Neither Arkansas State nor Nevada is close to the site of the Arizona Bowl in Tucson and that means it’s like a vacation for both teams that prefer to win by putting points on the board. The Red Wolves were slight -1 point favorites with an over/under of 57.5 a week before the Game.
Arkansas State (6-6 ATS) opened the Sun Belt campaign against two of the better teams in the Conference (both losses), but easily carved its way in the final couple months, winning the last Four Games. Of course, playing in the Sun Belt doesn’t allow for many opportunities against good teams and that’s why the Wolves didn’t have one win against a team that reached a bowl. That said, they beat UNLV 27-20 earlier in the season, a team that beat Nevada 34-29 in the finale, albeit at UNLV.
Nevada (6-6 ATS) at least had a few wins against bowl teams in Hawaii and San Diego State. Losing by Four points to Boise was also an impressive feat, but the late loss to UNLV put a damper on the season. Also with this being only Jay Norvell’s second year at Nevada (3-9 last year), it’s his first bowl Game, while ASU head coach Blake Anderson is in his fifth-straight bowl, though has a 1-3 record.
Arkansas State’s main question has been defense in recent seasons and while it has better numbers with only 26.4 points per Game allowed, this group still gave up five yards per carry and 200 rushing yards per Game in the Sun Belt. The Red Wolves closed the season on a good note, but that was because of competition. Prior to that, they had given up at least 35 points in three consecutive Games.
Nevada will try and penetrate that weak rush defense with MWC Freshman of the Year, Toa Taua, who had 816 yards on 5.2 yards per carry. Kelton Moore also saw plenty of action and ran for 129 yards in the finale. When this offense ran the ball well, it was often a problem for the opposition because quarterback Ty Gangi did the rest, passing for 23 touchdowns. His downfall was thee interceptions in the loss to UNLV, which lost the Game. Gangi spreads the ball plenty with McLAne Mannix (875 yards) and Kaleb Fossum (725 yards) the top two targets. While ASU has a better pass defense, it was mediocre at forcing turnovers with 10 interceptions.
It’s almost the same matchup on the other side of the ball outside of Nevada having a better rush defense that allowed only 3.5 yards per carry. The Red Wolves run a similar offense, but get a little more out of quarterback Justice Hansen, who was more efficient this year with 27 touchdowns, six picks and 8.18 yards per attempt. Similar to Gangi, he had a couple receiving options with Kirk Merritt (75 receptions, 939 yards) and Justin McInnis (694 yards) leading the way. But the running Game was just as efficient as both Marcel Murray and Warren Wand averaged at least five yards per carry and Hansen added on 396 rushing yards and six touchdowns.
ASU has the better quarterback but it also has a major leak in rush defense even though it had a defensive lineman make the All Sun Belt team. This Game should be close and higher scoring if the offenses figure things out and that’s more than possible with two senior quarterbacks.
The Red Wolves are 2-6 ATS vs. a team with a winning record and 1-5 ATS in their last six non-Conference Games. The Wolf Pack are 2-5-1 ATS in their last eight bowl Games and 1-6 ATS in their last seven non-Conference Games.
Our Pick – Why ruin a good day of college football by puting this Game on the card? With Fla/Mich and SC/Virginia going on at the same time, who will watch this? Of course, when those Games end, the nations football fans will all switch over to this garbage bowl to catch the end. Perhaps that was the idea all along?
At any rate, we’re hoping that when the nations football fans do switch over, they see the ending of a wild and wacky back and forth affair with points galore, as we’re going OVER 57.5 on this one!