Idaho (1-3, 0-1) at Arkansas State (1-3)
Centennial Bank Stadium, 6 p.m.
Radio: EAB Red Wolves Sports. Broadcast: ESPN3.
Series Record: Red Wolves lead 6-4.
WHAT'S AT STAKE
It is the conference opener for the Red Wolves, who saw their streak of three straight league titles end last year, but game No. 2 for the Vandals, who lost last week to Georgia Southern. If the Red Wolves have any hopes of winning their fourth conference title in five years they have to take care of the Sun Belt's traditional lower division teams (Idaho, New Mexico State, Georgia State) especially when you have them at home. The Red Wolves have nothing but Sun Belt games remaining and this contest is followed by a road trip to South Alabama and UL-Lafayette at home. The Red Wolves are 9-4 in Sun Belt openers.
The A-State defense vs the Idaho offense. The Vandals have a dynamic passing duo in quarterback Matt Linehan, who may or may not play, and stud receiver Dezmon Epps. Slowing down the Vandals’ offense will be vital since the A-State offense has sputtered this year with the injury to Fredi Knighten and facing some pretty strong defenses in USC, Missouri and Toledo. On the other hand, can the A-State offensive line establish control of the line of scrimmage and allow the Red Wolves to run the ball effectively and take some of the pressure off James Tabary, who will likely get his third start. Idaho’s defense is giving up 11.1 yards per, 7.35 per run and 8.6 per game. All of those rank last in FBS.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Arkansas State: James Tabary. The redshirt freshman from New Orleans was good against FCS Missouri State but struggled big time against Toledo. Not having a running game for whatever reason put way too much pressure on the rookie, who had three interceptions in the loss at Toledo.
Toledo: Dezmon Epps is a bad dude. He leads the nation in receiving yards and has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in three games. He has 8 receptions for 165 yards in the lost to Georgia Southern and is averaging 154.7 yards per game. He has 160 yards in the opener vs. Ohio. He is averaging 11 catches per game, leading the Sun Belt and is second nationally. His 464 yards is also tops in the SBC and 6th in the NCAA.
FACTS & FIGURES
- Going back to 2010, Arkansas State is 11-2 in October and both of those losses were last year. It’s homecoming in Jonesboro and the Red Wolves have won 11 of their last 12 homecomings.
- Over the past 4 years, A-State is 25-6 in the SBC and has won 22 of its last 26 on the home field.
- Standout senior receiver J.D. McKissic needs just 3 catches to become career leader in Sun Belt play.
- Arkansas State has seven interceptions on the season, two by defensive linemen.
- ASU is 79th in time of possession by has run the 39th most plays in FBS.
- Michael Gordon is 12th player in school history to record more than 2,000 career rushing yards. At 2,133, he needs 59 to become the 10th all-time at A-State.
- Senior tight end Darion Griswold’s 780 career receiving yards are the second in school history by an A-State tight end.
- Idaho soph QB Matt Linehan, who was in a boot this week as of Wednesday, is the Sun Belt leader in passing yards and 19th nationally. He is third in the SBC and 28th nationally in passing yards per game (277.3), and third in the league and 23rd nationally in total offense per game (302.3).
- Austin Rehkow, the Vandals’ two-time Ray Guy Award Watch List punter, is adding to his reputation as a kicker this season. He is one of 17 kickers nationally who has not missed a field goal this season, and he’s the Sun Belt leader and 15th nationally in field goals per game with 1.75. He is averaging 44.7 yards per punt, which ranks 24th nationally.
- Idaho leads the SBC in two categories – fewest penalties and fumble recoveries.
Blake Anderson: I think it all comes down to us. We have to eliminate penalties and turnovers. That is something that we can improve on. We feel like we will be very competitive talent wise every week. We are good enough to win every week but if we don’t stop the mistakes we are putting ourselves in a bad position.