Arkansas State is gunning for another win in its fourth straight appearance in the GoDaddy Bowl. The Red Wolves will take on Toledo on Sunday.
• Reasons to watch: In each of the past three seasons, Arkansas State has produced a different head coach that has been hired by a major team. Hugh Freeze went to Ole Miss after just one season (2011), Gus Malzahn left for Auburn after 2012 season and Bryan Harsin took over Boise State after 2013. In each of those three coaches one-year tenures at Arkansas State, they led the Red Wolves to a GoDaddy Bowl appearance.
Now, first-year coach Blake Anderson will follow in their bowl-game footsteps. Will he also become the fourth consecutive coach to go one and done? It’s unlikely as most schools have already filled their coaching vacancies and Arkansas State loaded his contract with a hefty buyout clause to prevent him from leaving. Despite the Sun Belt school’s success (35-16 over the past four seasons), Arkansas State has struggled to establish an identity behind a long-term leader. This game could help set the tone for the Anderson Era rather than the Anderson Year.
• Keep an eye on: Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside. Woodside took over for Alabama transfer Phillip Ely in Week 2 after Ely tore his ACL against Missouri. Woodside was injured against Kent State on Nov. 4 and missed most of the Rockets’ loss to Northern Illinois. Toledo struggled in his absence before knocking off Bowling Green and Eastern Michigan to end the regular season. Despite only playing nine full games, the sophomore has still thrown for nearly 2100 yards and 19 touchdowns. Woodside’s initial ball-delivery system -- center Greg Mancz -- is also back from injury. The battle up front between a healthier Toledo offensive line and a strong Arkansas State front seven will be a fun one to watch.
• Did you know: This is Arkansas State’s fourth consecutive GoDaddy Bowl apperance. The school is 2-1 in the bowl over the prior three years, losing to Northern Illinois 38-20 in 2011 before beating Kent State 17-13 in ‘12 and Ball State 23-20 last season.
For the Rockets, Toledo kicker Jeremiah Detmer holds the MAC career field-goal-percentage record for at 84.4 percent. Toledo hasn’t relied as much on field goals this season as it has in prior years, but in a projected close game in which the Rockets are favored by three, a Detmer kick might be the difference.
• Final analysis: If this game is fought predominantly on the ground, Toledo running backs Kareem Hunt and Terry Swanson should give the Rockets an advantage. Arkansas State gives up 5.16 yards per carry and is 93rd in the country in rushing yards allowed per game. If the game is fought through the air, though, look for Arkansas State to control the tempo. Quarterback Fredi Knighten has proven streaky for the Red Wolves, often linking the team’s success to his. Notably, Toledo has given up 6.87 yards per passing attempt this season and will be paying without senior safety Jordan Haden, who is sidelined with an abdominal injury.
• The Pick: Arkansas State 27, Toledo 21