Date: Wednesday- Oct. 5, 2016
Location: Centennial Bank Stadium (30,964) -Jonesboro, Ark.
Kickoff: 7:00 p.m. CST
Radio: EAB Red Wolves Sports Network (107.9 FM, flagship)
Television: ESPN2, WatchESPN
Live Stats: AStateStats.com/AStateRedWolves.com
Live Game Notes: twitter.com/AStateGameDay
Series History: GSU leads 1-0
Vegas Line: GSU (-7) — O/U (56)
This game between the last two Sun Belt Champions was circled on the schedule for both fan bases many, many months ago. But here we are with the defending champions limping in at 0-4 after an embarrassing home loss to FCS Central Arkansas 28-23 last week and Georgia Southern appearing poised to make a run at the title with 2 conference wins under their belt already. The Eagles show up in town with some offensive identity issues trying to discover who they really are, an option team that passes or a passing team that runs the option? And who is the quarterback going forward for GSU?
We turned to fellow Underdogdynasty.com writer Brian Stone to get some Eagle insight.
- Most ASU fans still think of the GSU teams from the ‘80s-2000's running the option offense. What can the fans expect to see offensively from the Eagles Wednesday night? The Eagles still run a version of the option, but it isn't what you're used to seeing. The team has run more of a spread option attack since moving up to the FBS in 2014, and look more like an Auburn than an Army. The Eagles have incorporated more passing with the hiring of Tyson Summers, but it hasn't been a smooth transition thus far.
- Has the change at head coach with first year coach Tyson Summers at the helm, affected the Eagles on the field more defensively or offensively? The change has affected both the offense and defense in opposite ways. The Eagles offensively, are still struggling to find their rhythm and haven't found a way to effectively incorporate Matt Breida yet this season, and I have written about the offense's struggles ad nauseam. Defensively, Southern has looked better with its front-seven, but has struggled a bit with starting some young guys in the secondary. The whole team struggled against WMU two weeks ago, and hopefully the coaching staff will find some answers soon.
- Who is running the helm of the Eagles offense and what can fans expect to see from him? We have implemented a two-quarterback system the last couple of seasons, but based on the eye-test, Favian Upshaw will be the man taking most of the snaps from under center. He has been a more efficient passer over Kevin Ellison. Upshaw has thrown for 409 yards over the four games and has a 2:1 touchdown to interception ratio. He's also ran for 254 yards and a pair of scores this season.
- At this point in the season 3-1 overall and 2-0 conference with a now impressive win over S. Alabama included, what do we know about this team and what seems like the logical path through the remaining schedule? The team has played well in conference so far, holding South Alabama to just 9 points, although the ULM game was a struggle from start to finish. The ULM game sort of showed the chinks in the armor offensively, with Breida being used the wrong way, and the team struggling as a whole. But they're 2-0 in the conference, and it's tough to complain about a pair of wins, although I've tried my hardest.
- Who is one player from both sides of the ball that ASU fans should keep an eye on Wednesday night? Offensively, I think Arkansas State fans will have to keep an eye on Upshaw or running back Wesley Fields. Fields is just a sophomore, but has carved himself a solid role in the backfield and is averaging six yards per carry on the ground, and has three rushing touchdowns this season. Fields also showed some pass catching ability out of the backfield, snagging a 44 yard touchdown from Upshaw in the loss to Western Michigan. He's really been carrying this offense with the quarterbacks struggling in the passing game, and Breida not being as effective as we've become accustomed to.
Defensively, I think linebacker Ukeme Eligwe has held the unit together this season. He was left at home due to a coaches' decision for the WMU game, but the team looked really lost without him in Kalamazoo. Not sure what his status is of this writing, but the guy transferred from Florida State before coming to Southern, so he's definitely got the talent to make a big impact.
- The 1986 version of GSU that beat ASU for the 1-AA championship was led by QB Tracy Ham, what happened to Ham after GSU and is he involved with the program now? Ham was drafted in the ninth round of the 1987 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams, but he elected to join the CFL's Edmonton Eskimos during that season instead of playing for L.A., and bounced around to three more CFL teams while racking up over 40,000 career passing yards and over 8,000 career rushing yards. He was also elected to the CFL Hall of Fame in 2010, and currently serves as the Associate AD for Internal Operations for the Eagles, which he was appointed to in July 2014.