Arkansas State vs. Central Arkansas prediction and game preview. Projecting who wins the game between the Red Wolves and Bears.
Arkansas State vs. Central Arkansas Game Preview
When: Saturday, September 24 – 7:00 p.m. ET
Where: Centennial Bank Stadium, Jonesboro, Ark.
The Red Wolves have been one of the Group of Five’s biggest disappointments this month, losing by at least two touchdowns to Toledo, Auburn and Utah State. Still, they started slowly in 2015, too, before rallying to sweep the Sun Belt Conference schedule and appearing in the New Orleans Bowl. It’s now-or-never for Arkansas State, which recruits some of the same players as Central Arkansas, a school just two hours southwest down Route 67. The Bears are 2-1, including a loss to Samford and a pair of wins in Southland Conference play.
What To Know About Arkansas State
Life after QB Fredi Knighten and RB Michael Gordon has not been kind to the offense in September. The Red Wolves are struggling to find consistency around a couple of high-profile transfer quarterbacks, former Pitt Panther Chad Voytik and former Oklahoma recruit Justice Hansen. The O-line is comprised entirely of seniors, yet Arkansas State has been unable to move the pile or convert on third downs. A once-promising defense is also underachieving, sitting 124th nationally at almost seven yards per play allowed. The staff has a long to-do list before Georgia Southern visits Oct. 5 to start league play.
What to Know About Central Arkansas
The Bears were picked in the preseason to finish third in the 11-team Southland, and they’ve yet to disappoint. Steve Campbell’s third team in Conway can win games in myriad ways, from the passing of Hayden Hildebrand to a defense that’s already notched 11 sacks and 31 tackles for loss. In its lone loss of the season, Central Arkansas more than doubled Samford’s offensive output, but was unable to overcome a pair Bulldog defensive scores.
Offense: Arkansas State. Don’t be fooled by the raw numbers. Red Wolves have faced a much tougher schedule this month.
Defense: Central Arkansas. It’s close, and this is likely the Bears’ toughest test of 2016, but they get up the field in a hurry, while yielding just two yards a carry.
Special Teams: Arkansas State. Neither team is acing special teams, though steady J.D. Houston gives the Red Wolves the edge in the kicking game.
Coaching: Arkansas State. Blake Anderson began the year as an up-and-comer in the coaching ranks. He still might be, but he needs to get off the schneid in Week 4.
Intangibles: Arkansas State. Winless and ornery, the Red Wolves figure to be hungry Saturday night. If not, this season is unsalvageable.
Matchup To Watch
Central Arkansas WRs Jatavious Wilson, Desmond Smith vs. Arkansas State secondary
A Red Wolves defensive backfield being gashed for chunk yards through the air will be challenged again by the Bear passing attack. Wilson and Smith are seasoned playmakers for Hildebrand, both averaging more than 15 yards per catch through three games.
Spread: No line
Over/Under: No line
Arkansas State vs. Central Arkansas Prediction
Anderson will have his kids ready to play on Saturday, knowing that the season could circle the drain if they stumble at home against an FCS opponent. Hansen and RB Warren Wand will finally start to click versus a lower level program. And the combination of DE Ja’Von Rolland-Jones and Bandit Chris Odom will force Hildebrand to make plays with defenders in his face. With so much riding on the outcome, Arkansas State will operate with boundless energy for 60 minutes.
Arkansas State vs. Central Arkansas Score Prediction: Arkansas State 41, Central Arkansas 21