Arkansas State vs. Louisiana Odds, Picks: Bet Saturday’s Road Dog
Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: James Blackman (Arkansas State)
- Arkansas State heads to Lafayette on Saturday to take on Louisiana in a Sun Belt battle.
- The Ragin' Cajuns enter as relatively short favorites, but we see betting value on the other side.
- Check out Dan Keegan's full betting guide and pick below.
Arkansas State vs. Louisiana Odds
This matchup features two teams that have taken turns dominating the Sun Belt over the last decade, but both are currently in tough situations.
They have inverse strengths, as Arkansas State is an offense-first team playing Louisiana’s tough defense, and Louisiana has struggled on offense but faces an accommodating defense this week.
Arkansas State has been one of the most profitable teams in CFB this year, going 6-1 against the number.
Should you back the Red Wolves in this game, or should you stick with the reigning Sun Belt West champions?
The Blake Anderson era ended in tragic fashion, and Butch Jones took over a program in need of a deep roster rebuild. So far in his time, he has won only four games in Jonesboro — two against FCS schools and two against UL Monroe.
But the recruiting is on fire — the Red Wolves have made savvy portal moves and one of the youngest lineups in FBS is anchored by sixth-year quarterback James Blackman.
There have been signs of functionality this season for the offense. Blackman has elevated the team, completing 69.3% of his passes for 1,695 yards to go with 11 scores and only one interception.
The ex-Florida State Seminole was extremely efficient in building a fourth-quarter lead last week against a tough Southern Miss defense.
The rushing game has not been as successful as the passing attack, though. The Red Wolves are 42nd in EPA/pass but 124th in EPA/Rush. The backfield duo of Johnnie Lang and Brian Snead have combined for only 590 yards at 3.8 yards per carry.
Lang is one of the best kick returners in the country, leading the nation in kickoff return yards. His presence is part of Arkansas State’s huge special teams advantage in this matchup. The Red Wolves are first in SP+ special teams and the Ragin’ Cajuns are 103rd.
Arkansas State’s defense has been porous, ranking 101st in SP+. It's equally forgiving in most metrics, ranking near the bottom of FBS in most aspects.
The Red Wolves do rank near the top of FBS (No. 27) in creating Havoc. This will be a crucial matchup because Louisiana features a more ball-control style of offense and is 39th in preventing Havoc.
The recent bullies of the Sun Belt West — the Ragin' Cajuns won the division four times in a row under Billy Napier — have taken a big step back under his replacement, Michael Desormeaux.
Napier wasn't the only familiar face that needed replacing, as longtime quarterback Levi Lewis also moved on, as did a host of other contributors. The Ragin' Cajuns ranked 114th entering the season in returning production.
Louisiana went on the road last week to Huntington, West Virginia, where it snapped a three-game losing streak with a much-needed win over a struggling Marshall outfit.
The Cajuns' offense has been searching for answers all season. This unit ranks 105th in Beta_Rank and has been just as ineffective passing (90th) as rushing (102nd).
Desormeaux has rotated his two quarterbacks for much of the season, giving Ben Wooldridge one drive for every two by Chandler Fields. But an injury to Fields meant Wooldridge held the full-time gig against Marshall, and that appears to be the case again this week against Arkansas State.
The best part of the offense is explosive rushes, as the Cajuns rank 26th in FBS. Unfortunately, almost all of that production comes from leading rusher Chris Smith, who is doubtful for this game. His replacements have not demonstrated nearly the same capacity for big plays as Smith.
The defense is still rock solid, ranking 20th in SP. It's solid against the run, but excellent against the pass, which could spell trouble for Blackman. The Cajuns as a team rank sixth overall in PFF Coverage Grading.
Arkansas State vs. Louisiana Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Arkansas State and Louisiana match up statistically:
Arkansas State Offense vs. Louisiana Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
Louisiana Offense vs. Arkansas State Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
Pace of Play / Other
|SP+ Special Teams||1||103|
|Seconds per Play||27.6 (96)||26.2 (63)|
|Rush Rate||53.9% (63)||49.0% (90)|
Data via CollegeFootballData.com (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, Pro Football Focus and SportSource Analytics.
Arkansas State vs. Louisiana Betting Pick
Arkansas State has shown flashes this season and has already lost three games this season in which it held fourth-quarter leads.
That’s frustrating, but it’s also indicative of a young team learning to compete and play together. Playing in close games is a step in the right direction for this program.
Louisiana is a team headed in the wrong direction, even if it did break its losing skid last weekend.
The Cajuns' offense against the Arkansas State defense will be a stoppable force meeting a movable object. This is especially true without leading tailback Smith.
This game will be low-scoring and slow-paced. Arkansas State’s Havoc defense, significant quarterback advantage and special teams play could force the issue and earn it an upset win.
This line is a touch inflated based on the teams’ recent history, and it doesn’t reflect the Red Wolves' actual play over the last month. I’ll take the Red Wolves at +6.5, and I would play it to 4.5.