The 2018 New Orleans Bowl will pit Conference USA and the Sun Belt against each other this season. Middle Tennessee will face Appalachian State on Dec. 15 (9 p.m. ET, ESPN), the first day of bowl games. Here is the 2018 New Orleans Bowl preview:
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (8-5)
The runner-up in Conference USA, Middle Tennessee is making a program-record fourth consecutive bowl appearance. It last played in the New Orleans Bowl in 2009, which ended with a 42-32 victory over Southern Miss – and snapped a four-game bowl losing streak.
This will be the final collegiate game for Blue Raiders quarterback Brent Stockstill, the C-USA MVP for 2018. The senior left-hander ranks among the national leaders in passing yards (3,214), completion percentage (70.5) and touchdowns (28). For his career, Stockstill, whose father Rick Stockstill was named C-USA Coach of the Year, has thrown for 12,165 yards, 105 touchdowns and 33 interceptions.
Defensively, the Blue Raiders have held four of their last seven opponents to 17 or fewer points. Sophomore safety Wesley Bush is tied for third in the country with six interceptions. The team’s 14 interceptions rank among the top 25 in the FBS.
Appalachian State Mountaineers (10-2)
Appalachian State will also play in a bowl game for the fourth straight season after winning the Sun Belt championship. However, it will do so minus coach Scott Satterfield, who is the new coach at Louisville. Defensive assistant Mark Ivey is serving as interim coach.
The hope is that the Mountaineers will not skip a beat after recording at least 10 wins for the third time in four seasons. They’ll take a five-game winning streak into this contest and have manged to remain successful despite losing star running back Jalin Moore to a season-ending ankle injury in October. Sophomore Darrynton Evans has stepped up nicely with 1,079 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.
Good thing for Appalachian State that its defense is among the best in the nation, allowing an average of 15.7 points. That unit has yielded more than 19 points just twice this season and held all but three opponents to fewer than 200 passing yards in 2018.
These programs last met in 1992, when both were members of Division I-AA.
It would be easy for Appalachian State to roll over considering their coach has bolted for a more high-profile job. Then again, the Mountaineers don’t seem like a team that would allow that to happen. They are the better team on paper, but Middle Tennessee wants to send the younger Stockstill out in style, so this one should be competitive and entertaining.
Appalachian State 24, Middle Tennessee 21
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