By Lew Patton
Ohio Bobcats vs. Appalachian State Mountaineers
Saturday – December 19 – 4:30 pm CT
Cramton Bowl – Montgomery, Alabama
Appalachian State (10-2, 7-1 Sun Belt) has already matched a Sun Belt Conference single-season record with 10 victories and finished in second place in league standings. The Mountaineers are making their first-ever NCAA bowl appearance in their first season of eligibility after transitioning to NCAA Division I FBS from Division I FCS.
Appalachian State ranks among the nation’s top 20 in 17 different statistical categories, including scoring offense (37.2 ppg — 19th) and defense (18.3 ppg — 13th). The Mountaineers only losses came at the hands of No. 1 Clemson (41-10 on Sept. 12) and Sun Belt champion Arkansas State (40-27 on Nov. 5).
Appalachian State appeared in 10 bowl games at the NAIA level from 1931-1955. The Mountaineers’ last bowl appearance was a 7-0 loss to East Tennessee State in the 1955 Burley Bowl in Johnson City, Tenn.
Appalachian State also made 20 appearances in the NCAA Division I-AA/FCS playoffs from 1986-2012. The Mountaineers were 24-17 all-time in I-AA/FCS playoff games and won three-straight national championships from 2005-07.
Ohio (8-4, 5-3 MAC) placed second in the Mid-American Conference’s East Division in 2015. The Bobcats’ eight wins include impressive victories over Marshall (21-10 on Sept. 12) and Northern Illinois (26-21 on Nov. 24).
Ohio is making its ninth all-time bowl appearance. After making only two postseason appearances from 1894-2006 (1962 Sun Bowl and 1968 Tangerine Bowl), the Bobcats are making playing in their seventh bowl game in the last nine seasons. In their most recent postseason contest, Ohio lost to East Carolina, 37-20, in the 2013 Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl.
ABOUT OHIO (8-4, 5-3 Mid-American): The Bobcats have been to bowl games quite a bit under Frank Solich, and they’re hoping that’s an advantage against a team making its first-ever bowl appearance. Solich says the experience of preparing for a bowl game in the past should be helpful to this year’s team. “Obviously, if you practice too much, if you practice too hard, your players get beat down,” he told reporters. “We know what we’re doing. Hopefully, we’ll get them prepared at a level that will allow them to play their best football.”
ABOUT APPALACHIAN STATE (10-2, 7-1 Sun Belt): Appalachian State players and coaches are looking at the program’s first bowl game as a way to build the program, to prepare next year’s team to be even better. After some of their struggles during the transition to FBS, the Mountaineers want to continue to mold the team into a perennial bowl participant. “We want to carry momentum into next season,” sophomore quarterback Taylor Lamb told reporters. “It’s kind of looking to the future of the team.”
Prediction: Appalachian State 30 – Ohio 17