Tomorrow's game between the Arkansas State Red Wolves and Toledo Rockets oughta be a doozie. Jeremy Harper from neighbor blog Underdog Dynasty hangs out with me via the Internet to answer a few questions about how we should prepare to watch the GoDaddy Bowl rematch.
Hustle Belt: Wait a minute, the Red Wolves put up 70 points last week? I didn't know you guys were a basketball school. How'd that happen?
Underdog Dynasty: Missouri State happened. The Bears are picked to finish 9th in the Missouri Valley Athletic Conference, so they're a rebuilding FCS program. Still, 70 points is a big pile of points, and it was nice to see the high-powered Red Wolves offense get a chance to sizzle after chilling so hard against USC and Missouri.
Last year when these two teams met in Mobile, Alabama, Kareem Hunt took off for 271 yards and scored five times. This is still a run-heavy team; how does the Arkansas State run defense look so far?
Compared to last year? Like the 1985 Chicago Bears. Injuries and shallow depth destroyed the Red Wolves defense last season, and Hunt used his NFL skills to pick up a GoDaddy Bowl MVP trophy. A-State is mostly healthy this year and has added serious JUCO and transfer beef to defensive line. The fan base is excited.
It's September, which means it's still very difficult to evaluate and "know" things about just about any team. What questions do you still have about this Red Wolves team that you hope to learn after Saturday's matchup?
The Red Wolves offense is supposed to be an explosive juggernaut that frustrates opposing defenses. Missouri State aside, A-State has been held to 6 and 20 points, though that has been against two Top 25 teams. Fans would like to see the real Red Wolves offense step up against Toledo, led by a focused Fredi Knighten playing at an All-Sun Belt Conference level again.
Toledo's passing game has very skilled players but the production has been disappointing with all the dropped passes. Second chances aren't easy to come by, especially against a team that's sure to want revenge. How good/not good is the passing defense? Any play makers?
The defense takes risks to make big plays, and sometimes it gets burned. But A-State came up with three INTs against Missouri, and added a Pick 6 against Missouri State - all from different players. Chris Stone (DE) is having a terrific year, and so is Khari Lane (LB), but also look for Rocky Hayes (CB) to provide excellent coverage in the backfield.
If this game were to come down to the final four minutes in a tight ball game, who on your offense do you want to get the ball?
JD McKissic (WR). Injured for most of 2015, JD is playing at a supernatural level right now. He has good hands and is very dangerous after the catch. If the game is close, and the Red Wolves need to march down the field, Knighten to McKissic would be my game plan.
Prediction on how it'll all pan out? Final score?
Toledo seems like a different team than the one the Red Wolves faced in January, which was an offensive shoot-out. This game feels more like a defensive wrestling match. I do believe the Red Wolves have a wider variety of offensive weapons than Arkansas and Iowa State, and that will be enough to pull out a hard fought W in Toledo.
A-State 35, Toledo 28