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Arkansas State (7-4) at Western Kentucky (7-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 30, 4 p.m. (ET).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium (23,113) -- Bowling Green, Kentucky. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: ASU 5-1, WKU 2-2. Away Record: ASU 2-3, WKU 4-2. Neutral Record: ASU 0-0, WKU 1-0. Conference Record: ASU 5-1, WKU 3-3. Series Record: Series is tied, 3-3-1.
GAME NOTES: Two of the top teams in the Sun Belt Conference get together on Saturday afternoon to close out the 2013 regular season, as the Arkansas State Red Wolves come calling on the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.
Both clubs come in sporting identical 7-4 records, with ASU sitting at 5-1 in conference, and WKU two games behind at 3-3. Both teams are bowl eligible after logging the required six victories to be considered, and the Red Wolves have an outside chance of still winning the SBC crown for the third straight year should they win this bout and first-place Louisiana falter in its final two games against ULM and South Alabama.
Arkansas State is riding a four-game win streak, the team keeping that streak alive last week by surviving a scare from winless Georgia State, 35-33. The Red Wolves have won 10 straight conference road games.
Western Kentucky has won its last three games to gain postseason eligibility for the third straight season. The Hilltoppers claimed a 38-7 victory at Texas State last Saturday, winning their fourth road game in six tries.
The all-time series between these two teams is tied at 3-3-1, but interestingly enough, the home team has never won. WKU won in Jonesboro last season, 26-13.
Arkansas State puts forth a balanced offensive attack in most games, averaging 204.5 ypg on the ground and 214.9 ypg through the air. That kind of production results in 29.5 ppg, and is earned on the backs of guys like Michael Gordon (87 carries, 585 yards, 10 TDs), Adam Kennedy (208-of-300, 2,282 yards, 11 TDs, five INTs; 141 carries, 509 yards, four TDs), David Oku (132 carries, 493 yards, six TDs), J.D. McKissic (66 rec., 555 yards, four TDs) and Julian Jones (49 rec., 614 yards, three TDs).
The Red Wolves are allowing their opponents to score 26.0 ppg, as they churn out 186.5 ypg and 19 TDs via the run, and 232.5 ypg and 16 scores by way of the pass. The team boasts one of the most active defenders in the nation, as Qushaun Lee has amassed 109 tackles, and he has forced two fumbles. Ryan Carrethers has 85 stops to his credit, and he has four of the team's 22 sacks, while Rocky Hayes has three of its eight interceptions.
Trailing Georgia State 17-7 at halftime, Arkansas State scored two quick touchdowns in the third quarter, they coming on a fumble recovery return and a blocked punt return, and the Red Wolves needed every point they could in an attempt to avoid the upset loss to the Panthers. ASU was outgained on the day, 432-290, but Kennedy was his usual productive self in throwing for 152 yards and a two TDs, while rushing for 77 yards on 20 totes. Gordon led the receiving corps with five grabs for a 53 yards -- both career highs.
The ASU defense gave up 184 yards on the ground and 248 through the air, but as mentioned got in on the scoring action after intermission. Carrethers tallied 12 tackles in the game, while Lee and Dexter Blackmon added seven stops apiece.
Western Kentucky features a potent offense, the unit producing 201 ypg and 29 TDs on the ground, and 262.3 ypg and a dozen scores through the air. The Hilltoppers are fortunate to have one of the nation's top running backs calling Bowling Green home these days, as Antonio Andrews has gained 1,611 yards with 15 TDs, and when you factor in his 37 receptions for 420 yards, 97 punt return yards and 290 kick return yards, he leads the FBS with 219.8 all- purpose ypg. His rushing total alone ranks him third. Brandon Doughty has taken the bulk of the snaps and has completed 66.8 percent of his passes for 2,602 yards, although his TD-to-INT ratio (11-14) could certainly stand to improve.
The Hilltoppers have performed admirably on defense this season, allowing 24 ppg behind typical yields of 155.6 ypg rushing and 181.9 ypg passing. They have been beaten over the top for only nine aerial scores, and the unit has logged 25 sacks while coming up with 20 turnovers. Xavius Boyd paces the group with 94 tackles, which includes 15.5 TFL and 8.5 sacks. Cam Thomas has been as opportunistic as any player in the conference, picking off five passes, while Tyree Robinson is hot on his heels with four interceptions.
In last week's rout of Texas State, WKU piled up 473 yards of total offense, compared to only 130 for the Bobcats. Andrews ran free for 204 yards and three TDs, while Doughty hit the mark on 20-of-30 passes for 152 yards. The Hilltoppers didn't commit a turnover, but were flagged eight times for a loss of 77 yards, which was about the only negative you could take from the effort.
Texas State ran the ball 29 times, but finished with only 21 net rushing yards thanks to the fact that Bobcats' QB Tyler Jones was sacked five times. The Hilltoppers gave up a mere 109 passing yards as well, and Andrew Jackson led the stand with 10 tackles, which included two TFL and a sack. Robinson and Cam Thomas both had two interceptions in the game.
This has all the makings a real slugfest, as neither team is expected to give up much ground to the other. WKU will try to get Andrews going early, but the Red Wolves still have an outside shot at the conference crown.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arkansas State 31, Western Kentucky 24
11/27 11:11:50 ET