Bowl 2013: Offensive Stars Who Will Determine Outcome of Game

Brian Leigh@@BLeighDATFeatured ColumnistJanuary 6, 2013

EUGENE, OR - SEPTEMBER 1: Quarterback Ryan Aplin #16 of the Arkansas State Red Wolves throws a pass against the Oregon Ducks on September 1, 2012 at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon.  (Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer/Getty Images)
Craig Mitchelldyer/Getty Images

The Kent State Golden Flashes and the Arkansas State Red Wolves will square off in the Bowl this Sunday at 9 p.m. ET, the final appetizer before the BCS National Championship.

The game before The Game is typically considered "filler," but don't tell that to either of these two schools—they combined for 20 wins in 2012.

With Alabama vs. Notre Dame expected to be a brutal, low-scoring affair, this could be the final fast-paced game of the college season. Both teams averaged over 30 points, and they are both capable of moving the ball in a variety of ways.

Here are three particular players to keen an eye on.


Dri Archer, RB, Kent State

The 5'8'' Archer isn't much to look at in street clothes, but once he straps on the shoulder pads, he becomes a force to be reckoned with.

The speedy junior from Laurel, Fla., led Kent State in both rushing and receiving yards this season. Despite getting over 100 less carries than teammate Trayion Durham, Archer gained over 100 more yards on the ground.

In eight of the Flashes' 12 games, Archer averaged nine or more yards per carry. Northern Illinois managed to slow him down in the MAC Championship, but until someone duplicates that success, it has to be taken as the exception, not the rule.

Against Army, Miami (OH) and Bowling Green, he racked up over 200 yards of total offense. If Arkansas State isn't disciplined on defense, it could be the fourth team on that list.


Ryan Aplin, QB, Arkansas State

Unlike its Bowl opponents, Arkansas State prefers to air it out. And the key to that aerial success has been the sublime play of quarterback Ryan Aplin.

Aplin threw for 3,129 yards, 23 touchdowns and only four interceptions this year. He also had a quarterback rating of 155.8 (better than Johnny Manziel). Granted, Aplin doesn't run the ball as well or play against SEC defenses, but it's always good to "technically" finish above the best.

In the Red Wolves' season-opening loss at Oregon, Aplin was a bright spot, throwing for 304 yards and three touchdowns. He's been hot late in the season too, throwing for 1,269 yards and 11 touchdowns in the last four games.

He'll need to find similar success if Arkansas State wants to keep up with the Flashes. 


Trayion Durham, RB, Kent State

The thunder to Dri Archer's lightning, Durham ranks 16th in the nation with 256 carries. Playing in a dual-running back offense, that is no easy feat. 

The 260-pound sophomore has no pretense of being a home-run threat; that's Archer's job. Durham's longest rush of the season went for just 33 yards. In five separate games, he's failed to record a rush of 16-plus yards. 

But what Durham does is move the chains.

With 100-plus rushing yards in six of the Flashes' 12 games, and 20-plus carries in nine of them, Durham is a utilized focal point of this offense.

The Sun Belt Conference hasn't provided Arkansas State with the most physical opposition. The Red Wolves need to bring their hardhats to Alabama if they want to slow down Durham.