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Missouri Tigers vs. Arkansas State Red Wolves Preview and Prediction

Author:
Maty Mauk

Maty Mauk

Missouri enjoyed a dominant 34-3 win against Southeast Missouri State to kick off its 2015 season. The Tigers’ offense outgained the Bears by a 417-201 margin.

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In Week 2, Missouri travels to Arkansas State and the "House that Gus Built" for the Red Wolves' home opener. Arkansas State is coming off a 55-6 loss to USC, despite its offense accounting for 401 yards.

Both teams feature dual-threat quarterbacks in Maty Mauk and Fredi Knighten. However, Missouri faces some crucial injury concerns with both star running back Russell Hansbrough and center Evan Boehm listed as Questionable to play.

Will Arkansas State be able to capitalize on home-field advantage or will Missouri prevail, despite facing depth chart concerns?

Missouri at Arkansas State

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ESPN3
Spread: Missouri -11

Three Things to Watch

1. Will Russell Hansbrough play?

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Hansbrough is one of the few returning offensive starters for Missouri. Last week he recorded just 23 yards on two carries before leaving with a right leg injury. Hansbrough is listed as Questionable for Saturday night’s game and has been seen wearing a medical boot, according to KCTV News in Kansas City. If he can't play, the Tigers will likely turn to sophomore Ish Witter, who had 33 yards on 13 attempts in Hansbrough's absence last week.

2. Missouri defense vs. Arkansas State offense

Once again, Missouri looks to replace several standouts on the defensive line including SEC Player of the Year Shane Ray, veteran Markus Golden and injured defensive tackle Harold Brantley. But the Tigers fared well in their season opener by allowing only three points, 201 yards, 3.1 yards per play and 10 first downs to Southeast Missouri State. Arkansas State has an explosive offense that includes senior wide receiver J.D. McKissic — the nation's active leader with 242 career receptions — and dual-threat quarterback Fredi Knighten. Can the Tigers slow down the Red Wolves attack with both pressure and proper coverage in the secondary?

3. Battle in the trenches

Arkansas State has two preseason first-team All-Sun Belt defensive ends in senior Chris Stone and sophomore Ja'Von Rolland-Jones. The Red Wolves may also receive a boost from sophomore defensive tackle Chuks Ota, who is expected to return from an ankle injury. Missouri could be without its senior center (Boehm) who, like Hansbrough, left the opener with a right ankle sprain and is listed as Questionable. The Tigers have two other seniors (left tackle Connor McGovern and right guard Mitch Hall) as well as two sophomores (left guard Alec Abeln and right tackle Nate Crawford) expected to start up front.

Final Analysis

Missouri should be expected to capture its second victory of 2015 on Saturday. However, it wouldn’t completely shock anyone if Arkansas State was able to pull off the upset. We've seen stranger things happen with the Tigers, including a loss to Indiana before going on a winning streak that eventually brought them an SEC East title in 2014. But the smart money is on Missouri to earn a win in an underrated matchup.

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Prediction: Missouri 28, Arkansas State 17

— Written by Jason Hall, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and works for Fox Sports Florida. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhallFSN.