It’s a clash of conference champions in Tucson, AZ.
The Ball State Cardinals (6-1, 5-1 MAC), fresh off their first MAC championship since 1996, are bowl bound for the first time in seven years. In the Arizona Bowl on Dec. 31, Ball State will face the Mountain West champion San Jose State Spartans (7-0, 6-0 MWC), who are one of five remaining unbeaten teams in the country.
Ball State and San Jose State both pulled off upsets on championship weekend to land in this matchup of conference winners. The Cardinals shocked Ball State, 38-28, in the MAC Championship on Friday night to win their sixth-straight game. Then, the Spartans followed up with a 34-20 victory over Boise State at their makeshift home stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday evening.
Ball State is one of eight FBS programs still searching for its first bowl win. Of those eight programs, none have experience the postseason more often than the Cardinals. Ball State owns an 0-7 bowl record, most recently falling to Arkansas State in the 2013 GoDaddy.com Bowl.
San Jose State is similarly participating in its first bowl game in quite some time. The Spartans were last bowl-bound in 2015, but they are enjoying their first winning season since 2012. Ball State head coach Mike Neu and San Jose State head coach Brent Brennan have both displayed similar trajectories for their respective programs. Both coaches enjoyed their best season at the helm in 2019 with 5-7 records, but in 2020, they broke through the glass ceiling to launch into bowl eligibility and claim conference championships.
This will be the first time a MAC team has participated in the Arizona Bowl. All previous matchups have consisted of Mountain West and Sun Belt teams.
The 2020 Arizona Bowl will kick off at 2 p.m. ET on Dec. 31 at Arizona Stadium, which serves as the home of the Wildcats. CBS is set to broadcast the game on its network on New Year’s Eve.