MOBILE, AL. - The 13th annual GoDaddy.com Bowl will feature a pair of 10-win, conference champions that boast exciting offenses in the final prelude to the BCS title game.
Mid-American Conference champion Northern Illinois (10-3, 7-1) will face Sun Belt Conference champion Arkansas State (10-2, 8-0) on Sunday, January 8. It will be televised nationally on ESPN at 9:00 p.m. EST from Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama.
This would have been a battle of first-year head coaches, but the Red Wolves' Hugh Freeze is one-and-done after filling the vacancy at Ole Miss. Offensive coordinator David Gunn was named interim head coach for the bowl game. Gus Malzahn, Arkansas' offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Auburn for the past three seasons, will take over the reins afterward.
Freeze led Arkansas State to a 6-win improvement over the previous season's 4-8 finish. In the process, the Red Wolves captured their first outright Sun Belt title and gained their first 10-win season since 1986. Freeze was promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach when Steve Roberts resigned at the end of the 2009 season.
The Red Wolves were co-champions of the conference in 2005 under Roberts, but never posted better than a 6-6 regular season record during his 9 years in Jonesboro.
As a high school coach in Memphis, Freeze coached Michael Oher whose story was told in the award-winning feature film, "The Blind Side".
Dave Doeren is in his first year as head coach at Northern Illinois which didn't miss a beat after losing Jerry Kill to Minnesota after the 2010 season. The Huskies claimed a 23-20 comeback victory over Ohio in the MAC Championship game to earn their second-ever MAC crown and first since 1983.
Northern Illinois finished the previous season 11-3 after interim head coach Tom Matukewicz led them to a 40-17 win in the Humanitarian Bowl. The Huskies also played in the 2010 MAC title game but lost to Miami (Ohio).
Sun Belt teams are 6-4 in bowl games over the last five years while MAC teams are 5-3 over the last two seasons after going 1-12 the previous three years.
Both teams rank among the top 23 in total offense with Arkansas State at No. 23 and NIU at No. 9.
Dual-threat Northern Illinois QB Chandler Harnish is 13th nationally in passer rating, 18th in rushing yards per game and and 9th in total offense.
Arkansas State QB Ryan Aplin ranks 23rd in passing yards per game and 10th in total offense.
Arkansas State has an extreme statistical advantage on the defensive side of the ball, ranking 22nd in total "d", 14th in points allowed and 8th in total rushing yards allowed. Conversely, Northern Illinois is 89th in total defense and scoring defense.
The NCAA's highest-scoring bowl game was played in the then-GMAC Bowl in 2001, with Marshall overcoming a 30-point halftime deficit to beat East Carolina 64-61 in double overtime. But Baylor's 67-56 win over Washington in this year's Alamo Bowl became the new standard for combined points in a regulation game.
"We still hold the record for the highest scoring game in college bowl history and are looking forward to the possibility of breaking that record this year with Arkansas State and Northern Illinois," said Silverstein.
Once again, the GoDaddy.com Bowl will feature a week of activities along with the game itself. The GoDaddy.com Bowl Mayor’s Luncheon will feature guest speaker Cris Carter, ESPN analyst and former NFL great, on Friday, January 6, and the Greer’s/Press-Register Mardi Gras Parade, Press-Register Pep Rally, Spectronics Fireworks Show and Press-Register Street Party will all be held on Saturday, January 7.
The Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com give Northern Illinois a 0.66-point advantage for the computer's 3rd-closest projected margin of all 35 bowl games this season.