South Alabama (1-4) at Arkansas State (3-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 13, 7:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Liberty Bank Stadium (30,406) -- Jonesboro, Arkansas. Television: ESPN Regional. Home Record: South Alabama 1-2, Arkansas State 2-1 Away Record: South Alabama 0-2, Arkansas State 1-2. Neutral Record: South Alabama 0-0, Arkansas State 0-0. Conference Record: South Alabama 0-1, Arkansas State 1-1. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Arkansas State Red Wolves will look to win back-to-back games for the first time this season when the South Alabama Jaguars enter Liberty Bank Stadium for a Sun Belt Conference game on Saturday.
In its first season as an FBS program, South Alabama has understandably struggled. Then Jaguars enter this game with just a 1-4 overall record while riding a three-game losing streak. The most recent of those losses was a 31-10 defeat at the hands of Troy in South Alabama's first conference game as a member of the Sun Belt.
On the other side, Arkansas State has been unable to build any sustained momentum thus far trading wins and losses all season. The Red Wolves are coming off a win against FIU which brought their record to an even 1-1 the Sun Belt and 3-3 overall.
This will be the first meeting between these two squads.
The South Alabama offense has been less than stellar this season, averaging only 13.4 points and an even 300 yards per game through the first five contests. Those are the second-worst marks in the Sun Belt ahead of only Florida Atlantic which is also 1-4 this season. The Jaguars have stalled on many drives, converting only 28 percent of their attempts on third down while making only 15 red zone trips.
Ross Metheny and C.J Bennett each shared snaps in the Jaguars' loss to Troy. The two combined for 20 pass attempts of which only eight were completed for 59 yards. On the season, Bennett has been the better option in terms of efficiency (104.75), which narrowly beats out Metheny, who leads in completion percentage (57.6).
Of the two, Bennett is the more mobile with the second-most rushing yards on the team this season (134). Demetre Baker is the Jaguars' leading rusher with 294 yards on the season, with one of only three rushing touchdowns by South Alabama thus far.
As far as receivers go, no player for the Jaguars has more than 160 yards or 13 receptions this season. Brynt Lavender has the team lead in receptions, while Jereme Jones has the most yards as well as a team-leading two touchdown receptions.
If there has been a strength for South Alabama this season it has been its defense. The Jaguars are the second-ranked team in the Sun Belt in total defense (350.2 ypg), while ranking fourth in terms of points allowed (25.6 ppg). Creating pressure has been South Alabama's forte, with the Jaguars collecting 12 sacks this season (third in the Sun Belt) and 40 tackles for loss (second).
Jake Johnson has been at the forefront of the defense's efforts with team leads in tackles (51) and tackles for loss (7.0). Alex Page (4.0 sacks) and Pat Moore (3.5 sacks) are the team leaders in quarterback takedowns forming a dangerous duo up front.
Offensively speaking, Arkansas State has shown some explosive ability this season, scoring 30.5 points per game, while reaching the 50-point plateau once already. The Red Wolves were even able to keep pace of sorts with No. 2 Oregon and its high-flying offense in a 57-34 loss on opening weekend.
Balance has been the key for Arkansas State, with the team picking up nearly identical totals on the ground (1,393) as through the air (1,432). Ryan Aplin is the team's signal caller. He has completed 61.3 percent of his passes this season for 1,388 yards. He has limited turnovers as well with only two interceptions to go with eight touchdown passes.
Aplin has also been a solid contributor outside of the pocket, rushing for 243 yards and a pair of scores, both the second best marks on the squad. David Oku (103 carries, 460 yards, 6 TDs) is the primary back, while Rocky Hayes (231 yards) has been an explosive alternative, averaging 11.6 yards per carry.
J.D. McKissic (39 receptions, 452 yards, 2 TDs) and Josh Jarboe (28 receptions, 287 yards, 2 TDs) are the most productive pass catchers on the roster.
Arkansas State is fourth in the Sun Belt in total defense this season (376.3 ypg) and is one of only two teams that has yet to surrender 1,000 yards passing this season. However the Red Wolves have been less successful against the run, giving up a league worst 1,312 yards on the ground.
Nathan Herrold (52 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss) and Qushaun Lee (43 tackles) have been the most productive players in a talented linebacking corps. The team's inability to stop the run though has also meant less pressure on the quarterback with only eight total sacks.
While its defense has not been able to produce, Arkansas State has the balance on offense to make up for it, especially against a team like South Alabama that is still adjusting to its new surroundings.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arkansas State 38, South Alabama 17
10/10 10:37:21 ET