Cardinals to face No. 25 San Jose State in Arizona Bowl Dec. 31, will play in 1st bowl game since 2014

The Ball State Cardinals pose for a celebration picture after beating the University at Buffalo 38-28 in the Mid American Conference Championship Dec. 18, 2020, at Ford Field in Detroit, Mich. Jacob Musselman, DN
The Ball State Cardinals pose for a celebration picture after beating the University at Buffalo 38-28 in the Mid American Conference Championship Dec. 18, 2020, at Ford Field in Detroit, Mich. Jacob Musselman, DN

Fresh off its first Mid-American Conference Championship since 1996, Ball State Football (6-1 MAC) isn't done yet.

The Cardinals have accepted an invitation to participate in the Arizona Bowl, taking place Dec. 31 in Tucson, Arizona. Ball State will face the No. 25 San Jose State Spartans (7-0 MWC) in its 10th all-time bowl appearance and first since its 23-20 loss to Arkansas State in the 2014 GoDaddy Bowl.

Ball State upset the No. 23 Buffalo Bulls (5-1 MAC) 38-28 in this season's MAC Championship game Dec. 18 at Ford Field in Detroit, marking head coach Mike Neu's first championship win with the team. The Cardinals are riding a six-game win streak heading into the Arizona Bowl, and a win would give the team its first bowl victory in program history.

"We are thrilled for the honor to represent the MAC at the Arizona Bowl against an incredibly talented team in San Jose State," head coach Mike Neu said in a Ball State press release. "Our team has worked so hard and persevered through so much to become champions and to earn the chance to play on a stage like this. We are thankful to CBS, the Arizona Bowl and the MAC for their work in making this game happen despite the obstacles of this year."

Undefeated this season, San Jose State defeated Boise State 34-20 in this season's Mountain West Championship game Dec. 19. Graduate student quarterback Nick Starkel leads the Spartans' offense and has completed 138 of 212 passes this season for 1,906 passing yards. Junior linebacker Kyle Harmon leads the team defensively with 71 tackles.

The matchup will mark the first-ever meeting between both teams. The Spartans' last bowl appearance came in 2015, when the team defeated Georgia State 27-16 in that season's Cure Bowl.

The Arizona Bowl is in its sixth season. Amongst MAC teams, Buffalo is the only other program to make a bowl appearance this season, facing Conference USA East Division champion Marshall (7-2) in this season's Camelia Bowl Dec. 25.

CBS will televise the game, which is set for a 2 p.m. EST kickoff on New Year's Eve.

Contact Connor Smith with comments at cnsmith@bsu.edu or on Twitter @cnsmith_19.


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