Tuesday/Wednesday Football Preview
More mid-week football from the Sun Belt with Arkansas State (1-3, 0-1 Sun Belt) hitting the road (8 PM on ESPN2) to visit UL Monroe (3-2, 2-0), who sits tied atop the conference standings with a 2-0 record (Troy) in league play. The Warhawks lead the conference in rushing, total and scoring offense with QB Trey Revell and RB Frank Goodin leading the way. But the Red Wolves are no slouch, having lost their last two games by a combined six points. Troy and Iowa are talented but rather straightforward in what they're going to do. The same can't be said for the Warhawks, who will employ a variety of looks on offense and defense.
"They're very multiple defensively," said Arkansas State head coach Steve Roberts in Monday's Sun Belt Coaches Teleconference. "They come from everywhere, show you a lot of different fronts and a lot of movement." UL Monroe ranks third in the Sun Belt in total defense and second in rushing defense with LB Cordia Watson and DE Aaron Morgan leading the way. Watson leads the team in tackles while Morgan leads the conference and ranks fifth nationally in sacks per game (1.20; 6 sacks on the year).
Arkansas State has the conference's third-best rushing attack and Reggie Arnold is the main cog in the Arkansas State rushing attack. Arnold averages just over seventy yards per game but he isn't the only option as seen in the team average of almost 163 yards per game. QB Corey Leonard can be a threat by land and by air but he hasn't been as productive on the ground as he was a season ago. Look for him to try to make more plays with his feet against the Warharks should the opportunity present itself.
As for a winner it may be worth noting that the Warhawks have scored just ten more points than their opponents this season, and Arkansas State's two road losses came at the hands of Nebraska and Iowa. Look for the Red Wolves to pick up their first win in conference play on the road.
Wednesday: #5 Boise State (5-0, 1-0 WAC) @ Tulsa (4-1, 2-0 C-USA) (8 PM on ESPN)
While this game is going to get a lot of attention due to the the explosive nature of both offenses as much has been accomplised by the Boise State defense through five games. The Broncos rank in the Top 25 nationally in every major defensive category and when you combine that with the fact that the offense ranks 5th in scoring offense the end result is a team that will be heard from when it comes time to decide who gets a BCS at-large berth.
Sophomore QB Kellen Moore has done a good job of distributing the football while continuing to limit mistakes, leading the WAC in pass efficiency while ranking fifth in the conference in total offense. "Their quarterback makes everything work," said Tulsa head coach Todd Graham on Monday. "He operates very well in the pocket and manages the offense very well."
There isn't just one guy who gets the job done offensively for Chris Peterson's team; many players understand their roles and carry out their responsibilities, making this an extremely difficult team to contain. The Golden Hurricane have some good numbers defensively as well, leading Conference USA in both total and scoring defense.
But those stats may need to be taken with a grain of salt; the three FBS teams they've beaten (Tulane, New Mexico and Rice) have the following national rankings in total offense: 94th, 108th and 109th. Their other win this season came against FCS member Sam Houston State, and their lone test (Oklahoma) didn't go too well last month. That will likely put some more pressure on QB G.J. Kinne and the Tulsa offense, which ranks third in Conference USA in total offense and second in scoring offense.
Kinne has played well outside of the loss at Oklahoma, leading Conference USA in pass efficiency while also leading the team in rushing. Coach Graham will mix things up in the spread, making sure that playmakers such as Damaris Johnson and Jamad Williams get the ball in a variety of ways. A good individual matchup to watch may be Johnson going up against All-America candidate CB Kyle Wilson, who will have a clean bill of health after being a bit banged up earlier this season.
The pick here is that while the Golden Hurricane will come out ready to go the Broncos will be too much for them to contain for sixty minutes. Look for Boise State to remain undefeated.