It turns out Coach Rick Stockstill was right. The bowl selection committees could not bypass Middle Tennessee State this season.
For the third season in a row the Blue Raiders are going bowling, this time to the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl to play Arkansas State. It marks the first time in school history Middle has gotten a bowl invite three years running.
While the previous two bowls were held outside of the contiguous United States, this one will be held a mere four hours away in Montgomery, Alabama.
Considering the proximity, Coach Stockstill is going all out to ensure fans show up.
“The bowl (committees) understand the last two years. They won’t understand our fans not showing up for this one,” he said. “So I’m pleading our fans show up in droves.”
To help his case, Coach Stockstill has vowed to purchase $10,000 worth of tickets to give to MTSU students. That comes out to more than 300 tickets to the Dec. 16 game, one that will see the Blue Raiders reconnect with an old foe from the Sunbelt Conference.
The Red Wolves field unquestionable talent across the board.
Arkansas State was heavily represented when the Sunbelt handed out postseason honors. The Red Wolves led the conference with 15 players given All-Sunbelt team honors, and also boasts the Sunbelt Player of the Year in defensive end Ja’Von Rolland-Jones and Offensive Player of the Year quarterback Justice Hansen.
Rolland-Jones looks to go out with a bang as his illustrious college career comes to an end. Rolland-Jones has recorded 44 sacks in his career, which is currently tied with Terrell Suggs’ official NCAA career sacks record. Rolland-Jones notched 13 sacks during the regular season, and also accumulated 18.5 tackles for loss.
Hansen spearheaded an offense that averaged nearly 500 yards per game in 2017, which ranked ninth in the nation. Hansen averaged 330 passing yards per game himself, and the junior quarterback also threw for 34 touchdowns against 15 interceptions.
Questions still abound for the Blue Raiders from an injury standpoint. According to coach Stockstill, wide receiver Richie James’ return for the bowl game is highly doubtful. Running backs Brad Anderson and Tavares Thomas are also questionable for a return.
However, quarterback Brent Stockstill and running back Terelle West have had plenty of time to heal up, and should be the healthiest they’ve been all year. Both players struggled with injuries through the season only to come on late in the year.
Stockstill ended the season against Old Dominion with his best overall performance since the injury he acquired in week two against Syracuse. Likewise, West exploded against ODU for 170 yards and two touchdowns for what was by far his best performance of the year.
The Blue Raiders open as 3.5 point favorites against the Red Wolves. If they can prove the oddsmakers right they will win their first bowl game since winning the New Orleans Bowl In 2009. The Camellia Bowl will kickoff at 7 p.m. central time on Saturday, Dec. 16. If you can’t make it to the game, you can see it on ESPN.