It’s never a good sign when a player has to console a coach after a loss, and that was the case for Arkansas State during their week one blowout loss to Oklahoma. Not even Arkansas State fans expected their team to compete in this one, but they likely did not expect their team to lose by 73 points. Now, back in front of their home crowd, the Red Wolves will look to put that loss behind them when they host the Memphis Tigers.
While the Red Wolves were out, giving up points at an alarming rate, the Memphis Tigers were taking care of business against Bethune Cookman. The Tigers offense would finish their 56-14 win with 334 passing yards and two touchdowns from quarterback Seth Henigan. While Henigen was strong, the real story was the running-back duo of Sutton Smith and Blake Watson, who rushed for a combined 190 yards and five touchdowns.
Defensively, the Tigers' defense was solid in stopping the run and pass, holding Bethune Cookman to 91 total yards by the end of the game and forcing a fumble. Memphis would also pick up four sacks in the game, proving their front seven will be able to continue their success from last season, as they finished 23rd in EPA per play on rush plays in 2022.
A strong defense is the last thing the Arkansas State offense wants to see after being shut out last weekend. The Red Wolves could only pick up ten first downs in their game against Oklahoma, as neither their passing nor running game was effective. On 23 rush attempts, the Red Wolves picked up just 48 yards, while quarterback J.T. Shrout completed 12 of his 26 pass attempts for 148 yards.
Even if the Arkansas State offense played a little better, it would not have mattered since the OU offense was tearing apart the Red Wolves' defense. The Sooners managed to throw for 422 passing yards and rush for an additional 220, so the Arkansas State defensive shortcomings were prevalent both through the air and on the ground.
For my play in this one, I’ll be taking the Memphis Tigers 1H spread of (-11.5). Losing by 70 points takes a lot out of you, and while the Oklahoma offense is elite, the Memphis Tigers will bring a heavy passing attack this weekend that will be hard to stop. The Tigers were 57th in EPA per pass play in 2022, and they dropped back to pass 36 times in week one with an experienced quarterback.
The Tigers' ability to unleash their two-headed monster at running back brings another element of offense I don’t think the Red Wolves can stop. Arkansas State was 113th in EPA per play on defense in 2022, and they showed no signs of improvement in week one.
While I expect the Tigers to get off to a fast start on offense, I think their defense can get the Red Wolves offense off the field consistently. Memphis forced Bethune Cookman to go 1-15 on third down conversions in week one, and Arkansas State showed no ability to pick up conversions in week one. With a lack of run game and an arduous task lining up against the Memphis defensive line, I think we see the Red Wolves struggle to put up points again this week.
Memphis Tigers 1H (-11.5)