Camellia Bowl 2019: Arkansas State Red Wolves vs FIU Panthers
Well, okay then!
It’s been a long time since the Red Wolves tangled with the Panthers of Miami: 2012 to be exact. On that occasion, the immortal David Oku rumbled across the goal line not once, not twice, but thrice for a 34-20 A-State victory. Consider it Arkansas State’s going away present to FIU, who would soon thereafter depart for CUSA.
Redemption may be a motivating factor for the 6-6 Panthers, whose catalog of victories include three 1-11 teams and FCS New Hampshire. (But it also includes crosstown rival Miami, which is sort of cool.) A win over the Red Wolves – who have similar motivations – would provide an added layer of legitimacy for an otherwise mediocre season of football. Call this the Legit Bowl. I didn’t trademark it, so have at it.
Losing to South Alabama is all the motivation the Red Wolves need
Those aren’t my words. Those came from Coach Blake Anderson himself during a post-regular season news conference. The 34-30 loss to the 1-10 Jaguars was a huge embarrassment (and maybe cost Anderson a job at Missouri, in my opinion). Arkansas State arrived to Mobile sleepy, uninspired and unprepared. Neither the team nor the coaching staff will want to make the same mistake twice with FIU on Saturday.
FIU is very okay at playing the defense
If there is a gridiron storyline to milk for this year’s Camellia Bowl, it’s the Red Wolves passing offense (14th) versus the FIU passing defense (6th). Panthers linebacker Sage Lewis and defensive back Stantley Thomas-Oliver are second-team All-CUSA talents that have combined for 4 picks and have led a defense that holds opponents to about 175 passing yards per contest.
Still, Arkansas State quarterback Layne Hatcher hasn’t shirked from challenging decent pass defenses – not when he has Kirk Meritt, Jay Adams, and All-American Omar Bayless to haul in the pills. If the offensive line can give Hatcher a couple seconds to work, the passing game should be fine.
Not much offense versus not much defense
The Panthers kinda suck at offense (97th total offense). Conveniently, the Red Wolves kinda suck at defense (127th). The Arkansas State defense won’t get a boost from injured nose tackle Forrest Merrill, who had been rumored to make a guest star appearance at the Camellia Bowl. So they’ll have to rely on a motley crew of characters who, when the circumstances are most dire, have been known to put up a stop. Look for Darreon Jackson, the Sun Belt’s leading tackler, to be plenty busy putting the breaks on RBs Anthony Jones and Napoleon Maxwell. The good news for the Red Wolves is that FIU quarterback James Morgan isn’t a significant threat to run. Red Wolves hate those guys.
On the Wolf Den, I predicted an Arkansas State blowout, while my co-guest Kara Richey called a one score game. I’m sticking to my guns here. The cards seem to favor Arkansas State, and I have a hunch that Blake Anderson will be coaching with a chip on his shoulder.
Florida International Panthers vs Arkansas State Red Wolves, Camellia Bowl, Saturday December 21, 4:30PM on ESPN
A former notary public, Jeremy Harper is a professional writer and Chief Instigator for Storm the Castle Creative. He spends much of his free time staring blankly into space.