FACTS & STATS: Site: Bobcat Stadium (30,000) -- San Marcos, Texas. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: South Alabama 2-1, Texas State 3-1. Away Record: South Alabama 1-2, Texas State 1-2. Neutral Record: South Alabama 0-0, Texas State 0-0. Conference Record: South Alabama 1-1, Texas State 1-2. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Texas State Bobcats will attempt to move to .500 in conference play when they take on fellow Sun Belt member South Alabama at Bobcat Stadium on Saturday.
The Jaguars managed to put an end to a two-game slide last weekend with a convincing, 38-21, victory over Kent State. The non-conference clash allowed the team to rebound from difficult losses to Troy (34-33) and Tennessee (31-24). Overall, South Alabama is hovering right at .500 (3-3).
Texas State had similarly dropped back-to-back contests before last weekend when it grabbed a 24-17 triumph over Georgia State for its first conference win in three tries. The Bobcats actually have a record above .500 overall (4-3) but one of those wins came against FCS foe Prairie View A&M and one of the other victories was earned against 0-6 Southern Miss. This is the Bobcats' first season in the Sun Belt. They had just two league wins a year ago as a member of the Western Athletic Conference.
Neither of these teams has a long history at the FBS level, with each in their second year. This is the first-ever meeting.
As it showed against Kent State, South Alabama has had a very good offense by Sun Belt standards this season, averaging 31.3 points and 452.8 yards per game. The Jaguars are third and fourth in the conference in those categories, respectively.
Against Kent State it was the running game that pushed the Jaguars to victory as the team had 257 yards on the ground, led by 99 from Jay Jones. Jones did so on just 13 carries and also scored a touchdown. On the season Jones has totaled a team-high 378 yards on 67 carries, finding the end zone three times. As a team the Jaguars have scored 16 touchdowns on the ground, averaging 175 rushing yards per game.
Quarterback Ross Metheny is also a threat on the ground, with 242 yards and seven scores this season, though he had just 17 yards against Kent State. Metheny also threw for 224 yards and an additional score in the win. Normally the offense has not relied as much on Metheny to throw for scores as he has just six on the season, despite completing 63.5 percent of his pass attempts for 1,289 yards as well as four interceptions.
Shavarez Smith is the deep threat on the roster with an average of 18.8 yards per reception, though he has just a single touchdown grab. Wes Saxton (25 receptions, 358 yards) has not scored at all despite leading the team in receptions. Jereme Jones (22 receptions, 277 yards, two TDs) and Danny Woodson (19 receptions, 267 yards, two TDs) have been the most productive receivers in terms of scoring.
Normally the offense has had to carry the Jaguars because they have not been as effective on the defensive side of the ball. South Alabama is allowing 28.5 points and 410 yards per game this season, fitting in the middle of the Sun Belt in each category. Though their overall defensive numbers aren't particularly impressive, South Alabama has put forth a strong pass rush, as it is tied for the conference-lead with 15 sacks, led by Romelle Jones (4.5) and Alex Page (4.0).
If Texas State is hoping to really surprise teams in the Sun Belt it needs to start finding some answers on offense. The Bobcats are last in the league in total yards (314.9 ypg) and just sixth in scoring (23 ppg). Running the ball has been the priority for the Bobcats who are third in the league in rushing (1,304 yards), while having the fewest passing yards (900).
Robert Lowe is the main threat when it comes to running the ball as he has piled up 619 yards and seven scores on a 97 carries. Each of those marks are team-highs. However, Lowe isn't the only player that can run the ball effectively, as Chris Nutall (346 yards, six TDs) is averaging 6.4 yards per carry. Both were productive in the win over Georgia State as Lowe rushed for 177 yards and a touchdown and Nutall added two scores and 90 yards on just nine carries.
A lack of consistency at quarterback has made the running game that much more important. Tyler Arndt (45-of-81, 447 yards, INT) and Tyler Jones (35-of-59, 376 yards, TD, three INTs) have each seen considerable time under center, but neither has been particularly effective. Jones made the start against Georgia State and had just 47 yards on 5-of-11 passing.
Andy Erickson (18 receptions, 167 yards) and Isaiah Battle (17 receptions, 131 yards) are the team's two best receivers in terms of receptions. Meanwhile, Bradley Miler (11 receptions, 160 yards) is the only player averaging more than 14 yards per reception.
As far as defenses go in the Sun Belt you can't do much better than Texas State has done. The Bobcats are behind only Western Kentucky in total defense (381 ypg), though the gap there is by more than 30 yards. Texas State rushes the passer well (13.0 sacks) and has been the best team in the league in the red zone with only 13 touchdowns on 28 attempts.
There is very little balance for the Texas State offense which will hurt against a South Alabama team that can run and pass well. The Bobcats have largely been getting by thanks to defense but the Jaguars pose a bit too much of a threat for Texas State to squeak by again.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: South Alabama 30, Texas State 20
10/23 10:39:41 ET
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