. Arkansas State had a terrific year offensively, was No. 1 in the Sun Belt in scoring defense, and did absolutely nothing on special teams outside of a nice season from PK Brian Davis. The punting game was the worst in America and the return production was non-existent. If this comes down to field position, KSU has a huge advantage with Anthony Melchiori one of the MAC’s top punters and the kickoff returner excellent.

The offense has to get Archer and the running game going right away. The ASU run defense stuffed everyone over the second half of the season and finished up allowing over 200 yards just three times. However, those three games came against Oregon, Nebraska and Western Kentucky – the three losses on the year. Nine of the 14 rushing touchdowns came in those three games, too. Kent State finished 15th in the nation in rushing, averaging 228 yards per game and should be able to take control of the game and keep Aplin on the sidelines.

Arkansas State will win if … it gets up early. Aplin has to get into a grove right away and take advantage of a mediocre secondary that gives up yards in chunks. The Golden Flashes have come up with 23 picks, but they’ve also allowed 26 touchdown passes and was ripped up for 300 yards or more during a five-game late season stretch and 350 yards or more four times. Kentucky, Ball State, Miami University and Bowling Green each dinked and dunked their way to big passing games and scored through the air without a problem. Kent State doesn’t have the type of air attack to come back; the team needs turnovers to get back in games, and Arkansas State doesn’t give them up.

The Red Wolves have gone five straight games without giving up a fumble and Aplin has lost just five picks on the year. Kent State is terrific at forcing big mistakes and has feasted off of them all season long, but ASU has been really, really tight with the ball lately and can’t be off now. Kent State will capitalize on every error.

What Will Happen: Kent State managed to find a way to come up with win after win this season because of takeaways. Rutgers was picked off six times in its loss, and everyone but Kentucky – the one loss – turned it over at least once, and Army and Miami University were the only two other teams not to give it away two times or more. Arkansas State hasn’t turned it over more than once since the middle of the season and isn’t going to make the big mistakes in what should be a tight, interesting game.

CFN Prediction: Arkansas State 38 … Kent State 30
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Arkansas State -4 O/U: 62

GoDaddy (GMAC) History
2012 Northern Illinois 38, Arkansas State 20
2011 Miami Univ. 35, Middle Tennessee 21
2010 Central Michigan, 44, Troy 51 2OT
2009 Tulsa 45, Ball State 13
2008 Tulsa 63, Bowling Green 7
2007 Southern Miss 28, Ohio 7
2005 Toledo 45, UTEP 13
2004 Bowling Green 52, Memphis 35
2003 Miami-Ohio 49, Louisville 28
2002 Marshall 38, Louisville 15
2001 Marshall 64, East Carolina 61
2000 Southern Miss 28, TCU 21
1999 TCU 28, East Carolina 14
2009 Georgia 24, Michigan State 12