Louisiana Lafayette Ragin Cajuns (2-3 SU, 3-2 ATS) vs. Arkansas State Red Wolves (3-3 SU, 3-3 ATS)
College Football Week 8
Date/Time: Tuesday, October 20, 2015 at 8:00PM EST
Where: Centennial Bank Stadium, Jonesboro, Arkansas
TV: ESPN 2
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: ULL +6/ARST -6
Over/Under Total: Off
In another Tuesday night Sun Belt special, the Louisiana Lafayette Ragin Cajuns come out to Jonesboro to face the Arkansas State Red Wolves. Louisiana Lafayette last played on the 10th, getting a 10 day break heading into this game. In their last game, they beat Texas State, 49-27, to go to 2-3 on the season. Theyre looking to hit the .500 mark on Tuesday against the Red Wolves, who played their last game the previous Tuesday, in a nifty 49-31 road win over South Alabama. The win got the Red Wolves to .500 at 3-3.
Its been an up-and-down season for Arkansas State, but theyve shown themselves to be up to snuff in conference play with a 2-0 record. Their 0-2 start was to be expected, with games against the ranked USC Trojans and Missouri Tigers. If anything, the loss to Missouri was encouraging, with it being by a respectable 27-20 score. A few weeks later, they lost to another ranked team in Toledo. We learned last week that judging Arkansas State by how they played against ranked teams can lead you astray when theyre back in their element, battling fellow Sun Belt teams. Within that framework, theyre going to be tough and that goes for this week against the Ragin Cajuns.
Louisiana Lafayette also has experienced some rocky passages this season and is in the process of righting the ship. The conference win over Texas State in their last game will go a long way towards doing that, leaving them at 1-1 in conference. In week one, they gave Kentucky a good run for their money, losing 40-33. A win over an FCS opponent followed, before the Cajuns got mashed up at home by Akron, 35-14. Another lopsided loss ensued, to high powered Louisiana Tech, 43-14. So the win over Texas State was needed. Were talking about a team that had been making major strides in recent seasons, with 4 straight bowl wins. Look for them to start making a push, but theyre up against it on the road against another team that has experienced recent success within this conference in Arkansas State.
Last season, Arkansas State lost to Louisiana Lafayette, 55-40, also in a week 8 matchup. They hope to make amends on Tuesday with QB Frank Knighten back in the fold. He was efficient against South Alabama, with two TD throws on 10-for-17 passing. Arkansas State relies on a robust ensemble running game, which gained 226 yards against South Alabama, who conversely, only gained 29 yards on the ground.
Arkansas States defense secured five turnovers last Tuesday against South Alabama, forcing a prolific passing game to make a lot of mistakes. The pass rush was robust and those 29 yards allowed on the ground were spread over 32 attempts, meaning the Red Wolves D was in there making plays and lending a hand to the offense. Thats the recipe for Arkansas Stateplay defense and run the ball, while making few mistakes and not giving up big plays. On Saturday, they pulled in off. It might get tougher on Tuesday.
Louisiana Lafayette quarterback Jalen Nixon is coming off his best game, going 22-for-29 with 238 yards and 3 TD passes. If the aerial game continues to produce like that, it would give the offense more balance. And its an offense that boasts of a solid run-game, with Elijah McGuire, who picked up 170 yards in his last game and has a total of 8 touchdowns already this season. Nixon can also use his legs and has run it in 3 times, with another assist from Torrey Pierce, who has 4 scores on the ground. Jamal Robinson and Gabe Fuselier are the top producers in the pass-game. While their success through the air came against what is a pretty ragged Texas State defense, it was a good sign that this offense is morphing into midseason form after looking a bit pedestrian early this season.
Something happened in the second half with Lafayette in the Texas State game where you could see the offense spring loose. With the score 14-14 at halftime, Arkansas State finally unfurled the scope of their true menace and potential, scoring five times in the third quarter and taking Texas State out of the game. Some nice momentum was created, as the Red Wolves fell into a nice groove. Look for them to push the envelope more on offense in an effort to capitalize on the good inertia they were finally able to generate.
But lets face it, the Arkansas State D bears little resemblance to that of Texas States group, which plays more of a sandlot version of defense. Arkansas State has allowed 32 points per game this season, numbers exacerbated by the 92 points scored by USC and Toledo. And in conference, they havent been especially stout, giving up 35 to Idaho and 31 to South Alabama. But they will offer some resistance and its unlikely that Louisiana Lafayette will be running around unabated as they were last week.
Its a crowded conference in the middle and a win here would give both teams a huge boost. Both of these squads are accustomed to success in this conference and need to start posting wins, as both teams already have 3 losses each. Look for Louisiana Lafayette to play well and with some passion and give Arkansas State some stiff resistance at home in a tight game that might be up for grabs late.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Louisiana Lafayette Ragin Cajuns plus 6 points.
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