WHO: Arkansas State 6-4 (4-2) at Texas State 5-5 (3-3)
WHEN: Thursday, November 20, 8:30 PM CST, ESPNU
WHERE: Bobcat Stadium, San Marcos, TX
WEATHER: 67°/59° 50% rain
LINE: Arkansas State -5 (opened -5.5)
There will be no fourth straight Sun Belt Conference title in Jonesboro but if this means that the coaching staff decides to stay for more than a season, the tradeoff might be worth it for Arkansas State Red Wolves fans. Yet, that's a worry for another day in the (near-ish) future, likely for after the season and certainly long after this current game against the Texas State Bobcats. The Red Wolves must keep winning and hope for some help to break a tie with Appalachian State in the standings.
Texas State, for their purposes, is about as desperate for a win as it gets. After two gut punch losses to Georgia Southern and South Alabama, the Bobcats need to win out (and hope South Alabama doesn't win another game) to have any real hope of a bowl bid. Not to mention the team, the coaches, and the fans just need a win to get people in San Marcos paying attention to the program again.
TO BEAT TEXAS STATE...
Arkansas State's run defense must play well. File this under the category "it's not you, it's A-State," because the Red Wolves have had problems stopping the run for about a month. The A-State offense has played about as well as you could hope for behind Fredi Knighten and Michael Gordon despite a little tendency to go boom or bust, but the defense is a concern. Chris Stone, Qushaun Lee, Xavier Woodson and Ja'Von Rolland-Jones are great players who are great at pursuing the quarterback, but what if Tyler Jones has already handed off to running backs Robert Lowe or Terrence Franks?
You'd swear it's like the Red Wolves play in a conference where they rush the ball a lot. This is yet another opportunity for A-State to prove that they have learned something after the sad rush odyssey in Lafayette, and the end of a dream at sea level against App. State.
TO BEAT ARKANSAS STATE...
Texas State needs to use John Thompson's expertise. The former A-State and current Texas State defensive coordinator has done a decent job creating a serviceable if inconsistent defensive unit that's kept the Bobcats in games against Georgia Southern, ULM, Tulsa, and South Alabama. Missed tackles and giving up big plays on the ground (and through the air at New Mexico State) has been frustrating to watch, but it's easier to appreciate the job Thompson has done when one steps back and looks at his body of work with some perspective.
The Bobcats' defensive unit is more likely than not on the right side of being a top 100 unit, which may not sound all that impressive. However, considering that Thompson faced trying to throw together an aggressive 4-2-5/multiple defensive approach on short notice with a largely untested secondary and entirely revamped defensive line, it's a minor miracle this defense isn't bottom 10 in the FBS. If Thompson can use his knowledge of Fredi Knighten's, Michael Gordon's and JD McKissic's techniques to help David Mayo and company shut down the A-State attack, he could end up being known as the man who saved Texas State's season.
CBG: Everything is bigger in Texas, except when everything is average. And everything-alright, most of everything-about the Bobcats says that the team is average. Maybe, then, it's no coincidence that the team is 5-5 and is ranked sixth in the conference with a 3-3 record in #FunBelt play. Their offense numbers, beyond the rushing output, all scream "average." Even the "Bobcats" name does! And yet, what if A-State is secretly average away from home? Just as important, what if "Red Wolves" is a name that's a great idea only when like-minded individuals surround you? And then when you step outside of your comfort zone, you get the uncomfortable glances/stares? Let them stare, A-State. Red Wolves take it 33-24.
Will: Isn't a Red Wolf just a wolf that got sunburned anyway? Besides, their mascot logo looks far more constipated than intimidating, which is probably a perfect metaphor for life in Arkansas in some way or another.
Texas State may be average, but A-State's rush defense--especially post-injuries--isn't anything to write home about either. Appalachian State torched the Red Wolves for a staggering 294 net yards rushing, which bodes well for a Bobcat rushing attack looking to get its groove back after going limp against Georgia Southern (137 yards, 3.3 YPC) and South Alabama (106 yards, 2.7 YPC). Terrence Franks had success against a much healthier A-State defense last year in Jonesboro, so if the Bobcats can force feed A-State a steady diet of him, Robert Lowe, and Tyler Jones on option keepers for 5 yards a carry or more, those Red Wolves may just howl with impotent rage.
Combine a rejuvenated rushing attack with John Thompson working some aggressive blitzing voodoo magic, Tyler Jones lobbing bombs to Bradley Miller and Ben Ijah, and the team having all the motivation in the world to finally put it all together for a bowl game on Senior Night, and you have the equation for a program-changing win.
Texas State 31, Arkansas State 27