Arkansas State’s season started with one of their players consoling head coach Butch Jones on the sideline and the offense scoring just three points in the first two weeks, but since then, they have rattled off three wins in a row. Looking to make it four straight, the Red Wolves will be on the road playing the Troy Trojans in a Sun Belt Conference game.
The Troy Trojans went on the road in week five as (+1) point underdogs against Georgia State, but they managed to come away with a 28-7 win. Behind their defense, which is 42nd in the country in defensive success rate on run plays, the Trojans managed to hold the Panthers to just 105 rush yards on 31 attempts. That performance has the Trojans allowing an average of 98.8 rushing yards per game and 3.1 rushing yards per attempt.
While the Trojans' defense can consistently stop the run, their offense has struggled to establish the run game. Troy’s offense is centered around their passing game and quarterback Gunnar Watson, as they are 23rd in the country in pass play percentage, and Watson is averaging 288.5 passing yards per game. Watson and his nine touchdown passes have the Trojans ranked 65th in EPA per pass play heading into this weekend.
Watson threw for 256 yards and a touchdown last weekend, and he has an ideal matchup on Saturday with an Arkansas State defense that is 114th in defensive success rate and 110th in EPA per pass play. In the Red Wolves' 52-28 win over UMASS this past weekend, they allowed 269 passing yards, which has them ranked 123rd in total yards allowed and 119th in passing yards allowed per game.
Offensively, Arkansas State started the season as bad as a team can, so their numbers are a bit skewed because of that. The Red Wolves drastic turnaround on that side of the ball is due to a quarterback change, as once they handed the starter role to freshman Jaylen Raynor, the offense has looked entirely different. Raynor threw for 383 yards and six touchdowns last weekend, giving him ten touchdowns and one interception in three games.
Arkansas State enters this matchup listed as (+16.5) point underdogs, and I’ll be backing them for my play. This Red Wolves team has really seemed to rally behind their freshman quarterback, and while they may not be able to keep their winning streak alive, I think they can cover against a Troy team that is 1-4 ATS this season.
Raynor completed 80% of his passes last weekend, and he’ll need to be efficient through the air again this week since Troy’s defensive weakness is stopping the pass. The Trojans are 76th in EPA per pass play on defense and rank 100th in sack percentage, so the freshman should be able to get through his progressions and lead a few scoring drives. If Raynor can establish the passing game, he might be able to use his dual-threat ability more effectively later in the game.
Getting defensive stops should be the biggest focus for the Red Wolves this weekend, and while they have struggled defensively, the Trojans offense doesn’t have off-the-charts production. Troy is currently 103rd in offensive success rate while ranking 91st in offensive success rate on pass plays and 125th in EPA per rush play. With numbers like that, I don’t think they can make this game a blowout.
Arkansas State (+16.5)