No Doubt who's the best team in the SB

Arkansas State left little doubt in anyone's mind who the best football team in the Sun Belt Conference is. The Red Wolves defeated Middle Tennessee State University 45-0 to win their second straight undisputed Sun Belt Conference Championship. Go "Inside" for how ASU dominated the Blue Raiders.

Seems the Troy coach knew what he was talking about.

Veteran Trojan leader Larry Blakeney did not please folks in Murfreesboro last week when he said he thought Arkansas State was the better team and the Red Wolves would defeat the Blue Raiders in their approaching meeting for the Sun Belt Conference championship.

On Saturday, before an announced Liberty Banks Stadium crowd of 31,243, the Red Wolves sent a loud message to the college football world with a 45-0 whipping of Middle Tennessee.

They were the better team and they are once again the best team in the Sun Belt.

A-State (9-3, 7-1) has now won seven straight in the SBC and 15 of 16 to record its second straight conference title.

Bowl bids are to be officially announced Sunday at 7 p.m.

This one was decided quickly. ASU romped to a 35-0 halftime advantage. The Red Wolves scored on all five possessions in a near perfect half.

"This is the number one win on my all-time list,'' said quarterback Ryan Aplin. "It's so cool where all the fans stay when you are up 45-nothing. Nothing comes close.

"It means everything to win back-to-back Sun Belt Conference titles. Our senior class, I mean we've been through everything, all the ups and downs. We've been blessed to have the coaches we have had. We wanted to go out like this, and keep raising the bar as high as we can."

The last two seasons, A-State has posted a 19-6 record and gone 15-1 in SBC play.

"We played a very good team and we played our best game,'' said Malzahn. "When you win a conference title, you have to think about the players. We had some leaders that won last year and knew what it took. We didn't have a lot of them, but the ones we did led this group. As a coach, when you win a championship, you think about the players and the appreciation you have for them."

Ryan Aplin, the Red Wolves' senior quarterback playing his final home game, was 13 of 14 for the half for 174 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 61 yards.

In the second half, ASU added 10 points, mostly running the clock. But while the offense was busy with a more time-consuming approach, John Thompson's defense remained relentless.

"Getting a shutout in college football today is almost unheard of,'' said linebacker Nathan Herrold, who led the defense with 10 tackles, and interception and a pass break up.

"It was so emotional for senior day and it's not anything like high school. It means a lot to stand out there with your teammates.''

The ASU defense was almost as good as the offense. The Blue Raiders (8-4, 6-2) never came close, reaching the ASU 25 on their first possession that was stopped by Herrold's interception. In the final quarter, they reached the Red Wolves' 27 where defensive tackle Dexter Blackmon made an interception off a deflection.

"That offense has been playing very well against some good teams,'' said Malzahn. "They have put up some points and for us to shut them out, that was really big. Coach (John) Thompson, the defensive staff and the players, that was an unbelievable job.

MTSU, finished with just 203 yards and 12 first downs. ASU had 512 yards and averaged 7.5 yards per play.

Aplin finished 19 of 21 passing for 238 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for 64 yards on six carries and a touchdown.

"They were good today,'' said MTSU coach Rick Stockstill. "They got good skill players; their running back is probably the best running back in the conference. They have good receivers and they got a really good fifth-year senior quarterback. This is a good football team."

David Oku ran for 102 yards on 19 carries and Rocky Hayes added 52 yards on 12 carries and each scored a touchdown. J.D. McKissic finished with eight receptions for 60 yards while Josh Jarboe, Julian Jones and Kedric Murry all caught touchdown passes.

In fact, the Red Wolves'' first drive almost looked too easy. A 75-yard, seven play drive opened the game and Aplin scored from the 4 less than 3 minutes into the game. Brian Davis kicked the extra point for a 7-0 lead at 12:22 mark.

"Well they took their first possession down and scored,'' said Stockstill. "We came down on our possession and threw an interception and they ran it back and you're down 14 before it got 10 minutes left in the first quarter. They're an explosive offense and we could never get them stopped defensively. That put more pressure on us to make plays. They handled us pretty good up front and we didn't have enough weapons out there to combat what hey were giving us.''

After Herrold's interception and 45-yard return, Oku scored on a 9-yard run to cap a 33-yard drive. Davis kicked it 14-0 at 7:05. Jarboe grabbed a 6-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the first quarter and Davis made it 21-0.

Julian Jones caught his seventh touchdown pass of the season, a 59-yard the next play after the Red Wolves had stopped MTSU on downs at the 41. Jones had just 13 receptions on the season, but more than half of them have been for scores.

Hayes, a freshmen who was converted to running back after the season-opening Oregon game, scored on a 12-yard run with 23 seconds left in the half.

In the second half, the Red Wolves scored on a 6-yard pass from Aplin to Murry with 9:49 left in in the third and Davis added a 21-yard field goal with 6:38 left.