GODADDY.COM BOWL STORYLINES
1. Arkansas State and Kent State are victims of their own success, with both coaches taking jobs at other schools since the regular season concluded. Kent State's Darrell Hazell, the new coach at Purdue, is sticking around for the bowl game. Meanwhile, an interim coach leads Arkansas State into the Godaddy.com Bowl for the second consecutive season. Defensive coordinator John Thompson will lead the Red Wolves after Gus Malzahn left to take over at Auburn.
2. There are three 1,000-yard rushers in this game. Arkansas State's David Oku racked up 1,043 yards after spending 2011 completely out of football following his transfer out of Tennessee. Kent State has Trayion Durham and Dri Archer, the latter of whom was a consensus All-American at the kick return/all-purpose position. He's the first consensus honoree in Kent State history.
3. The key matchup is whether Kent State can slow down the Red Wolves' passing game. The Golden Flashes ranked 11th in the MAC and 108th nationally in pass defense, allowing 276.5 yards. That could be bad news against Arkansas State quarterback Ryan Aplin, the two-time Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year who holds Sun Belt career records for total offense and passing yardage, and broke his own school record for single-season touchdowns with 23.
TV: 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
ABOUT KENT STATE (11-2, 8-1 MAC): The Golden Flashes won the East Division title in the MAC and is making their first bowl appearance since December 1972. Archer logged a 38.2-yard average on kickoff returns with three returns for touchdowns. Archer, who's scored 22 total touchdowns in 13 games, is the only player in the country with more than 1,300 yards rushing and 500 receiving. He also threw a 24-yard touchdown pass this season. Linebacker Luke Batton is the Golden Flashes' top defensive player. He has 132 total tackles and ranks as one of the top 20 most prolific defenders in the country. Kent State ranks second in Division I in turnover margin and - with 38 takeaways - is tied with Oregon for the nation's lead. The Golden Flashes have solid special teams. In addition to Archer's exploits as a returner, Kent State led the MAC in net punting and kicker Freddy Cortez closed the season with six straight made field goals.
ABOUT ARKANSAS STATE (9-3, 7-1 Sun Belt): The Red Wolves finished the regular season strong, scoring 131 total points in their final three games and topping 500 yards of offense in each of those contests. Arkansas State can break the school record for points in a season by scoring 20, a safe bet considering the Red Wolves topped 30 points in 11 of 13 games. Freshman wide receiver J.D. McKissic is Aplin's top target and - with 92 catches - needs three more to break the single-season reception record. Thompson, who in his first season as defensive coordinator, helped Arkansas State lead the Sun Belt in scoring defense for the second straight year. Linebacker Nathan Herrold has 109 tackles, the first Arkansas State defender to reach triple digits since 2007. Placekicker Brian Davis is a reliable weapon, with 40 made field goals for his career and a school-record 100 points this season.
PREDICTION: Kent State 45, Arkansas State 41