Here we go with The Camellia Bowl
Appalachian State (9-3, 7-1 Sun Belt) vs. Toledo (9-3, 6-2 Mid-American West)
Saturday, December 17th, 2016 5:30pm est
Radio: WKBC 97.3 Wilkesboro, Charlotte, Winston Salem, Hickory & High Country; WATA 1450 Boone, Blowing Rock; WGVZ ESPN 730 Charlotte, Rock Hill, Salisbury; WCOG 1320 Winston-Salem, Greensboro; WCMC 99.3 Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill; WZGM 1350 Black Mountain, Asheville; WDNC 620 Durham, Raleigh; WHKP 1450, WHKP 107.7 Hendersonville; WAZZ 1490, WAZZ 94.3 Fayetteville; WPWT 870 AM, 100.7 FM Bristol/Johnson City, TN
Surface: Field Turf
Jeff Sagarin Ratings
App State: 73.65
Toledo is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 0.5 points (rounded)
Sportsbook: Toledo -1.5
Series: First Meeting
Last meeting: n/a
It wasn’t long ago, although it seems like it, that Appalachian was reserved to playing out its season, needing help to either win a conference championship or play in a supposedly prestigious bowl game. The results from earlier in the day on November 26th, specifically Arkansas State’s loss to Lafayette, gave the Mountaineers a chance to clinch a share of the Sun Belt title. The idea of a conference championship was not even mentioned here three weeks ago. Winning a share of the conference crown ultimately hindered Appalachian’s chances of heading to the French Quarter for bowl season. However, the opportunity to play one of the better Group of Five teams in Toledo provides plenty of excitement for both sides. Ohio didnt move the needle for Mountaineer fans in 2015, and they didnt need to, as the Apps were bowling for the first time in school history. Suddenly, the newness of competing in bowl games has worn off in year two of bowl eligibility, and the Camellia Bowl for a second consecutive season doesn’t stir the same excitement. But Toledo is not Ohio. It might be in Ohio, but its not the same. Toledo was the third best team in the MAC in 2016, mainly due to the emergence of Western Michigan, but that does not mean they are pushovers. They can easily win or lose on Saturday just as much as our Mountaineers might. If last year was any indication, we’ll are all in for a treat on Saturday.
Toledo has currently strung together seven straight winning seasons, while their last two coaches moved on to Power Five head coaching positions. Tim Beckman coached three seasons in Toledo before moving on to Illinois, while Matt Campbell coached four seasons before heading to Iowa State. Current first year head coach Jason Candle has been on the sidelines in Toledo since 2009, the last season the Rockets did not post a winning record. Candle hails from Division III super power Mount Union, where he lined up at wide receiver and eventually coached the position he played and coordinated the offense for two seasons before his tenure at Toledo began.
The Rockets sport an all time 10-5 record in bowl games, winning two in a row over Temple and the friends we all love to hate in Arkansas State. In fact, Toledo has played the Red Wolves each of the past three seasons beginning with the GoDaddy Bowl at the end of the 2014 season. The Rockets and Red Wolves then faced off in a home-and-home in 2015 and 2016. Toledo won all three games convincingly. This season, Toledo suffered a tough luck loss in Provo, UT to Brigham Young in a high scoring affair, and lost to both participants of the MAC Championship game in Ohio and Western Michigan.
A lot of the attention that Toledo garners revolves around an explosive offense that racks up yards in bunches. The Rockets are fourth in the country in total yards, eighth in passing yards, 18th in scoring, and 16th in first downs. They live off the big play, mostly through the air. Quarterback Logan Woodside has at least three touchdown passes in every game this season and has 6 games over 300 yards passing. That gives him an astounding total of 43 touchdown passes on the season, to only nine interceptions. That is a ratio of an interception for every for every 43.5 attempts, and Woodisde has only surpassed 43.5 attempts in one game this season. However, Woodside has managed four interceptions in his last three games, coming on just 96 attempts. The ratio over the last four games is an interception for every 24 attempts.
Woodside unloads the majority of his passes to four different targets. They all bring a different element for their offense to attack defenses. Cody Thompson is the leading receiver in terms of yards, with 1,170 and 10 touchdowns. Corey Jones leads the teams in receptions with 60 and used primary in the intermediate zones on the field. Jon’Vea Johnson doesn’t see the volume that Thompson and Jones do, but he makes up for that averaging close to twenty yards per catch to along with his ten touchdowns. Tight end Michael Roberts leads the team with 15 receiving touchdowns only 43 catches on the season. Kareem Hunt is beneficiary of all the passing that Toledo does as he is the their bellcow on the ground. Hunt has half the teams rushing attempts on the season to along with his 1,355 yards, and also is a threat in the passing game with 39 receptions.
Countering the Toledo air attack will be easily the toughest defense the Rockets have faced this season. Besides boasting the nations 6th best pass efficient defense, the Mountaineers have picked off twenty passes on the season, good enough for the third most in the country. Woodside managed a season low 229 yards and threw two interceptions against Western Michigan in his last outing. The Broncos are the only other team on Toledo’s schedule who rank in the top quarter of the country in both passed intercepted and pass efficiency defense.
The Mountaineers have a little bit of offense of their own, but take a completely different approach than Toledo. The Apps prefer to pass to establish run, while Toledo runs to establish the pass. Jalin Moore’s 1,367 yards leads the team, but Marcus Cox has been the thoroughbred for four years and his 872 yards in eight games are equally impressive. Taylor Lamb provides fleet feet in the running game when opposing defenses focus too much on Moore and Cox. Mountaineers quarterbacks have thrown touchdown passes to twelve different receivers on the season which keeps defenses honest regardless who lines up on the field.
With similar records in regular season play, this matchup is exactly what the Camellia Bowl wants in its third ever game. Both squads had a game early in the season that got away from them in the waning moments. The way Toledo lost at Brigham Young was almost as unexpected as the way the Mountaineers fell at Tennessee. Equally, both teams lost games in conference play that were decided by less than a touchdown that had major impacts on their respective conference races. But neither team, Appalachian or Toledo, really beat a team that they were not favored to. Unless you want to include Arkansas State falling hard to the Rockets after being favored by 4.5 points. That result was a small surprise then, but not so much now. So, both teams are looking for a signature win on their season. Both looking to get to ten wins. Both teams with exceptional talent in the backfield and signal callers that execute their game plans well. But what sets these teams apart from the other? It’s clear that Appalachian’s defense is superior to that of Toledo. The Mountaineers’ bend a little, but dont completely break style compares well to Toledo that likes to spread you all over the field. Toledo’s red zone offense is seventh in the country, the App red zone defense also ranks seventh nationwide. Toledo will some matchups against the App defense, and vice versa. The real key to this game is what Appalachian does when it has the ball. Do they methodically ground the Rockets into the ground with their patient attack? Will Toledo have the ball enough to get to thirty points and score more than their defense allows. Ultimately, the thirty point mark is what both teams will be shooting for. I think Appalachian gets there first and shortens the game in the fourth quarter for their second bowl win in as many games.
The First Pick
Bottle Rockets 24