Double the Defense: Arkansas State Red Wolves vs Georgia State Panthers

Arkansas State (3-4, 3-0) v Georgia State (2-6, 1-3)

Thursday, November 3rd, 6:30 PM at the spacious Georgia Dome

You can Watch This Game On: ESPNU

Wagering (which is, of course, illegal and disgusting): Red Wolves -3, 50.6% FPI Panthers

Panthers have yet to fly a victory flag over A-State
Panthers have yet to fly a victory flag over A-State

As far as Thursdays go, this November 3rd offers a packed college football ticket with four games on the slate, the most important of which (to us Sun Beltophiles) is Arkansas State at Georgia State. The Panthers joined the FBS and the Sun Belt in 2013, and the Red Wolves have defeated coach Trent Miles’ squad at every meeting. However, all three contests have been fought tooth and claw, starting with the first meeting in 2013, when A-State managed a 35-33 second half comeback victory that damn near killed every soul in Jonesboro. Georgia State may have only started playing football in 2010, but the Panthers (who went bowling in 2015) are no joke.

When Last These Titans Met

Georgia State was a different team in 2015, led less by stifling defense and more by the battleship cannon that was grafted to quarterback Nick Arbuckle’s arm. The Red Wolves outlasted the Panthers in Jonesboro 48-34, thanks to Warren Wand’s 119-yard day, seven hard-nosed receptions from JD McKissic and a big INT from DB Nehemiah Wagner.

Wuzzup, Panthers?

After turning in a surprising 6-6 season that was rewarded with Sun Belt Coach of the Year honors for Miles and an AutoNation Cure Bowl trip for the team, much was expected from this Panthers program in 2016. The defense is as good as advertised (ranked 58th for Total Defense and giving up about 24 points per contest), but losing Arbuckle to eligibility and Penny Hart to a broken foot has reduced the Panthers to being one of the worst offensive teams in college football.

Still, the defense is keeping Miles and the Panthers in games. Sophomore cornerback Jerome Smith and junior cornerback B.J. Clay have three picks apiece. The secondary has allowed only five scores alls season and ranks 13th against the pass. However, the defensive line ranks 8th in the conference for sacks (9) and is surrendering 217 yards on the ground. To beat the Panthers, you have to pound them.

Red Wolves love them some Sun Belt

You may or may not have heard that the Red Wolves endured a miserable out-of-conference season, going a perfect 0-4 with a loss to in-state FCS foe Central Arkansas to cap it off. The offense was powerless. The defense seemed hopeless. The fans were left staring blankly into space.

Then hellooooooooooo Sun Belt!

Since entering Sun Belt play, the Red Wolves Total Defense has improved from 118th to 77th. Rushing and passing numbers trended up. In fact, nearly everything (but punt returns) is magically better now. This clever and handsome chart should make it clear as to when the Red Wolves began to feast exclusively on Sun Belt talent.

Stat Category Rank: W2 Rank: W4 Rank: W6 Rank: W8 Reaction
Total Offense 117th 102nd 98th 89th Wolves up!
Rushing 112th 125th 98th 101st Only netted 118 against ULM’s weak line
Passing 91st 38th 72nd 56th Hansen’s 4TD performance vs ULM helps
Total Defense 128th 118th 92nd 77th We’re back
Rushing Defense 127th 115th 94th 86th ULM gained the most, 174
Passing Yards Allowed 115th 89th 79th 65th Thanks, Warhawks!
Defensive 3rd Down Conv. 122nd 127th 117th 115th Still deeply concerning
Red Zone Offense T-117th 111th 115th 84th Biggest improvement
Time of Possession 116th 114th 100th 100th Scoring too fast is a fun problem
Punt Returns 7th 79th 114th 120th Why are we so bad at this?
Net Punting 72nd 106th 117th 114th Averaging 34, but averaged 41 vs ULM

Panther on the Prowl: Robert Davis, WR

The loss of Penny Hart turned the Panthers 1-2 receiving death punch into a one man show. Davis, a 6’3″ senior, ranks second in the Sun Belt with 579 receiving yards and 3 scores. Georgia State quarterback Connor Manning will need to start an early relationship with his talented receiver if the Panthers are to outscore the Red Wolves’ improving offense.

Wolf to Wach: Justice Hansen, QB

The Sun Belt rewarded Hansen’s 5 total touchdown performance against ULM with Offensive Player of the Week honors. The 6’4″ sophomore is the Sun Belt’s highest rated signal caller (147.5 rating) and has only 117 fewer passing yards than Connor Manning but with 71 fewer attempts. The Panthers are soft against the run, but so are the Warhawks. Hansen could be primed for another POTW performance.

Panthers have all the anthers

Arkansas State counters with the absence of color

Robert Davis is supernaturally reliable

Death, taxes and Robert Davis catching footballs are the only guarantees in life. The Georgia State superstar has caught a pass in 45 straight games making him the active FBS leader in consecutive game catches.

The Red Wolves Sun Belt win streak is on the line

This Thursday, it will have been 714 days since Arkansas State endured its last Sun Belt defeat – a 45-27 thumping from Texas State. Since November 20, 2014, the Red Wolves have collected 12 straight wins against the SBC. The Panthers would very much like to but an end to that.

Your prattle bores me! Out with your prediction, cur!

Arkansas_State_Red_Wolves2This game is being billed as a battle of defenses, but it will offense that wins this contest. For its last two games, Georgia State has allowed a single TD. But the Red Wolves well-balanced ground and air attack is much more potent than South Bama and UT-Martin’s. Look for the Red Wolves to be aggressive early, taking the fight out of the Panthers and escaping Atlanta with another bruising victory.

 

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