After dropping its first four games of the season, Arkansas State (3-4, 3-0 Sun Belt) currently finds itself in the midst of a three-game winning streak. The Red Wolves most recently dispatched Louisiana-Monroe 51-10 last Saturday. Arkansas State also has wins over South Alabama and Georgia Southern during its recent resurgence.
One year after playing in the AutoNation Cure Bowl, Georgia State is enduring a 2-6 season and has just one win (1-3) in Sun Belt play thus far. The Panthers are coming off of a close 13-10 loss to South Alabama last week. Georgia State’s two wins this year have come against FCS member UT Martin and a Texas State team that’s currently sitting in basement of the Sun Belt (0-3).
Arkansas State has defeated Georgia State in each of the team’s previous three meetings, including 48-34 at home on Halloween last year.
Arkansas State at Georgia State
Kickoff: Thursday, Nov. 3 at 7:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPNU
Spread: Arkansas State -3
Three Things to Watch
1. Run, Red Wolves, Run!
Arkansas State’s ground has been largely effective this season, especially when it comes to facing Sun Belt opponents. The Red Wolves have rushed for 665 yards in their last three contests. Arkansas State produced two 100-yard rushers in its Oct. 5 win over Georgia Southern when Warren Wand dashed for 140 yards and a touchdown and Johnston White ran for 126.
Wand is the Red Wolves’ leading rusher with 467 yards and three touchdowns on the season. White checks in at No. 2 with 279 and a rushing TD. On the year, Arkansas State’s running backs have accumulated 998 yards and eight touchdowns.
2. Vicious Panthers defense
Although Georgia State has just two wins this year; the lack of victories can hardly be blamed on the defense. In fact, the Panthers rank first in the Sun Belt at just 5.0 yards per play allowed. Like Arkansas State’s ground game, Georgia State’s defense as of late has been exceptional, holding teams to just 4.7 yards per play over the past six games.
In addition to not yielding many yards, Georgia State’s secondary is stingy in its own right. The unit leads the Sun Belt with six defensive touchdowns and ranks sixth nationally in that category. The Panthers also check in at No. 8 in the country in pass efficiency defense, which will provide a challenge for Arkansas State’s passing offense, which averages 240.9 yards per game and is second in passer rating (136.5).
3. The Woodson-Luster Wall
Arkansas State linebacker Xavier Woodson-Luster has been a tackling machine for the Red Wolves this year, entering this game with 54. Woodson-Luster opened the season with 10 stops against Toledo and added 14 more a week later against Auburn. In Sun Belt play, the senior collected 14 in a one-point win over Georgia Southern. During his Arkansas State career, Woodson-Luster has already recorded 252 tackles, which ranks him 36th among all active players in the FBS.
Arkansas State is streaking right now, and it’s going to be difficult for Georgia State to slow the Red Wolves’ momentum. Georgia State’s rushing defense is allowing 216.8 yards, a statistic that favors Arkansas State’s ground game which has churned out 222 yards over the last three games. The Panthers just don’t have the horses to keep up with the Red Wolves this time around. Arkansas State should improve to 4-0 in Sun Belt play on Thursday night.
Prediction: Arkansas State 31, Georgia State 17
— Written by Elton Hayes, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A sports reporter for The Meridian Star Newspaper, Hayes also has been an invited guest on “The Paul Finebaum Show.” Follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.
(Top photo courtesy of www.astateredwolves.com)