Date: Oct. 15, 2016
At: Centennial Bank Stadium (30.964) Jonesboro, Ark.
Kickoff: 6:00 p.m.
Radio: EAB Red Wolves Sports Network (107.9 FM, flagship)
Television: ESPN3 / WatchESPN
Live Stats: AStateStats.com/AStateRedWolves.com
Live Game Notes: twitter.com/AStateGameDay
Vegas Line: Ark St. -5 O/U 53.5
Series Record: ASU leads USA 4-0
“Who am I, why am I here?” —Admiral Stockdale
The 5th meeting between the Red Wolves(1-4) and the Jaguars(3-2) brings the two programs together at a crossroads in their seasons. ASU is trying to sustain conference momentum after stunning Georgia Southern on national TV last week 27-26 after going 0-for out of confernce. South Alabama seeks to get its first conference win (0-2 currently) after gaining 2 of the Sun Belt’s signature wins out of conference over #19 San Diego St and SEC member Mississippi State. So both teams are asking themselves “who am I, why am I here?”
Arkansas State “Who am I?” Offense
Until last week it seemed that the only way that ASU was going to win ballgames this year was to out-gunsling the opposition with huge passing numbers, that the rushing game was not to be counted on. But then out of nowhere appeared not one, but two 100 yard rushers in the same game! The team that only averaged 80 yards rushing a game found a way to pile up 343 yards against a defense that previously had only allowed 78 per game. Can this continue against USA? The Jags come in giving up over 200 yards a game and ranked 109th in stopping the run so the Red Wolves rushing revival may continue this weekend. With Justice Hansen only throwing for 182 yards in the win against Georgia Southern after putting up 700 yards the two weeks before, it reminds us that ASU is better when it’s a run first offense with enough of a pass threat to keep defenses honest. South Alabama ranks only 88th in pass defense, so there should be plenty of opportunities for Hansen to connect with favorite target Blake Mack.
Speaking of Blake Mack, the junior from Lonoke has been named to the John Mackey Award watch list for the most outstanding collegiate tight end, one of 30 so chosen. He has 22 catches for 389 yards which places him in the top 6 for both Sun Belt categories.
Arkansas State “Why am I here?” Defense
With the defense ranking 110 or worst in run, pass, and total defense, things seemed to finally turn around as the Red Wolves D only allowed Georgia Southern 8 yards in the fourth quarter last week. But here comes the Jags with two quarterbacks in tow, Dallas Davis and Cole Garvin. The two have combined for 1372 yards passing and 8 touchdowns with their leading receiver being Gerald Everett (26 rec, 393 yds) who was also recently named to the Mackey watch list. The Jags passing game ranks 35th nationally, so pressure from the front 7 will be key to keeping the USA offense out of the endzone. As far as running the football, USA only ranks 120 out of 128 and the rushing game for the Jags is led by Xavier Johnson (176 yds.) and Tyreis Thomas (161 yds.) with the duo combining for 5 rushing touchdowns.