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Sun Belt Selections: Remember November

The race for the conference title is on.

NCAA Football: Arkansas State at Nebraska
Can the Red Wolves run the table?
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Last week was ugly for our picks against the number, but we continue to pick covers on the total. For the year, we are 45-19 straight up, 29-26-4 against the spread, and 37-22 with over/under.

It’s been a good season and we’ll look to keep up the winning ways this weekend. We have four conference games and one SEC matchup on the schedule and it should be another wild one in the Fun Belt.


Game of the Week: Arkansas State at South Alabama (+10, Over/Under 53) Saturday 5:00 PM ET ESPN3

This will be the sixth ever meeting between these two programs and South Alabama is still looking for their first victory. These two schools have played every year since 2012 and the Red Wolves have had their way with the Jags. Joey Jones and his program have a reputation for upset wins. Can they get another one on Saturday?

Ever since Sun Belt play began, Arkansas State has been on fire as they are 4-0 in conference play and have won each game by at least 16 points. The offense is carrying the way as they are averaging 40.4 points per game which leads the Sun Belt and is 10th in the FBS.

This is a passing heavy attack and junior quarterback Justice Hansen is having a spectacular season. Hansen has thrown 25 touchdowns and is completing 64.2% of his passes. He is averaging over 300 passing yards per game and has been this offense’s most effective runner. He’s going to be your Sun Belt player of the year.

Hansen is averaging 6.8 yards per carry if you remove sacks and has helped pick up a struggling rushing attack. Much like last season, the Red Wolves are having a difficult time getting the ground game going. A lot of this has to do with limited attempts. When given chances, Warren Wand and Johnston White have done some good things.

This may be the most balanced receiving corps in the Group of Five as five players have 23 receptions or more. Blake Mack is one of the best receiving tight ends in the country while Chris Murray is Hansen’s top target. Both have six touchdown receptions as this is passing game is very lethal.

After a slow start, the defense has turned it on in Sun Belt play as they’ve held three straight opponents to 21 points or less. A big reason for this turnaround has been due to the play of defensive end Ja’Von Rolland-Jones.

Rolland-Jones was the Sun Belt player of the year last fall as he recorded 21 tackles for loss and 13 sacks. After a slow start in 2017, Rolland-Jones now has 9.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks. All of these sacks and nine of the tackles for loss have occurred in conference play. Once again he is dominating Sun Belt opponents and setting the bar in the record books.

In the last two wins, the run defense has really stiffened as the Red Wolves held both UL-Lafayette and New Mexico State to less than 100 yards and three yards per carry. The passing defense has been very good all season and it totally shut down New Mexico State.

After the big wins against Troy and ULM, South Alabama has now lost two games in a row and this is starting to become a lost season. The Jags sit at 3-6 and a bowl appearance seems to be a long shot at this point.

The quarterback position has been a mess for this program as both Dallas Davis and Cole Garvin have had multiple starts. After playing poorly, Davis was replaced by Garvin in last week’s loss to UL-Lafayette. Garvin threw for 274 yards and two touchdowns in the game. It is unsure who will get the start on Saturday.

For the season, Davis has put up better numbers but it’s not by much. I think we’ll see both quarterbacks on Saturday.

Right now, though, quarterback play is not this team’s biggest issue. This offense has rushed for less than 100 yards in four of the last five games and that is a big reason for the offensive struggles. Georgia State and Troy both held the Jags to less than two yards per carry while UL-Lafayette limited South Alabama to 3.1 yards per carry. The team is reeling from Xavier Johnson being suspended for the rest of the season and they are just not finding answers.

The quarterback situation has obviously effected the passing game, but the receivers have been productive when given opportunities. Sam Harris, Malik Stanley, and Jamarius Way are all juniors and they are the top targets for this offense. They have all played well this season.

There’s no question this defense is the strength of the team and safety Jeremy Reaves is a big reason why. The senior leads the team in tackles and stuffs the stat sheet in every category. You could make a case that he is the Sun Belt’s best defensive player. Teams have consistently moved the ball against South Alabama, but this group has been able to force field goals and come away with timely turnovers.

On paper this screams Arkansas State blowout as this South Alabama offense is reeling and it’s going to be another losing season in Mobile. However, South Alabama consistently pulls off crazy upsets so you have to give them a puncher’s chance.

The defense will give Arkansas State a ton of problems and this offense will find a way to get scores. Arkansas State will win but it will not come easy.

Jaguars cover and the over hits. Arkansas State 30, South Alabama 24.


The rest of the Fun Belt...

Georgia Southern at Appalachian State (-18, O/U 53) Thursday 7:30 PM ET ESPNU

After consecutive road losses, the Mountaineers return home and desperately need a win. The fanbase is restless but a conference title is not out of the cards. They will be looking to bounce back against a Georgia Southern squad that is still winless. After a demoralizing loss to Georgia State, the Eagles might not show up after a short week of practice. Appalachian State wins big.

Mountaineers cover and the over hits. Appalachian State 41, Georgia Southern 16.

UL-Lafayette (+20, O/U 67.5) at Ole Miss Noon ET SEC Network

The Ragin’ Cajuns currently sit at 4-5 and are scratching and clawing for bowl eligibility. They’ll be hitting the road to play their second SEC opponent of the season. Ole Miss has one of the best passing games in the country and should have their way with this UL-Lafayette secondary. However, this Cajuns offense should have success against a horrid Ole Miss defense. This one will remain close.

Cajuns cover and the under hits. Ole Miss 40, UL-Lafayette 24.

Georgia State at Texas State (+6, O/U 47) 4:00 PM ET ESPN3

Georgia State’s run continues and the Panthers will be looking for their fifth consecutive road win on Saturday. Texas State has shown major improvement in year two under Everett Withers even though the record doesn’t prove it. Both offenses are throwing the football well so expect a high scoring game in San Marcos. It’s a letdown spot for the Panthers and I think Texas State pulls off the upset.

Bobcats cover and the over hits. Texas State 34, Georgia State 31.

Troy at Coastal Carolina (+17, O/U 52) 4:30 PM ET ESPN3

Over in Conway, Troy will make their first trip to Coastal Carolina to take on the Chants. This Troy offense has been an enigma all season but their defense has been outstanding. It’ll be a long day for the Coastal offense and their defense will just not get the needed stops. Coastal gets blown out once again at home.

Trojans cover and the under hits. Troy 37, Coastal Carolina 10.