NEW ORLEANS BOWL
No 20 Appalachian State (12-1, Sun Belt) vs. UAB (9-4, Conference USA), Saturday at 9 p.m. EST (ESPN).
Line: Appalachian State by 17.
Series record: First meeting.
WHAT'S AT STAKE
Appalachian State wants to finish ranked — preferably in the top 20 — and that won't happen if they cannot defeat a UAB team coming off a lopsided loss in the Conference USA title game. The Mountaineers also are trying to go 5-0 in bowls in their first five bowl eligible season since their transition from FCS-level play to the top tier of Division I. UAB is seeking its second bowl victory and third victory over a ranked team in program history.
Appalachian State's balanced and multiple offense run by dual-threat QB Zac Thomas against an attacking UAB defense that ranks ninth nationally in yards allowed per game and eighth in sacks per game. The Mountaineers this season have averaged 229.2 yards rushing and 206.3 yards passing, while scoring 34 TDs on the ground and 28 through the air. The Blazers have allowed less than 300 yards per game while totaling 99 tackles for loss and 43 sacks.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Appalachian State: RB Darrynton Evans rushed for more than 1,100 yards for a second straight season to go with 23 total touchdowns, including 17 rushing, five receiving and one on a kick return. He needs two touchdowns to break the Sun Belt record for TDs in a season of 24 set by Middle Tennessee's Dwone Hicks in 2001.
UAB: LB Kristopher Moll has the speed to pursue the ball from sideline to sideline and has been a blitzing ace for the Blazers. He has 16 tackles for loss, nine sacks and four forced fumbles.
FACTS & FIGURES
Appalachian State is the first ranked team to play in the New Orleans Bowl, which began in 2000. ... Shawn Clark makes his debut as Appalachian State head coach after taking over for Eliah Drinkwitz, who left for Missouri. ... The Mountaineers are the first team to win bowl games in each of their first four bowl-eligible seasons, including last season's New Orleans Bowl, and also have hosted and won the first two Sun Belt Conference championship games in 2018 and 2019. ... For the second straight season, Appalachian State has had its head coach leave before the New Orleans Bowl. Scott Satterfield left before last year's bowl game to take over at Louisville. ... UAB is in its third season since its football was re-instated in the wake of a brief but highly unpopular disbandment in 2015. ... The Blazers have made a bowl game in all three seasons since resuming the program, securing a first bowl victory last season over Northern Illinois in the Boca Raton Bowl. ... Quarterback Tyler Johnston III, who started UAB's first eight games and passed for 1,952 yards and 15 TDs, is back after missing the final four regular season games with a knee injury. While he returned to action in relief of Dylan Hopkins during a loss to FAU in the Conference USA championship game, his return to a starting role opens up the playbook after the Blazers opted for a run-heavy attack during his absence.
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