Cajun Opponents’ Preview – Game 8 – Arkansas State
There's no denying the success of Arkansas State over the last seven years. They've been in bowl games in every one of those years and they've won or shared more than one league title, despite not being favored to win the title.
That changes this year.
Arkansas State is the choice of the coaches to not only win the West Division, but to take the overall crown.
Arkansas State is usually solid on offense. But this could be the best offensive Red Wolves' team maybe ever. Justice Hansen returns at quarterback after throwing for 3,967 yards and 37 touchdowns. Hansen has also shown to be a capable runner, finishing third on the team with 422 yards. And, he's got plenty of targets. Returnees Justin McInnis and Omar Bayless are joined by a pair of transfers from Oklahoma and Texas A&M. Four starters on the offensive line will open plenty of holes for 5'5" RB Warren Wand.
A-State lost some good players on defense, particularly Javon Roland-Jones and the Red Wolves have some holes to plug. They return just one starter on the defensive line and four starters overall. Justin Clifton and B. J. Edmonds give them plenty of talent toward the back, and Clifton's move to nickel will give him more chances to wreak havoc on the running game.
There's talk about A-State having an 11-1 regular season this year and the schedule looks favorable. Besides a trip to #1 Alabama, the Red Wolves should be favored in the rest of their games. An opening game against SEMO, a trip to Tulsa and a home contest against UNLV are the other non conference games. Arkansas State avoids Troy in the league schedule and they get both App State and ULM at home.
OUTLOOK: This could be Arkansas State's best team since joining the FBS. Arkansas State has lost four or more games each of the last five seasons and, frankly, it's hard to find four losses on their schedule. Obviously, Hansen needs to be healthy for them to have the kind of year they are hoping for. They are as explosive offensively as any Sun Belt team in recent years and that should cover up the defense early in the season. But before we simply give ASU the crown, they have to navigate the schedule, which includes a trip to Cajun Field, a place the Red Wolves have won only once since 1992.