APPALACHIAN STATE MOUNTAINEERS (8-4)
at TOLEDO ROCKETS (11-2)
Ladd-Peebles Stadium – Mobile, AL
Kickoff: Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Line: Toledo -7.5, Total: 63.0
Toledo and App State are bowl opponents for the second straight season.
The 2016 Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama, was one of the best games of the bowl season. Toledo and Appalachian State were locked at 28-all through three quarters before a field goal with five minutes remaining lifted the Mountaineers to victory. The matchup was so good, apparently, that bowl officials wanted a rematch this year two-and-a-half hours away in Mobile at the Dollar General Bowl. Toledo enters the Christmas Eve Eve game as a touchdown-plus favorite after accruing an 11-2 record (7-6 ATS) en route to an easy 45-28 MAC Championship Game win over Akron. App State is no slouch at 8-4 (5-7 ATS) and a co-champ of the Sun Belt. Over the last five seasons, favorites of 3.5 to 10 points coming off a win of 17 or more points (TOL) are 25-64 ATS against teams coming off a 42-plus-point performance. (App State beat Louisiana-Lafayette 63-14 in its most recent game.) Over the last 10 seasons, non-conference games involving two teams that are outrushing opponents by 50+ YPG at least seven games into the year are 30-8 Under against totals of at least 63.
The Dollar General Bowl will be the last college game for Toledo QB Logan Woodside, who is the leading passer in team history and one of the greatest MAC quarterbacks of all-time. He's first in the conference and eighth in the country in passing yards this year with 3,758, and he's thrown 28 TDs with only five interceptions. Only Baker Mayfield has thrown as many touchdowns with as few picks. He did have his only two-interception game of the year against Akron in the MAC title game, but more than made up for it with 307 yards and four touchdowns. He threw for 247 yards and two scores in last year's bowl game. He has a grade-A number one wideout in WR Diontae Johnson, who is seventh in the nation in receiving yards (1,257) and fourth in touchdown grabs (13). WRs Jon'Vea Johnson and Cody Thompson are each over 500 yards for the year, and Thompson led all receivers in last year's bowl game with 99 yards and a touchdown. After Kareem Hunt left Ohio to dominate the NFL, Toledo has had no trouble reestablishing its ground game this year. RB Terry Swanson has 1,319 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns this year, and he's gone for 180-plus yards twice in his last two games. Complementary RBs Shakif Seymour and Art Thompkins each are over 600 yards on the ground this season, and Seymour has 12 touchdowns.
The Appalachian State offense bullied Toledo on the ground in the Camellia Bowl last year with 297 rushing yards, and, especially as underdogs this time around, they'll likely double down on that approach. (The game was a pick 'em last year.) The unit is relatively stronger on the ground, as it was second in the Sun Belt in rushing yards and eighth in passing yards. But that's not to say they can't throw. Senior QB Taylor Lamb is in his fourth year as a starter; he, like Woodside, will finish his decorated career on Saturday. He had the best passer rating in the Sun Belt this season at 153.9, and his 26-6 TD-INT ratio accurately reflects his experience. He can run, too—he racked up 87 yards on only five careers in the blowout win over ULL early this month. (Against better competition: 66 yards and a TD on 10 carries in the season-opener at Georgia.) While he completed only 14 of 32 passes in the bowl game last year, he tore it up on the ground with 126 yards and a score on only nine careers. It's a safe bet that Toledo's linebacker coaches have been harping on contain responsibilities quite a bit this month. Lamb has two primary targets: WRs Ike Lewis and Thomas Hennigan. They have very similar stats, although Hennigan did some padding against Lafayette with five catches for a season-high 99 yards and a ridiculous four touchdowns. He has a bright future in Boone. RB Jalin Moore is second in the Sun Belt with 912 rushing yards despite having missed two games. He has had 349 combined rushing yards in the Mountaineers' last two games. As dominant as State was on the ground in the bowl game as year ago, Moore mustered only 35 yards on 16 carries in that contest.