We're in the stretch run of the regular season, and while sportsbooks have tightened up their College Football odds, there also is more than enough track record to look at for teams playing their 11th games.
When it comes to this Thursday night Sun Belt Conference matchup, college football handicappers can identify several key factors: In terms of motivation, Arkansas State enters this matchup tied with Appalachian State for third place in the Sun Belt at 4-2. That tie resulted from Appy State's 37-32 stunning upset at Arkansas State as 15-point road underdogs. While that unexpected loss has left undefeated Georgia Southern and Louisiana almost out of reach in the conference race, Arkansas State is 6-4 SU/ATS and has a shot at an eight-win season and a nice bowl appearance. Following this game, the Red Wolves will finish with a home game against 2-8 New Mexico State.
The Bobcats are 5-5 overall and 3-3 in the conference, and need a win for bowl eligibility with two games remaining.
The Odds, Matchups and Common Foes
College Football odds for this game opened at Red Wolves -6.5. They are 2-3 SU and 3-2 ATS on the road, while the Bobcats are 2-3 SU and ATS at home. Last season, Arkansas State won 38-21 as 7.5-point road favorites in the first-ever meeting of these schools. In terms of common opponents, here the comparative scores that overall favor Arkansas State. Arkansas State: Vs. UL-Monroe 28-14; UL-Lafayette 40-55; Idaho 44-28; South Alabama 45-10; Georgia Southern 52-10. Texas State: Vs. UL-Monroe 22-18/ UL-Lafayette 10-34; Idaho 35-30; South Alabama 20-24; Georgia Southern 24-28.
Texas State is no pushover
The Bobcats' 7-3 ATS record points to the fact that they can be a tough out as a college football pick. In fact, they are on a four-game ATS winning streak while splitting their last four games SU.
Last Saturday, they lost 24-20 to South Alabama as 6-point road dogs. Two weeks ago, they hung with Georgia Southern before falling 28-25 as 14-point home underdogs. The Bobcats also had non-conference covers at Illinois (35-42 as 12.5-point dogs) and at Tulsa (37-34 as 2.5-point dogs) in three overtimes. Interestingly, they are 4-0 ATS on the road.
Statistically, Texas State and Arkansas State have very similar offensive numbers. The Bobcats average 440 yards per game (47th in the NCAA), including 215.2 yards per game on the ground (31st overall). Quarterback Tyler Jones has amassed 2,221 passing yards, and spreads it around quite well, as the team leader in receiving yards is Bradley Miller with 401. The top rusher is Robert Lowe (709 yards). Problem is, the Texas State defense allows 433.9 yards per game (92nd overall), including 214.2 yards per game on the ground (108th overall). But linebacker David Mayo is a Sun Belt defensive player of the year candidate. DE Michael Odiari leads the team in sacks.
The Red Wolves have a +85 scoring differential
The key here is the Arkansas State defense, as it has held opponents to 253 points -- second-lowest in the Sun Belt behind South Alabama. They have compiled that solid plus-differential despite tough non-conference games at Tennessee and Miami, and at home against Utah State. On five different occasions, including four at home, the Red Wolves defense has allowed 14 points or fewer. Leading the line play is redshirt freshman DE Javon Rolland-Jones.
Meanwhile, quarterback Fredi Knighten has thrown for 2,212 yards, while Michael Gordon leads in rushing with 844 yards (on 7 yards per carry) and touchdowns with 10. Djion Paschal is tops with 537 receiving yards, with a 47.5 yards per game average, the Red Wolves offense is 30th in the NCAA in total yards and 37th with 33.8 points per game. The surprising loss to Appalachian State last week followed four consecutive games in which the Arkansas State offense totaled 45, 44, 40 and 42 points, with the Red Wolves winning three of those games. Another angle to consider in terms of College Football picks is that the Red Wolves have won gone over in five games in a row at 62, 95, 72, 55 and 69 points.
The loss by Arkansas State was such a stunner, I’m not certain they just bounce right back and will back the home underdog to beat the number.
College Football Free Pick: Texas State +6.5 at 5Dimes