The inaugural Myrtle Beach Bowl kicks off the 2020-21 college football bowl season on Monday, December 21st, with North Texas playing Appalachian State at 2:30 PM ET on ESPN. The game takes place at Brooks Stadium at the home stadium of Coastal Carolina in Conway, South Carolina.
Appalachian State concluded their regular season with a 34-26 win against Georgia Southern on December 12th. The Mountaineers are 8-3 on the season, with their three losses against Marshall, Coastal Carolina, and Louisiana coming against opponents who combined for a 27-2 record. This program has won all five of their bowl appearances after defeating UAB in the New Orleans Bow last year by a 31-17 score.
Senior quarterback Zac Thomas leads the team on offense with a 31-6 career record. He has completed 64.7% of his passes this season for 2075 yards with 19 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. Thomas has thrown for 6865 yards in his career with 58 touchdown passes. He has added 277 rushing yards this season with two touchdowns to add to his 19 career touchdowns on the ground with over 1200 career rushing yards. This bowl game could be Thomas’ last appearance with the Mountaineers, although he does have a final year of eligibility that could entice him to return for one more season with the team.
Appalachian State is ninth in the nation by averaging 243.5 rushing yards-per-game. They are averaging 5.29 yards-per-carry as a team. Running back Daetrich Harrington has opted out for this game with Marcus Williams’ status for this game questionable after both had injury-riddled seasons. Yet it would be a mistake to assume that will leave the Mountaineers short-handed at the running back. Sophomore Camerun Peoples has stepped up to rush for 807 yards this season, while freshman Nate Noel has emerged late in the year with a 6.3 yards-per-carry average.
Appalachian State holds its opponents to just 314.2 yards-per-game, which is 11th best in the nation. Only Coastal Carolina scored more than 26 points against them this season.
North Texas defeated UTEP on the road by a 45-43 score to raise their record to a 4-5 mark. This contest is the Mean Green’s fourth bowl game opportunity in the last five seasons after missing out on a postseason game last year under fifth-year head coach Sean Littrell.
Sophomore Jason Bean will get his sixth straight start at quarterback with fellow sophomore Austin Aune out for this game. Bean has completed only 53.2% of his passes in a time-share with Aune. Yet Bean averages 8.1 yards-per-attempt, which has resulted in 880 passing yards with 12 touchdown passes with just four interceptions. Bean is the more mobile of the two quarterbacks with 336 rushing yards this season.
Aune will not have wide receiver Jaelon Darden who has opted out of this game to prepare for the NFL draft. Darden leads the nation with 19 touchdown catches. After catching eight balls for 173 yards against UTEP, Darden completed his senior season with 74 receptions for 1190 yards.
Darden’s absence provides an opportunity for other Mean Green receivers to take a larger role in the offense. North Texas scores 35.1 points-per-game while averaging 515.0 yards-per-game. The Mountaineers’ defense may present the stiffest test this season for the Mean Green offense after playing only one team ranked in the top-80 in defensive efficiency.
North Texas is a big underdog in this game because of their porous defense. The Mean Green allows their opponents to average 6.44 yards-per-play which is the 20th worst mark in the country. Seven of the eight FBS opponents they played this season scored at least 35 points against them. BetAnySports
lists Appalachian State as a 21.5-point favorite with the total set at 67.