The Arkansas State Red Wolves will host the No. 15-ranked Coastal Carolina Chanticleers on Thursday night for a matchup between a pair of Sun Belt teams heading in opposite directions.
Coastal Carolina enters Thursday night's matchup riding high following last Saturday's 59-6 victory over ULM to open conference play. The Chanticleers racked up 557 yards of offense and limited the Warhawks to just 203 yards in the blowout victory for their 11th straight win at home. They sit at 5-0 overall and 1-0 in the Sun Belt, having outscored their last two opponents 112-9. The Chants will look to keep the momentum rolling on the road against Arkansas State.
Arkansas State is anything but riding high after suffering its fourth consecutive loss last Saturday against Georgia Southern. The Red Wolves gave up 507 yards on the ground (most since 1954) and allowed seven rushing touchdowns in the 59-33 road loss to the Eagles. They sit at 1-4 overall and 0-1 in conference play. The good news is that the Red Wolves return home after spending the last three weeks on the road. The bad news is that they will be tasked with trying to snap their four-game losing streak against the heavily favored Chanticleers, the highest-ranked team to ever play inside ASU's Centennial Bank Stadium.
Arkansas State is 3-1 all-time in matchups against Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers scored their only win in the series last season, with a 52-23 victory over the Red Wolves at home.
No. 15 Coastal Carolina vs. Arkansas State
Kickoff: Thursday, Oct. 7 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Coastal Carolina -19
When Coastal Carolina Has the Ball
Sophomore quarterback Grayson McCall headlines a potent Coastal Carolina offense that is averaging 528 yards and 48.2 points per game. The 2020 Sun Belt Player of the Year has picked up right where he left off last season, completing an FBS-leading 80.2 percent of his pass attempts for 1,113 yards with 10 touchdowns against just one interception. The always efficient McCall also leads the nation in yards per pass attempt (12.9) and passer rating (225.0). He did tweak his ankle in Saturday's win over ULM, a game in which he completed all 13 of his pass attempts for 213 yards and a pair of touchdowns before giving way to the backups in the second half. Fortunately, head coach Jamey Chadwell declared McCall good to go for Thursday night. That's good news for Coastal Carolina's top pass catchers in wide receiver Jaivon Heiligh (24 rec., 499 yds., 4 TDs) and tight end Isaiah Likely (19, 281, 4). That's not good news for an Arkansas State pass defense that allows 300.6 yards per game through the air, ranking 121st nationally. The Red Wolves also have given up 14 touchdown passes.
The Chanticleers will have an advantage in the passing game, but their biggest edge will come by way of a high-powered run game that ranks sixth in the nation, averaging 257.4 rushing yards per game (6.4 ypc). Coastal's multi-faceted ground attack is led by a trio of talented running backs, all of whom average better than seven yards per carry — Reese White (53 att., 374 yds., 6 TDs), Shermari Jones (35, 288, 3), and Braydon Bennett (31, 274, 4). Jones may be the most gifted of the bunch, but his availability for Thursday is in question after missing the last two games with a turf toe injury. Regardless, the Chants' run game should have no problem chewing up an Arkansas State defense that is giving up 263.2 rushing yards per game and an FBS-worst 6.71 yards per attempt.
When Arkansas State Has the Ball
While the Arkansas State defense has been severely deficient, a Red Wolves offense that averages 473.6 yards and 32 points per game can be dangerous. That's particularly true for a passing attack that ranks fifth nationally and first in the Sun Belt, averaging 377 yards per game. Florida State transfer James Blackman is expected to start at quarterback for the Red Wolves on Thursday night. But it's likely that we will see sophomore Layne Hatcher behind center at some point as well. Blackman has completed 59.3 percent of his pass attempts for 1,264 yards with eight touchdowns and four interceptions, while Hatcher has a 62 percent completion rate for 621 yards with seven touchdowns against two interceptions. The pass-happy Red Wolves will lean heavily on a trio of standout wide receivers — led by freshman Corey Rucker (28 rec., 458 yds., 6 TDs), sophomore Jeff Foreman (22, 355, 2), and TCU transfer Te'Vailance Hunt (24, 308, 2).
The passing game is undoubtedly Arkansas State's bread and butter offensively, while limiting opposing passing games is the strength of CCU's "Black Swarm" defense. The Chants allow just 130.8 passing yards per game, which ranks third nationally. And they are the only team in the country that has yet to allow a touchdown through the air so far this season. Coastal also should have an edge in the trenches against a suspect Arkansas State offensive line that has already surrendered 20 sacks. Only six FBS teams have allowed more.
The Coastal Carolina defense has been slightly more forgiving against the run, allowing 138.8 yards per game and 3.56 yards per carry. However, that is still extremely solid and doesn't leave much room for optimism for a lackluster Arkansas State run game that ranks 118th nationally, averaging just 96.6 rushing yards per game. The Red Wolves' top three running backs — Alan Lamar, Johnnie Lang Jr., and Lincoln Pare — have combined for 350 rushing yards and one touchdown through five games. That said, Pare has been reliable as a pass-catcher out of the backfield with 14 receptions for 134 yards and a score. Meanwhile, Lamar (23.3 yards per kickoff return, TD) and Lang (19.2 yards per punt return, TD) are both viable threats in the return game.
Arkansas State ranks dead last in the FBS in yards allowed (563.8), and only UMass has allowed more points than the Red Wolves. That bodes extremely well for a high-powered Coastal Carolina offense that shouldn't have any problem lighting up the scoreboard, by ground or air, on Thursday night. On the flip side, a top-10 CCU defense shouldn't have much trouble limiting the one-dimensional Arkansas State offense. The red-hot Chanticleers win big on the road to preserve their unblemished record.
Prediction: Coastal Carolina 56, Arkansas State 17
Podcast: Recapping + Discussing the Numbers to Know from Week 5
— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS.