The last time the Red Wolves completely rolled the Sun Belt, it was 2011 and Coach Hugh Freeze took his 10-2 overall record to the SEC. Fast forward four seasons and three more head coaches to 2015. Coach Blake Anderson is three victories away from an undefeated conference record, with only UL-Monroe, New Mexico State and Texas State standing in the way.
Combined, A-State's remaining opponents have three conference wins.
On the surface, it would appear that A-State has a clear road to the conference title. But even the smoothest road has a pothole or smashed armadillo or a serial killer hitchhiker on route. Is there any obstacle on Glory Road that can stop Arkansas State from hoisting another Sun Belt title?
Rose Could Rise to the Challenge
Larry Rose the Third is no delicate flower. The powerful sophomore running back leads New Mexico State and the Sun Belt with 1,290 rushing yards and 12 TDs. Last year, Rose gashed the Red Wolves from 137 yards and a score, and he just punished Texas State with 207 yards and a pair of TDs. Yes, the Red Wolves defense is vastly improved, having already stopped Marcus Cox and Elijea McGuire. But a big game from Rose could spark an upset from the Aggies, who have won two straight after losing the first seven games of the season.
A Severe Case of Road Rash
The Red Wolves spend the entire month of November traveling the country, playing football games and solving crimes in small communities. Bouncing from Boone, North Carolina to Monroe, Louisiana to Las Cruces, New Mexico, the miles could definitely wear out A-State. Coach Blake Anderson will have to keep the team fresh and focused if he hopes to lead the Red Wolves to an undefeated season.
Warhawks Poop Bombs from Above
Hey, guess who is third in the Sun Belt for passing yards? ULM's Garrett Smith, with 2,013 yards, is behind only Nick Arbuckle and Matt Linehan for chucking rocks. Yes, the 1-8 Warhawks play a lot of garbage time catch-up, but Smith is completing 57% of his passes. It only takes one bad day for a road-weary secondary lead by Rocky Hayes and Money Hunter to keep ULM in the game, though Smith could use an assist from the Warhawks' 97th ranked defense.
Bobcats Convert Frustration Into Touchdowns
After losing so much talent from last year's tough squad, few believed Texas State could contend for the Sun Belt title. But nobody predicted such a catastrophic meltdown in San Marcos. The 2-6 Bobcats rank 115th in total defense and 89th in total offense. But careful QB Tyler Jones has 1,600 passing yards with only 6 INTs and RB Robert Lowe is averaging a decent 5.5 yards per carry. Remember, he's the same guy who ran for 4 TDs and 236 yards in a 45-27 win against A-State last year. Leave it to Texas State to wait until the last game of the season to pull it all together and collect the upset win in Jonesboro.
The Terrible Weight of Expectations
The Red Wolves began the year considered one of the conference's most talented squads, with a bevy of returning starters that included the leadership of Fredi Knighten. While A-State missed opportunities against out-of-conference opponents like Missouri and Toledo, the team proved itself the best of the Sun Belt in Boone. But can the Red Wolves close it out? Do they have the mental fortitude to to remain focused against lesser competition? What if Fredi gets hurt again? Victors have what it takes mentally and physically to prevail. We'll see if these Red Wolves have the stuff of champions.
A Meteor, Earthquake and Swarm of Killer Bees Destroy Jonesboro
The most likely of scenarios, this well-oarchestrated if unfortunately timed potpourri of calamities might be enough to stop the Red Wolves from going undefeated in the Sun Belt. But even killer bees may not be enough to stop A-State's swarming defense. Sorry, Sun Belt. Your overlords are the Red Wolves. Pay handsome tribute and hope Coach Anderson shows you mercy.