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Arkansas State Red Wolves vs Toledo Rockets football preview

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Arkansas State travels to Toledo to take on the unbeaten Rockets in a rematch of the 2015 GoDaddy Bowl

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

In what can be described as a unique scheduling occurrence, the Arkansas State Red Wolves and The Toledo Rockets will faceoff Saturday night, in a rematch of the GoDaddy Bowl played in January 2015.  For the host Rockets, who enter the game at 2-0, they will look for a repeat performance from the January game which saw Toledo run to a convincing 63-44 victory in Mobile, Alabama.

The Red Wolves will enter the Glass Bowl, with a 1-2 record, but their two most recent performances have been very sound.  A hard fought 27-20 home loss to nationally ranked Missouri, followed by a dominating 70-7 beat down of FCS opponent Missouri State.  Senior starting quarterback Fredi Knighten, missed the Missouri State game with a groin injury, but Red Wolves coach Blake Anderson has indicated Knighten is likely to suit up against the Rockets.

Knighten was tremendous in 2014 for Arkansas State, throwing for 24 touchdowns and over 3200 yards against just 7 interceptions.   Against the Rockets in the bowl game, Knighten threw for over 400 yards and 5 touchdowns in defeat and will be needed to perform at a high level in the rematch against a Rockets' defense that has been solid through two games.  If Knighten is limited or unable to go Saturday night, freshman James Tabary will once again be called on to start, Tabary has already thrown for over 370 yards in 2015 including 255 yards last week against Missouri State with 3 touchdowns.

The Rockets defense has shown tremendous improvement early in 2015 and they will be called on again against the Red Wolves' hurry-up attack.  Jon Heacock's unit has given up just 12 and 23 points respectively against FBS Power 5 opponents Arkansas and Iowa State.  Allen Covington returned to lineup against Iowa State after serving a 2 game suspension and immediately made his presence known tying a school record with 5 tackles for loss.   Linebacker Jaylen Coleman has been tremendous for Toledo and leads the nation in tackles per game with 14.5, after accounting for 13 at Arkansas and 16 vs. Iowa State.  On the injury front, head coach Matt Campbell noted defensive end Trent Voss suffered a hip pointer against Iowa State, but would not commit to Voss' availability against Arkansas State

For the Rockets, it was Kareem Hunt who dominated the game and ran Toledo to victory when these two teams met in January.  Hunt rushed for a GaDaddy Bowl record 271 and five touchdowns in being named game MVP.  Hunt saw his first action of the 2015 season last week against Iowa State, following a team issued two game suspension, the junior ran for 129 yards against the Cyclones and was named MAC West division offensive player of the week.  Hunt's status for Saturday however remains unclear, according to head coach Matt Campbell, as the running back limped off the field during the Rockets final series of the game with a hamstring injury.  If Hunt is unable to go or is not at full strength, Toledo will look once again to Damion Jones-Moore, who filled in during Hunt's suspension and scored a touchdown in each of the last two weeks.

Toledo starting quarterback Phillip Ely has put up modest numbers through two games, totaling just 375 yards and two touchdowns, but the box score does not truly reflect Ely's results to date.  Critical drops have plagued the Rockets early in 2015 and the receiving corps has been unable on multiple occasions to help out their quarterback when big plays were available.  Sophomore wide receiver Cody Thompson dropped what would have been the game winning touchdown on what was a perfectly thrown Ely toss in the first overtime against Iowa State.  Ely and his group of talented pass catchers will need to step up against the Red Wolves on Saturday, especially if Kareem Hunt is not able to go at 100%.

The Rockets will be looking to impress national pollsters again this week as the Associated Press media poll gave Toledo 30 points, just five spots outside the Top 25 for an unofficial ranking of No. 30.