James H. Jimenez: Arkansas State is on its millionth coach in the last four years. How does the team look under the Blake Anderson regime, and what should Toledo fans expect from the Red Wolves?
Charles Blouin-Gascon: Well, Blake Anderson is only the fourth head coach in the last four years and the good news is that, at least as of this writing, he does not appear to be going anywhere. In 2014, the Red Wolves have howled their way to seven wins largely thanks to an explosive rushing attack and a defense that will turn you over (just ask Idaho!). Running back Michael Gordon is 49th in the FBS with 1,064 yards, which, you know, is kind of good. Toledo excels against the run, but if Gordon can manage a fairly decent game it'll open everything else through the air. Quarterback Fredi Knighten is good, but he needs a good running game to rely on-even against Toledo's mediocre pass defense.
JHJ: This is A-State's fourth consecutive appearance at the GoDaddy Bowl. Georgia Southern and Appalachian State weren't eligible, and UL-Lafayette chose the New Orleans Bowl, which left A-State and Texas State. How do fans feel about this bowl selection by default, and do you think proximity to the stadium will offer any sort of advantage?
CBG: I believe that the fans are happy. They had bigger and better dreams than this bowl game at the beginning of the season, but life will come at you fast and, for all their troubles, the Red Wolves find themselves at precisely the same Mobile, AL, town that they've visited three other times in this "one and done" era of head coaches. After the sad run odyssey in Lafayette, and the death of the dream against Appalachian State, it's fun to be here.
Sure, A-State may not have the Sun Belt Conference title to prove they deserve their place and, sure, they were selected over a Texas State team it lost to during the season, but these are the breaks. A-State will not apologize, because red wolves are never sorry.Which players should Rockets fans be most nervous about on the offensive side of the ball? And on the defensive side?
JHJ: Which players should Rockets fans be most nervous about on the offensive side of the ball? And on the defensive side?
CBG: The A-State lineup is one that has, to borrow an old cliché, been here before, seeing as it is littered with 14 seniors on both sides of the ball who have literally been here before. They know about the mayor's luncheon, the Mardi Gras parade, the Spectronics fireworks display and the Gulf Distributing alumni golf tournament. They're pros, so to speak. (Even though, you know, they're so definitely not.)
And yet, some of the key players are undeniably not seniors. The Red Wolves have been a little feast or famine all season long, too often relying on the two- or three-play drive to score points. Knighten has been both excellent and mediocre-erm, irregular-and his running prowess creates lanes for the explosive "Flash" Gordon. The receiving corps is deep, with Dijon Paschal and Tres Houston worthy counterparts to the ever-reliable (but at times injured) J.D. McKissic.
The defensive unit has battled injuries and a curious case of the "tackling running backs" yips this season, but it does have a few studs. Qushaun Lee is the heart of the group and, along with Xavier Woodson, he tends to be at the heart of most tackles. (He's also oddly prolific with four interceptions, which ties for the A-State lead with senior Artez Brown.) However, Toledo can be at ease knowing that freshman Ja'Von Rolland-James (and his 7.5 sacks) has suffered a season-ending injury.
JHJ: What is your prediction for the game? All but two of SB Nation's have Toledo taking it, and oddsmakers say Toledo by 4.
CBG: Well, they're all wrong-the oddsmakers, the SB Nation's football writers (save for two), all of them. Every time Anderson has asked me to howl this year, I've asked him how high... and I'm not about to stop now. A-State wins it 37-36, on a failed two-point conversion by Toledo. (See, I can be objective in my subjectivity.)
Thanks to CBG for answering our inquiries! You can follow this crazy fun Canadian Fun Belt fan at @RealCBG on Twitter. Also, give Underdog Dynasty a follow @UnderdogDynasty, because they're pretty cool too.