Arkansas State Red Wolves vs. Memphis Tigers Pick ATS
Arkansas State Red Wolves (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Memphis Tigers (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
When: Saturday, September 5, at 8 p.m.
Where: Liberty Bowl, Memphis, Tenn.
Point Spread: ARST +19/MEM -19 (Bovada)
Total: O/U 73
With two Power 5 conferences down for the fall and three others postponing their schedules until the end of September, the Sun Belt and the American take center stage for this non-conference matchup. Memphis comes off one of its best seasons in school history, as the Tigers went 12-2 a year ago and put up some big numbers against Penn State in a credible loss in the Cotton Bowl. But the Tigers might not be as strong as they were a season ago, as they’re missing some key personnel that fueled last year’s team.
They take on an Arkansas State squad that has established itself as a solid mid-major squad and, much to the Razorbacks’ chagrin and embarrassment, the best team in the Natural State. The Red Wolves were 8-5 a year ago and knocked off Florida International in their bowl, their ninth straight bowl appearance. With Memphis missing players, the door could be open for the Red Wolves to make this game closer than the line suggests.
How the Public is Betting the Arkansas St./Memphis Game
The total has jumped by an eye-popping 5.5 points since it came on the board, going from 68.5 to 74. That’s because of people high on Arkansas State’s offense, as Memphis’ number has also come down from -20.5 to -19.
Defensive end Kennan Solomon is ineligible and out for the season.
Running back Kenneth Gainwell has opted out of the season because of concerns about COVID-19.
When Arkansas State Has the Ball
The Red Wolves have experience, having brought back some experience in the passing game. Jonathan Adams is on the preseason watch list for the Biletnikoff Award, and he’s got a signal-caller with experience to find him in Logan Bonner. Bonner only saw action in four games last season, but that still gives him some experience with Adams, who he’ll likely target early and often against a questionable Memphis defense.
But the key to the strategy will be running back Marcel Murray, who gained 820 yards as a sophomore and is now unquestionably the man in the backfield for the Red Wolves. If he’s able to gain yards and chew up some clock, Arkansas State will be able to keep the Memphis offense off the field, which gives them a considerable edge. If the Tigers are on the field for most of the game, it’s hard to see Arkansas State staying within shouting distance.
When Memphis Has the Ball
Only one FBS player pulled off 1,000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in 2019: the guy who won’t be suiting up for Memphis this season because of COVID-19. Kenneth Gainwell lived up to his last name last year and was unstoppable for opposing defenses, but the sophomore has already had four people in his family contract the virus and has decided that he doesn’t want to risk infecting them if he catches it on the field.
With Gainwell out, expect Memphis to shift into a pass-first offense that relies on quarterback Brady White and receiver Damonte Coxie. Coxie was the top receiver for the Beale Bengals last year, as he hauled in nine of White’s 33 touchdowns and gained 1,276 receiving yards a season ago. But the main concern for Memphis will be whether it can move the ball on the ground without Gainwell. The next man up is Kylan Watkins, who only had 62 carries last season. Watkins has home-run speed, but if he’s not up for the challenge, Arkansas State will be in position to keep pace.
Memphis wasn’t great against the spread down the stretch, failing to cover in its final three games last season. But to be fair, those games came against Penn State and two against Cincinnati. Memphis played a pair of Sun Belt opponents last year in Louisiana-Monroe and South Alabama and covered against both. The Tigers also covered against SMU, the one AAC team that Arkansas State played a season ago.
The Red Wolves played SMU close, losing by just a touchdown before most people knew that SMU had become a quality team. Because of that lack of knowledge, thought, SMU was only a one-point favorite in that game, meaning the Red Wolves failed to cover against two of the three opponents they had in common with Memphis.
It’ll be sunny and warm in west Tennessee, with temperatures pushing 87 degrees on Saturday evening in Memphis.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread
Memphis is still a good team even without Gainwell, but I can’t see the Tigers running away with this one while they’re still adjusting to their new reality. I don’t have any delusions about Arkansas State actually stealing a win here, but I can see the Red Wolves staying in this game for longer than people expect and eventually ending up with a 10 to 14-point defeat.
I think this is a game to grab sooner rather than later, as it’s still above the critical number of 17. Now’s the time to take the Red Wolves. Note: We also offer free nfl football picks every week of the pro football season!