Arkansas State (9–3) vs. Louisiana Tech (8–4)
Dec. 19, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Reason to watch
A pair of former Big West conference foes meet as the Arkansas State Red Wolves and Louisiana Tech Bulldogs face off in the New Orleans Bowl.
For the Red Wolves, any game outside of Mobile, Ala., makes for a great change of scenery after appearing in the last four editions of the GoDaddy Bowl. Arkansas State turned its season around quickly after losing three of its first four games. Head coach Blake Anderson’s squad finished the year with eight straight victories to win the Sun Belt.
Quarterback Fredi Knighten missed three games early in the season with a groin injury but returned to finish the year with 19 touchdowns to seven interceptions and a passer rating of 140.5, which ranked the third best in the Sun Belt Conference. He has helped put down concerns of what Anderson once deemed “the toughest schedule in the country” to start the year.
Louisiana Tech continues to rise in the ranks after back-to-back seasons with eight wins or more under Skip Holtz. The ground offense is led by running back Kenneth Dixon, who ranks second to only Navy’s Keenan Reynolds with 83 touchdowns from scrimmage. Dixon recorded 22 of them this season, including 17 on the ground with 968 rushing yards.
The wounds are still fresh for Louisiana Tech, which looked to win its second consecutive Conference USA West title before being upset by Southern Miss in the final game of the regular season.
Keep an eye on: Louisiana Tech quarterback Jeff Driskel
Driskel has been everything the Bulldogs have hoped for and more since transferring from Florida. He threw for 3,575 yards and 24 touchdowns with eight interceptions on the year as the Bulldogs’ offense ranked 21st in scoring and 16th in passing yards. Coming into the year, Driskel had never thrown for more than 1,646 in a season. He has a wealth of options with Trent Taylor, Carlos Henderson and Paul Turner accounting for eight, five and three touchdown connections, respectively.
However, Driskel will have to be careful to avoid the FBS’s leaders in forced turnovers. Arkansas State forced 34 turnovers this season, including a national-best 26 interceptions. Cornerback Rocky Hayes leads the Red Wolves with six picks.
Did you know…?
Louisiana Tech holds the upper hand in the head-to-head meetings with a 25–12 record. The last meeting between these two teams, located 300 miles apart, was a 69–21 victory by the Bulldogs in 1998.
Driskel was picked off three times in the loss to Southern Miss. If he can avoid that fate at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and turn that low point of the regular season finale into motivation, he can end his mercurial college career with a win.