The Appalachian State Mountaineers (10-2) are set to take on the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders in the 2018 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. Kickoff is set for 9:00 EST at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and will be televised on ESPN.
Oddsmakers opened up this game with Appalachian State as a 7.5-point favorite, but that’s been bet down to -7 at most places and some even have them listed at -6.5. The total for this contest opened at 50.5 and that’s where it still sits today.
Appalachian St vs Middle Tennessee Vegas Odds & Betting Preview
The Mountaineers were the popular pick to win the Sun Belt this year and they exactly that. Appalachian State defeated Troy 21-10 in their final game of the regular-season to earn a spot in the first Sun Belt Championship Game, where they would defeat UL Lafayette 30-19 to secure the schools 3rd 10-win season in the last 4 years.
As is often the case with these small conferences, success comes at a price. Appalachian State head coach Scott Satterfield, who had compiled a 47-16 record in his 6 years with the team at the FBS level (4-8 first season, 43-8 the last five), left the program to take over Bobby Petrino as the new head coach at Louisville. Mark Ivey (assistant head coach and defensive line coach) will serve as the interim head coach for the bowl game. He’s got some tough shoes to follow, as the Mountaineers were a perfect 3-0 in bowl games under Satterfield.
The Blue Raiders surprised just about everyone by winning the C-USA East. Just about everyone had FAU repeating as division champs and those that didn’t had Marshall as the team overtaking them. Middle Tennessee beat both of those teams in back-to-back weeks to go 7-1 in league play. They defeated UAB 27-3 in a meaningless regular-season finale and then lost to the Blazers 27-25 in the C-USA title game. They finished 8-5, but three of the five losses were on the road to SEC teams (Vandy, Georgia & Kentucky).
This will be the Blue Raiders 4th straight trip to a bowl game and 8th overall under head coach Rick Stockstill (13th year with team). Middle Tennessee is just 2-5 in the previous 7 bowl games under Stockstill, but they did defeat Arkansas State 35-30 as a 3-point down in last year’s Camellia Bowl.
2018 New Orleans Bowl Free Pick & Predictions: Middle Tennessee +7
My early lean here would be to take the points with Middle Tennessee. While I picked Appalachian State to win this game in my bowl predictions, it was prior to Satterfield leaving for Louisville. Also, I thought there was value with the Blue Raiders getting around a touchdown, even though I didn’t foresee them winning. Now that Satterfield is gone, I love the value with Middle Tennessee and like them to win this game outright.
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I just think there’s an art to getting a team to play well in a bowl game and clearly Satterfield had something figured out. I just think him leaving really throws a wrench into things and takes some of the focus off the actual game. You got a defensive line coach that has to handle a job he’s not exactly prepared for and get his team ready in less than two weeks. There’s got to be some players thinking about transferring and I’m sure they are all checking in daily to see who they will get to replace Satterfield.
As far as the value is concerned with the number. Appalachian State started out the year 8-2 ATS, but they were overpriced in their two big games to end the year. They were a 12-point favorite in a 11-point win against Troy and favored by 18 in a 11-point win over Lafayette in title game. I just think 7-points is a lot to ask them to lay without their head coach against a team as talented as Middle Tennessee.
Not only were 3 of the 5 losses for the Blue Raiders true road games against SEC opponents, but their other two losses came by a combined 5-points. I just feel like a lot of people look at their 8-5 record and think they aren’t that great of a team coming out of Conference USA.
One of the big reasons I like them in this game is senior quarterback Brent Stockstill, who came into this season already the all-time leading passer in Middle Tennessee history. He completed 71% of his attempts for more than 3,200 yards and posted a 28-8 TD-INT ratio. He’s the son of the head coach and I have to think the entire team is going to play their hearts out to make sure his final game is one to remember. Give me the Blue Raiders +7!