Quarterback Play Decisive Between Troy and Arkansas State

Arkansas State Red Wolves players in action

Rainman M.

Thursday, November 30, 2017 3:19 PM UTC

Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017 3:19 PM UTC

Arkansas State (7-3) hosts Troy (9-2) for at least a share of the Sun Belt Championship. Most books are offering even odds, read on for a valuable college football pick for Saturday's action.

Free NCAAF Pick: Arkansas State +1Best Line Offered: 5Dimes

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Troy Trojans vs Arkansas State Red Wolves

Quarterback play is decisive for Arkansas State, which ranks 24th in pass play percentage.

The former Oklahoma Sooner Justice Hansen boasts a 32:12 touchdown-to-interception ratio, 62.2% completion, and 3193 yards. He threw all 12 of his interceptions on the road, often against poorly ranked pass defenses. For instance, he threw combined 8 of his interceptions at South Alabama and Georgia Southern, both of whose pass defense ranks outside the top 90. At home, where Ark State is undefeated, Hansen has thrown 13 touchdowns and 0 interceptions.

Part of Hansen's success at home derives from the poor quality of visiting opponents. In terms of total defense, Troy will be the toughest test for Arkansas State's offense

The Trojans' pass defense is the crucial betting factor. Troy is 2-3 ATS when allowing 250+ passing yards. In both of the covers, Troy was leading by more than two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, played more conservatively on defense and allowed the opposing quarterback to amass ultimately meaningless yards. When Troy has been unable to stop the pass, they have struggled the most. In the three non-covers, they barely won as double-digit favorites against Idaho and Akron, and as 9.5 favorites against New Mexico State.

The weakness of Troy's defense is its pass defense. They rank 67th in opposing quarterback rating. They repeatedly allow opposing quarterbacks to have one of their best games of the season against them. Idaho and New Mexico State, like Arkansas State, are pass-first teams with traditional pocket passers. Matt Linehan and Tyler Rogers both achieved one of their highest QBR's against Troy.

The Red Wolves' highly-ranked pass attack will be Troy's toughest test. Hansen is supported by an offensive line that ranks 57th in sack percentage allowed. He is supported by Warren Wand's 5.8 yards per carry and a deep group of receivers led by Justin McInnes' 602 yards and 16.7 yards per catch and the combined 16 touchdowns of Chris Murray and tight end Blake Mack.

Troy, like Arkansas State, is pass-first. Quarterback Brandon Silvers suffers from inconsistency. For instance, against South Alabama's 99th-ranked pass defense his QBR was 95.8, but it was 165 against Georgia State's 98th-ranked pass defense. He is unproven against highly-ranked pass defenses. The best ones that he faced were Boise State and LSU, both of which rank in the top 40 in opposing QBR and against both of which he failed to achieve a QBR of 105+.

Ark State ranks 44th in opposing QBR. Their secondary is led by Blaise Taylor and Justin Clifton, who boast 12 passes defensed each. NCAA sack leader Ja'Von Rolland-Jones has 16.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks and can apply pressure to Silvers.

Silvers will seek support from a mediocre rush attack that is led by Jordan Chunn's 5.3 yards per carry and that will try to pierce Ark State's 35th-ranked run defense in terms of yards allowed per carry.

The Verdict

The Red Wolves seek to achieve a 6th straight home victory and 6th straight cover against Troy on our NCAAF Picks. Hansen's exploitation of Troy's defensive weakness will be decisive. He'll be supported by strong protection, an effective rush attack, deep wide receivers and home-field advantage. Troy's unproven weapons on offense, most importantly their leader Silvers, will fail to keep up, especially against a defense whose playmakers can wreak havoc in the backfield, shut down an opposing rush attack and defend the pass.

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