The prelude to the national championship game is not a BCS game, but instead a matchup between two solid non-power conference schools. Ball State and Arkansas State will square off in the GoDaddy Bowl, with television coverage beginning at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN.
The Cardinals lost an early non-conference game against North Texas, slightly tempering expectations for a run at Northern Illinois for the division crown. Seven straight wins later, including a blowout victory against Virginia, Ball State found itself playing Northern Illinois in a de facto division title game. Northern Illinois won, 48-27, and the Cardinals finished the year 10-2 without an appearance in the conference championship game.
Under first-year head coach Bryan Harsin, who is leaving to take over at Boise State, Arkansas State struggled early, losing to Memphis and Louisiana-Lafayette (as well as Auburn and Missouri) en route to a 3-4 start. The Red Wolves won four straight in conference play, including a win over UL-Monroe, and finished the season with a share of the Sun Belt crown.
Rankings and records: Neither team is ranked. Arkansas State went 7-5 this season, winning a share of the Sun Belt with a 5-2 conference record. Ball State went 10-2, finishing second in the MAC West with a 7-1 conference record. This is the first matchup between the two teams.
Vegas: Ball State is a nine-point favorite. The over/under is 63.5 points.
Weather: Mid 50s.
Three names to know
Keith Wenning. The Cardinals have had some successful quarterbacks over the years, and Wenning is no different. The senior has 39 total touchdowns this season.
Willie Snead. The receiver set a school record with 1,429 yards on 97 catches, with 14 touchdowns -- one of two Cardinals with double-digit touchdown receptions.
Qushaun Lee. The junior linebacker always seems to find himself in the right position, and was second in the Sun Belt this season with 119 tackles.
Two things at stake
After being forced to hire a new head coach for the third year in a row, the Red Wolves are hoping to start their new era of stability with a win.
Ball State has never won a bowl game before.
How to witness
TV: 9 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Radio: For Ball State, WLBC 104.1 FM. Here's a list for Arkansas State.
Online streaming: WatchESPN/ESPN3.
Location: Mobile, Ala.
Stadium: Ladd Peebles Stadium; 33,471 capacity, though it can be adjusted for various events.
Tickets: Find available seats here.
Last year's score: Arkansas State 17, Kent State 13
Last year's attendance: 37,913
Last year's TV rating: 1.24 Nielsen
Last year's payout for each school: $750,000
Team with the most all-time appearances: This will be Arkansas State's third appearance. Eight different teams have reached the game twice.
Team with the most all-time wins: Marshall, Miami (Ohio), Southern Miss. and Tulsa are 2-0 in their two appearances.
For coverage on the MAC, check out the Hustle Belt.