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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, October 4, 7:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: FIU Stadium (23,500) -- Miami, Florida. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: ASU 2-1, FIU 1-1. Away Record: ASU 0-2, FIU 0-3. Neutral Record: ASU 0-0, FIU 0-0. Conference Record: ASU 0-1, FIU 0-1. Series Record: Arkansas State leads, 5-2.
GAME NOTES: A pair of teams trying for their first win in Sun Belt Conference action face off on Thursday night, as the FIU Panthers host the Arkansas State Red Wolves.
After winning the conference championship in 2011, Arkansas State has gotten off to an 0-1 start in the Sun Belt this season after losing to Western Kentucky last week, 26-13, which snapped an eight-game conference winning streak. The Red Wolves are now below .500 for the first time since starting last season at 1-2.
The only win for FIU this year came at home against Akron (41-28). The Panthers have lost three games in a row, including their conference opener last week to Louisiana, 48-20.
Arkansas State leads the all-time series against FIU, 5-2. The home team has won each matchup dating back to 2007.
Arkansas State has shown an ability to produce big plays on offense (29.8 ppg, 480.8 ypg), but after scoring the first 13 points of last week's game, it was shut out in the second half by WKU.
Ryan Aplin continues to be one of the most efficient passers in the conference, completing 104-of-171 passes for 1,165 yards with seven touchdowns to just two interceptions. Opposing defenses also need to pay attention to him outside of the pocket as he has racked up 193 rushing yards and a score.
David Oku is the team's leading rusher, piling up 407 yards, which is already more than his first two seasons combined. He has also scored three touchdowns.
J.D. McKissic is about as sure-handed as they come at wideout, hauling in 34 balls for 328 yards and a touchdown, and he now has four consecutive games with at least six catches. Josh Jarboe (26 catches, 271 yards, two TDs) has also been a reliable target for Aplin.
The Red Wolves defense has been solid in terms of yardage allowed (384 ypg), but they have permitted opponents to score touchdowns on 16-of-21 trips to the red zone, which has resulted in a poor scoring defense (30.6 ppg).
Tim Starson has made plenty of plays in the backfield with 6.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Eddie Porter has two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery, and Nathan Herrold is among the league leaders in total tackles with 44.
The FIU offense (25.6 ppg, 369 ypg) has been fairly consistent here in the early going, putting up 20 points or more in each of its five games.
Jake Metlock had been solid under center, throwing for 827 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions, but he missed the last game with an injury. If he cannot play this week, E.J. Hilliard (25-of-36, 286 yards, TD, two INTs) will start again in his place.
Four different Panther rushers have gained 167 yards or more, paced by Kedrick Rhodes with 240 yards and two touchdowns. Darian Mallary (40 carries, 176 yards) becomes a big factor in the red zone, rushing in six touchdowns.
Wayne Times is the team's top receiving target, but averages less than 10 yards per catch (30 receptions, 288 yards). Rhodes is also utilized in the passing game with 10 catches for 130 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
The defense has shown very little with regard to stopping anyone, allowing nearly 40 points per game while surrendering touchdowns on 77 percent of visits to the red zone (20-of-26).
The unit has five interceptions by five different players. Johnathan Cyprien has a team-best 49 tackles and Tourek Williams has 5.5 tackles for loss.
With two struggling defenses, these teams should be in for a shootout. FIU should get a boost from the home crowd, but Arkansas State is far too talented to fall to 0-2 in Sun Belt play.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arkansas State 38, FIU 31
10/03 10:36:43 ET
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