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BOWL PREVIEWS: TODAY’S GAMES

December 16, 2018

Celebration Bowl

Alcorn State (9-3, 6-1) vs. North Carolina A&T (9-2, 6-1), noon (ABC)

WHAT’S AT STAKE: North Carolina A&T is playing for its seventh Historically Black Colleges and Universities national title and third in four years. Alcorn State is looking for its sixth national title and first since 2014.

KEY MATCHUP: Alcorn State QB Noah Johnson vs. North Carolina A&T defense. Johnson is the SWAC offensive player of the year after throwing for 2,079 yards and 15 touchdowns and rushing for 960 yards and nine TDs. The Aggies are second in the Football Championship Subdivision in total defense and have been one of the top units in the nation over the past seven years.

Cure Bowl

Tulane (6-6) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (7-6), 1:30 p.m. (CBSSN)

WHAT’S AT STAKE: Tulane won four of five down the stretch to become bowl eligible and is looking for its first postseason win since 2002. Louisiana-Lafayette is completing its first year under coach Billy Napier. A win would give the Sun Belt Conference runners-up their first winning season since going 7-4 in 2014.

KEY MATCHUP: Green Wave RBs Darius Bradwell and Corey Dauphine against a Louisiana defense that allowed 225 yards rushing during an 11-point loss to Appalachian State in the Sun Belt championship game. Bradwell is 16 yards shy of 1,000 yards for the season, and Dauphine is closing in on 800. They’ve teamed to score 16 touchdowns on the ground.

New Mexico Bowl

North Texas (9-3) vs. Utah State (10-2), 2 p.m. (ESPN)

WHAT’S AT STAKE: Utah State is making its seventh postseason appearance in eight years but hasn’t won a bowl game since its 21-6 victory over UTEP in the 2014 New Mexico Bowl. The Aggies’ 10-1 start this season was the best in school history. However, Utah State enters the New Mexico Bowl with an interim coach and an ad hoc of graduate assistant coordinators after head coach Matt Wells left to take a job with Texas Tech. Meanwhile, North Texas head coach Seth Littrell announced last week he was staying with the Mean Green and put down rumors he would take a coaching job at Kansas State. The Mean Green are 23-16 under Littrell but are 0-2 in bowl games. This year marks the second time North Texas has won nine games in back-to-back seasons.

KEY MATCHUP: Utah State and North Texas both have offenses that can score a lot of points in a hurry. The Aggies set a school record this year with 72 touchdowns and 566 total points. Utah State’s average margin of victory is 24.2 points, the third-highest in the country behind Alabama and Clemson. North Texas is ranked 21st in the nation in average points per game with 36.4. The Mean Green have scored 40 point six times this season and are set to break their school record with 316.2 passing yards per game.

Las Vegas Bowl

Arizona State (7-5) vs. No. 19 Fresno State (11-2), 3:30 p.m. (ABC)

WHAT’S AT STAKE: The Mountain West Conference champion Bulldogs look to set a school record for wins in a season by knocking off their second Pac-12 opponent in 2018. Having already won at least 10 games in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1988-89, a bowl victory would all but assure Fresno State ends the season ranked for the third time in school history. The Sun Devils will try to cap off coach Herm Edwards’ first season with a bowl victory, which would mark the first time Arizona State has defeated Southern California, UCLA and rival Arizona and won its bowl game all in the same season. Upsetting the Bulldogs would also position the young Sun Devils as intriguing contenders in the muddled Pac-12 South going into 2019.

KEY MATCHUP: Arizona State RB Eno Benjamin vs. Fresno State’s run defense. Benjamin has rushed for 1,524 yards as a sophomore and needs 42 yards to set the school single-season record. Averaging 28 carries for 154.2 yards rushing over the final five games, Benjamin showed he could be the Sun Devils’ workhorse. However, he will have to contend with a stout Bulldogs front that has allowed 3.6 yards per carry and seven rushing touchdowns, tied for the fewest in the FBS.

Camellia Bowl

Georgia Southern (9-3) vs. Eastern Michigan (7-5), 5:30 p.m. (ESPN)

WHAT’S AT STAKE: Georgia Southern is seeking its first 10-win season at the FBS level, though the program managed it 14 times as an FCS power. Eastern Michigan is trying to pick up the second bowl win in program history.

KEY MATCHUP: Georgia Southern’s running game vs. Eastern Michigan’s defense. Led by RB Wesley Fields (959 yards) and QB Shai Werts (829 yards), Georgia Southern is averaging 260.8 yards a game on the ground with 33 touchdowns. Eastern Michigan has been giving up 192.9 yards rushing on average while allowing 17 touchdowns.

New Orleans Bowl

Middle Tennessee (8-5) vs. Appalachian St. (10-2), 9 p.m. (ESPN)

WHAT’S AT STAKE: Appalachian State is representing the Sun Belt Conference as league champion and interim coach Mark Ivey, a former Mountaineer player, is getting perhaps his only shot to coach his alma mater after taking over when Scott Satterfield left for Louisville. Appalachian State has announced its next permanent coach will be North Carolina State offensive coordinator Eli Drinikwitz. Middle Tennessee quarterback Brent Stockstill is playing his final game under his father, head coach Rick Stockstill. The Blue Raiders QB says he wants to celebrate one more triumph with his father and finish on a winning note after losing the Conference USA title game.

KEY MATCHUP: Middle Tennessee quarterback Brent Stockstill against an Appalachian State defense that has kept opponent scoring low all season. Stockstill is the Blue Raiders’ all-time leader in touchdown passes with 105 and has completed 70 percent of his passes this season. App State is allowing just 15.7 points and 279.3 yards per game, including just 148.1 yards passing per game.

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