Match-up: Arkansas State (Sun Belt) vs. Louisiana Tech (C-USA)
Spread: Louisiana Tech (-1)
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome (New Orleans, LA)
When: Saturday, December 19th at 9:00 PM
Where to Watch: ESPN
Arkansas State Overview
After dropping three out of four games to start the season, the Arkansas State Red Wolves have been winners of their last eight games and averaging 48.6 PPG in the process, while running the table in the Sun-Belt (8-0). The Red Wolves are third in the Sun-Belt Conference in total offense that includes 41 PPG, along with 235.8 rushing yards per game which is third in the conference. All three of their defeats were to teams who were once ranked in the AP top 25 at some point this season (USC #8, Missouri #21, and Toledo #22), so it was a tough stretch of games to start. Having won their remaining eight games, the Red Wolves come into this game looking to win their 10th game of the season, which would be considered an excellent season after finishing 7-6 in 2014.
Players to Watch
Michael Gordon (RB)- The senior has been the rock for the Red Wolves offense the past two seasons. Statistically, his junior season was better than his senior season, but he still rushed for 1,055 yards and 9 touchdowns on a 6.4 yards per carry clip. The Arkansas State offense’s bread and butter is running the football, and it starts and ends with Gordon.
Ja’Von Rolland-Jones (DE)- Rolland-Jones has been a constant force on the edge for the Red Wolves all season, leading the Sun-Belt Conference with 9 sacks. The sophomore edge rusher still has plenty of room to grow, and that’s scary for his future opponents. He will look to have a big impact on this game.
How Arkansas State Can Win
The Red Wolves are going to have to have a balanced attack in order to win this game. Louisiana Tech’s defense is excellent, and their defensive line is one of the best in C-USA, so just simply running the ball won’t work for Arkansas State. Winning the time of possession battle by mixing in the pass with the run will be important for quarterback Fredi Knighten in this one.
Louisiana Tech Overview
It was a bit of an up and down year for the Bulldogs, as they aspirations of winning the conference championship. Ultimately their dreams fell short, but they still had a solid season. They finished second in the west division behind Southern Miss with a 6-2 conference record overall. They’ve been led by a stout defense that ranks second in the conference in total defense while allowing just 24.7 PPG.
Players to Watch
Jeff Driskel (QB): The former 5-star recruit and transfer from the University of Florida, Driskel never quite lived up to the hype coming into college. However, he found the right fit with Louisiana Tech, throwing for over 3,500 yards including 24 touchdowns and a 62 percent completion percentage. Driskel was always known for his duel-threat capabilites as well, as he rushed for 307 yards and five scores on the year, which was second on the team. It will be vital for Arkansas State to keep him in the pocket in this game.
Jaylon Ferguson (DE): The true freshman had a nice season for the Bulldogs during his first go-round on campus, as he was recently just named to the C-USA All-Freshman team. The 6-foot-5 and 256 pound freak totaled 6 sacks and 23 tackles on the year, along with a forced fumble. He will be a handful for the Arkansas State offensive line.
How Louisiana Tech Can Win
Stop the run. The Red Wolves love to run the football, but quarterback Fredie Knighten hasn’t shown enough in the passing game to pose a threat to the Bulldogs defense (throwing for just north of 1,600 yards). If the Bulldogs front seven can lead the charge in slowing down Michael Gordon, they will continue to give the ball back to their offense and as a result, dominate the time of possession.
Final Score Prediction: Louisiana Tech wins 31-24.
Christian Reilly- @CReillyTV
Image Credit – http://cjonline.com/sports/catzone/2015-09-19/k-state-scores-3-overtime-win-over-louisiana-tech