Texas State (6-3) at Arkansas State (5-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 16, 7:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Liberty Bank Stadium (30,964) -- Jonesboro, Arkansas. Television: Sun Belt Network. Home Record: Texas State 4-1, Arkansas State 3-1. Away Record: Texas State 2-2, Arkansas State 2-3. Neutral Record: Texas State 0-0, Arkansas State 0-0. Conference Record: Texas State 2-2, Arkansas State 3-1. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: Arkansas State will try to stay in the Sun Belt Conference title race while Texas State attempts to make up some ground when the Red Wolves and Bobcats square off at Liberty Bank Stadium.
The Bobcats were idle last weekend and haven't played a Sun Belt game since the end of October when they pulled out a 33-31 victory over South Alabama at home. The most recent contest the Bobcats were engaged in was a road battle against Idaho. Texas State grabbed a 37-32 win in that matchup and has now won three straight games to move to 6-3 overall, while it has a league mark of 2-2. Tyler Jones led the way against the Vandals as he threw for 228 yards and two touchdowns in the victory.
Arkansas State has won back-to-back games and three of its last four to improve to 5-4 overall and, thanks to a 42-14 thrashing of ULM last weekend, moved to 3-1 in Sun Belt Conference play. That mark has the defending league champions just a game behind Louisiana for the top spot in the conference. Adam Kennedy put forth one of his best all-around performances of the season against ULM as he threw for 235 yards and a touchdown and also racked up 102 yards and two scores on the ground.
This is just the second season for Texas State as a FBS program and the first as a member of the Sun Belt. Prior to this season the Bobcats have never matched up with Arkansas State.
Two Tylers have been leading the charge for Texas State from under center this season but recently Tyler Jones has been taking over for Tyler Arndt. In six games, Jones has thrown for 822 yards and five touchdowns on 64.5 percent passing. However, he has also been picked off four times. Still his production as been more impressive than Arndt's, who completed 55.6 percent of his passes for 447 yards without a touchdown during five games of his own. Arndt also has a efficiency rating under 100 as compared to Jones' 137.0.
Against Idaho, leading rusher Robert Lowe had a rather pedestrian game as he managed 61 yards on 17 carries. However, Lowe found his way into the end zone twice to boost his season total for rushing touchdowns to nine. In all, Lowe is averaging 5.9 yards per carry, amassing 769 yards on 129 attempts. Chris Nutall also gets work and has tallied 443 yards and six touchdowns on 73 carries.
When it comes to pass-catching threats the Bobcats are without a standout receiver, but the group has gotten decent production when needed. Isaiah Battle leads the team with 22 receptions for 198 yards and a touchdown, while Andy Erickson (20 receptions, 198 yards) is the only other player on the roster to have at least 20 catches.
The lack of work for the Bobcats' receivers stems from a reliance on the running game. Led by Lowe, the Bobcats are averaging more than 180 yards on the ground per game as compared to a Sun Belt worst 149.6 through the air.
The ground and pound offense for the Bobcats has been complemented by one of the stoutest defenses in the Sun Belt. Texas State ranks second in the league in total yards allowed (378 ypg), while leading the way in scoring defense (23.3 ppg). Michael Orakpo is the playmaker on the unit as he has 55 tackles and team-leading nine for loss.
Kennedy hasn't shared many snaps with the other Arkansas State quarterbacks this season and for good reason. Kennedy has thrown for 2,034 yards and eight touchdowns, while completing an impressive 68.4 percent of his pass attempts. Though Kennedy has been guilty of four interceptions, his ability as a runner makes him a dangerous offensive threat even when he is pressured. Kennedy has run for 354 yards and four touchdowns this season.
Running the ball may not be as big a priority for the Red Wolves as it is for the Bobcats, but it is certainly an important part of the game plan. The Red Wolves have five rushers with at least 200 yards and have scored 22 touchdowns on the ground, as compared to nine through the air. David Oku (436 yards, five TDs) is the main threat. However, Oku was sidelined against ULM leaving the rushing to Kennedy and the rest of the Arkansas State backs. Michael Gordon rushed for 72 yards and three touchdowns.
The receiving corps has also been productive for the Red Wolves with a trio of receivers having amassed 300 yards this season. J.D. McKissic leads the team in receptions (54) but has just 563 yards and two scores as he fills the role of possession receiver. Julian Jones (46 receptions, 603 yards, three TDs) and Allen Muse (24 receptions, 319 yards, TD) are the more explosive playmakers on the edge.
Arkansas State is in the bottom half of the league in total defense (422.3 ypg) but the unit looked strong against ULM, as the Red Wolves let up just 328 yards, while forcing a pair of turnovers and recording two sacks. Qushaun Lee is a tackling machine for the Red Wolves with 90 stops this year, while Ryan Carrethers (3.5 sacks) and Chris Stone (3.0 sacks) lead the pass rush.
The Red Wolves, coming off back-to-back Sun Belt Conference titles, look as if they are rounding into shape. With Kennedy at the helm, Arkansas State has a more versatile offense than Texas State. If Lee and company can clamp down on the Bobcats' running game, Arkansas State will be celebrating a victory on Saturday.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arkansas State 31, Texas State 24
11/14 16:05:49 ET