MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The time for the 2017 Raycom Media Camellia Bowl is nearly here and now the two teams destined to square off on Dec. 16 are known. It will be Arkansas State against Middle Tennessee State in this year's game.
These two teams have a lot of expectations to live up to. In its short existence, the previous three games have all been decided by a total 10 points (5 in 2014, 2 in 2015 and 3 in 2016).
A traditional Sun Belt Conference versus Mid-American Conference game, this year's contest will feature the Sun Belt Conference against Conference USA. This will be the second of two Sun Belt vs. C-USA games on the day. Troy will play North Texas in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl at noon on the same day.
"We try to find teams that fit each other. You don't want to put a 6-6 team versus somebody that's won ten games. So, you want to build a very competitive game and you want to find teams that fit the community," said Johnny Williams, Executive Director of the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl.
Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee have some history together, in fact, both teams used to be Sun Belt Conference rivals.
"their tradition of playing in years past, their fans will be very familiar with each other, the coaches are very familiar so you know Arkansas and Tennessee border each other... the states do, so we just think it's a natural fit for our game," said Williams.
In its now fourth year of existence, the Camellia Bowl has had a major impact on Montgomery's economy.
"When we first got this game about four years ago, we didn't really know how it was going to turn out, but it's been a real success for the bowl, for the people here in Montgomery, for the businesses in Montgomery," said Chairman of the Montgomery County Commission Elton Dean.
This year's bowl game will air on ESPN, and will be one of five bowl games to air on the ESPN family networks on the opening day of the college football bowl season.
Former Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Gene Stallings will be the fourth recipient of the Alabama Football Legends Award. Stallings coached the Crimson Tide for seven seasons from 1990-1996 and led the Alabama to an undefeated season and National Championship in 1992. He compiled an impressive 70-16-1 record in Tuscaloosa and went 5-1 in six bowl games during that time. Stallings was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2010. He has had several health issues recently, but he has recovered and will be honored at Camellia Bowl luncheon on Friday, Dec. 15. The luncheon will be emceed by WSFA 12 News Sports Director Stephen Gunter.
Past winners of the Alabama Football Legend Award include former Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden in 2014, former Auburn coach Pat Dye in 2015 and Alabama All-American linebacker Woodrow Lowe just last year.
This year's bowl will kick at 7 p.m. Central Standard Time from historic Cramton Bowl. Tickets to the fourth annual Raycom Media Camellia Bowl are on sale online. Tickets are $30 for reserved seats and $20 for general admission seating.