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David Scott | The Charlotte Observer | December 15, 2018

New Orleans Bowl preview: 5 things to know about Appalachian State vs. Middle Tennessee State

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A big week (and season) comes to an end Saturday for Appalachian State's football team. On Thursday, Eliah Drinkwitz was named the Mountaineers' new head coach. On Saturday, Appalachian State will face Middle Tennessee State in the New Orleans Bowl as the bowl season gets under way.

Here are five things to know about the New Orleans Bowl, featuring the Sun Belt champion Mountaineers (10-2) and Conference USA runners-up Blue Raiders (8-5), scheduled for 9 p.m. in the Superdome (ESPN):

1.The bowl will be an audition of sorts for Appalachian's players who are returning next season. Drinkwitz, N.C. State's offensive coordinator and quarterback coach, will certainly watch the game but won't be introduced as the new coach until Monday. Defensive line coach Mark Ivey, Appalachian's assistant head coach under Scott Satterfield (who left for Louisville), will coach the Mountaineers against Middle Tennessee.

RELATED: College football bowl schedule, scores, TV listings, matchup information

2.The bowl appearance is the latest confirmation of the Mountaineers' decision to move into the Football Bowl Subdivision 2015. This is Appalachian's fourth consecutive bowl since making the move. The Mountaineers won the Camellia Bowl in 2015 and '16 and the Dollar General Bowl in '17. Appalachian's 40 victories overall since 2015 are most among "Group of 5" conference teams.

3.The Mountaineers are led by quarterback Zac Thomas, the Sun Belt's offensive player of the year. Thomas led the conference in quarterback rating (79.3), yards per pass attempt (8.1) and yards per completion (12.93). Tailback Darrynton Evans has rushed for 1,037 yards, despite not starting until the sixth game after Jalin Moore went out for the season with an ankle injury.

4.The Mountaineers have played in an NFL venue one other time: They beat Georgia State 37-3 in Atlanta's Georgia Dome in 2015.

MORE: How every conference has fared in this year’s college football bowl games

5.This is also the fourth consecutive bowl appearance for Middle Tennessee, which lost to Ala.-Birmingham 27-25 in the C-USA title game. Quarterback Brent Stockstill, the conference's player of the year, leads active quarterbacks nationally in career touchdown passes (105) and is second in passing yards (12,165) and total offense (12,628).

This article is written by David Scott from The Charlotte Observer and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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