The 2020 Arizona Bowl will feature two conference champions in Ball State and San Jose State. Ball State has not played in a bowl game since 2013, and they are 0-7 all-time in bowl games. The Spartans are 7-3 in their bowl history, and this is their first bowl game since 2015. Here is a preview and a prediction of the 2020 Arizona Bowl.
Ball State Cardinals (6-1)
After opening the season with a loss to Miami (Ohio), Ball State went on to win six games in a row, including the MAC Championship against an undefeated Buffalo. Along with Buffalo, Ball State has wins against Western Michigan and Toledo, who also finished their seasons above .500.
The Cardinals average 34.3 points per game, which ranks 24th in the nation. They gain an average of 278.1 passing yards per game (ranks 25th) while they rush for 177 yards per game (ranks 53rd).
Drew Plitt is the quarterback for Ball State. The senior threw for 1,937 yards this year. He also had 16 touchdown passes and completed 65.8 percent of his passes. His top target is wideout Justin Hall. Hall caught four touchdowns this season as part of his 49 total receptions that went for 665 yards. Receivers Yo’Heinz Tyler and Antwan Davis had 504 yards on 38 catches and 403 yards on 36 receptions, respectively. Tyler led the team in touchdown catches with seven.
The Cardinals had two running backs that just about split carries. Senior NFL prospect Caleb Huntley had 80 carries with 437 rushing yards and six scores. He will be sitting out of the Arizona Bowl. His teammate Tye Evans had 74 rushing attempts that totaled 344 yards and a touchdown. Junior halfback Will Jones had 187 rushing yards in 47 attempts this season, and may get a decent work load in the Arizona Bowl with Huntley sitting out.
Although Ball State allowed a lot of yards per game, they have not given up a ton of points per game. They have given up 441.7 yards per game (ranks 91st) and allowed 27.6 points per game, which ranks 56th. The team has seven players with 30 tackles or more this season. This includes three players with 50 tackles or more. Linebacker Brandon Martin led the team with 85 solo tackles, with linebacker Jaylin Thomas finishing second with 74.
San Jose State Spartans (7-0)
After going 1-11 in 2018, San Jose State went 7-0 this season and won the Mountain West. They won against Boise State and Nevada, who both finished the regular season with a winning record. They also beat Hawaii, who finished the season 5-4 after winning a bowl game.
The Spartans average 30.9 points per game, which ranks 45th in the FBS. The team ranks 20th in the country with 301.3 passing yards per game while adding 143.4 rushing yards per game (ranks 82nd).
Quarterback Nick Starkel got playing time at Texas A&M and Arkansas before transferring to San Jose State. The senior had a lot of season highs, including in passing yards (1,906) and passing touchdowns with 16. He completed 65.1 percent of his 212 passing attempts. The Spartans had two main receivers this season. Bailey Gaither led the team with 41 receptions and 725 receiving yards. The senior had four touchdown catches as well. The other of the two is Tre Walker, who is also a senior. He caught 38 passes that went for 546 yards and four touchdowns.
San Jose State used two runningbacks for most of the season in Tyler Nevens and Kairee Robinson. Nevens had 59 attempts for 478 yards and five touchdowns. He averaged 8.1 yards per carry. Robinson had 73 rushing attempts for 285 yards and two touchdowns. Backup quarterback Nick Nash also added 195 rushing yards and a touchdown to the Spartans run game this season.
San Jose State ranks 12th in the nation in points per game allowed at 17.9 points per game while allowing 341.7 yards per game (ranks 23rd). Junior linebacker Kyle Harmon led the team in tackles by 24 with 71 total tackles, 41 of which were solo. The next two highest are 47 and 41 tackles by a pair of safeties in Tre Webb and Tre Jenkins. Lineman Cade Hall led the team in sacks with 10, which is tied for second in the FBS.
Both of these teams can pass the ball and put up points. San Jose State has allowed nearly 10 points less per game than the Cardinals, which could be a factor in this game. However, San Jose State ranks much higher in rushing defense than passing defense, so Ball State can certainly throw it around in the Arizona Bowl. If the two teams pass often in this game, then it could come down to whoever turns the ball over less, wins.
San Jose State 34 Ball State 28
Featured image courtesy of Twitter.