Georgia Southern Eagles (3-1 SU, 1-3 ATS) vs. Arkansas State Red Raiders (0-4 SU, 0-4 ATS)
College Football Week 6
Date/Time: Wednesday, October 5, 2016 at 8PM EST
Where: Centennial Bank Stadium, Jonesboro, Arkansas
TV: ESPN 2
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: GASO -7/ARST +7
Over/Under Total: Off
The Georgia Southern Eagles take on the Arkansas State Red Raiders on Wednesday in mid-week Sun Belt Conference action from Centennial Bank Stadium in Jonesboro. Both teams were off in week 5 with this Wednesday game scheduled. Georgia Southern fell to Western Michigan in week four, 49-31, in their first loss of the season. It’s been going much worse for the Red Raiders, who fell to FCS opponent Central Arkansas in week four, 28-23. They haven’t won yet this season. Combined, these teams are 1-7 against the spread.
It’s hard to overstate the disappointment of the Red Raiders this season. They were 8-0 in the conference last season. They have really been the steadiest team in the Sun Belt with a 33-6 record in conference over the past five seasons. With over a dozen starters and some key transfers, there was no reason to anticipate this much of a downturn. Even after going 0-3 to start the season, they had lost to Toledo, Auburn, and Utah State. It was still easy to picture them thriving once they got into conference play. But at 0-3, you’d figure they were pining hard for a win at home against FCS team Central Arkansas. But they lost to their in-state foe for the first time since the thirties.
At quarterback for the Red Raiders, it was going to be Chad Voytik, the Pittsburgh transfer and former starter for the Panthers. But he’s been slow warming up to this offense, with sophomore Justice Hansen getting a lot of snaps. Warren Wand has taken over the featured back duties, with receiver Blake Mack establishing himself as a big player in the aerial game. Cameron Echold-Luper is also a good weapon, but the offense has not been clicking and losing RB Armond Weh-Weh doesn’t help, either. And the veteran offensive line hasn’t really been doing that great of a job. So far, they’ve underachieved.
The defense shoulders a lot of the blame for Arkansas State’s woes thus far in the season. The offense hasn’t been producing, but the defense has just been sort of “there.” They’ve been getting exploited massively by the opposing ground-game, even giving up an immense 462 yards just on the ground to Auburn. But the Red Raiders are back in a context in which they have thrived for years. Maybe playing in Sun Belt games again can get them back on the right track. They can still make a lot happen with this being their first conference game, but it won’t be easy against a Georgia Southern bunch that has been making strides this season and has really taken to the conference since joining 2+ seasons ago.
After two 9-win seasons in a row, Georgia Southern is looking for another fruitful season in 2016. New head coach Tyson Summers got 13 starters back from last year’s squad. For a team new to the FBS, starting with consecutive 9-win seasons counts as a major success, but this is a program that is accustomed to success, now at just a higher level. They have gone 14-2 in the Sun Belt in the past two seasons and meet the Red Raiders for the first time on Wednesday.
The Eagles’ offense features a triple option offense that has led to them becoming one of the more prolific scoring teams in an offensive-heavy conference. Quarterback Favian Upshaw commandeers the offense with Kevin Ellison getting some snaps, as well. Both Upshaw and Ellison, along with Matt Breida and Wesley Fields are all between 227 and 254 yards rushing on the season with a combined nine scores. LA Ramsby and Demarcus Godfrey have also contributed to their diverse run-game. Through the air, Montay Crockett, BJ Johnson, Wesley Fields, and Myles Campbell are the main threats, but this is a team that likes to run and only three teams in the nation average more yards on the ground than Georgia Southern.
So far, the GASO defense has been pretty good. They’ve been robust up-front, holding opponents to limited rushing yardage, while the Eagles offense is racking up big numbers on the ground. In their first two games of the season, they allowed just 9 combined points. They gave up 21 to Louisiana-Monroe, before allowing 49 to Western Michigan in their last game. In that game, we saw a potential weakness for this defense really manifest, as the secondary is a young and inexperienced one. They’ve gone to a 4-3 and with the coaching changes, this group might be tested this season.
In two seasons in the Sun Belt, the Eagles are 7-1 on the road with an average 21 point margin of victory. Again, we don’t want to be too hasty in shoveling dirt on Arkansas State, as they enter conference play with perhaps a renewed disposition on their season. But they have to fire this week or it could start getting ugly if they fall to 0-5. Georgia Southern looks poised to do some nice things in the Sun Belt this season. They seem like the better all-around team through 4 games. And while Arkansas State looks ragged as all get-out, we’re not sure it’s time to write them off in this context just yet. I’ll take the points.
Scott's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Arkansas State Red Raiders plus 7 points.
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