Start time: 2:00 p.m. EST, Nov. 20
Location: Center Parc Stadium, Atlanta, GA
Records: ARST 2-8 (1-5 SBC), GSU 5-5 (4-2 SBC)
Spread: GSU -16.5; O/U 65.5
After a three-week road trip that included two games against AP Top 25 opponents, the Georgia State Panthers are returning to Atlanta for the final two matchups of their grueling schedule. The first of those wind-down games is against the 2-8, worst-in-the-West Arkansas State Red Wolves.
Who is Arkansas State?
Arkansas State is best described by its aggregate score this season; the Red Wolves have been outscored 134-242. Their 134 points scored is joint-worst in the Sun Belt and 242 allowed is second-most in the conference. More often than not, the defense looks flimsy and at times the offense feels allergic to the end zone.
That low-scoring offense is led by QB Layne Hatcher. Hatcher, a transfer from Alabama, began the season as the backup to fellow Power 5 transfer James Blackman, but earned the job after a Blackman injury.
Allow me to rephrase: the offense is not led by Hatcher, it is Hatcher. The Red Wolves throw the ball as if running the ball is a waste of a down. Arkansas State throws 44 passes per game, most in the Sun Belt by over 20%, and gains almost 60 more air yards per game than other SBC teams. Despite having thrown, as a team, 15 interceptions (the most in the Sun Belt) the Red Wolves have not wavered from the aerial attack.
Hatcher has shown heavy favoritism for two targets, wide receivers Te’Vailance Hunt and Corey Rucker. The two share near identical stat lines. They have both caught 48 balls, but Hunt has just three more yards and Rucker has caught two more touchdowns.
Hunt and Rucker are just two of ten Arkansas State receivers to have at least 10 receptions.
The defense, as mentioned, is flimsy at best. Arkansas State’s opponents have been held to under 30 points only thrice this season with two of those three being wins for the Red Wolves. Defensive linemen Joe Ozougwu and Kivon Bennett are the on-paper eye-catchers, with 6.5 and 5 sacks to their names, respectively. Safety Elery Alexander leads the team in tackles by a margin of 17 and has forced three of the team’s 14 turnovers created.
How does GSU win?
Arkansas State plays a ‘we’ll let you score but we’ll score more’ type of football, but often neglects that second part. In games against Sun Belt opponents the Red Wolves have allowed over 40 points per game but scored just over 21 per game.
That bodes very well for the Panthers.
Despite a Jekyl-and-Hyde start for the offense this season, the Panthers have scored at least 21 points in their last five games; twice in that span they’ve broken 40. So long as the Georgia State secondary can continue Shawn Elliott’s beloved bend-don’t-break defensive scheme against the fire-at-will Red Wolves, the Panthers will be able to put up enough points to outscore the Red Wolves.
Much like their last game against Coastal Carolina, this is going to be a high scorer. It probably won’t breach the 80-point total of GSU v CCU, but Georgia State should score a minimum of four touchdowns with the Red Wolves not terribly far behind.
Prediction: Georgia State 36-27 Arkansas State