Arkansas State vs. Southern Miss Odds & Picks: Bet Saturday’s Favorite?
Photo by Bobby McDuffie/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Zach Wilcke (Southern Miss)
Arkansas State vs. Southern Miss Odds
We head to Hattiesburg for a Sun Belt clash featuring two teams looking to turn around their seasons, and potentially the fates of their second-year head coaches.
Both teams have won only two games in the first half of the season, and only one apiece against FBS opponents.
The Red Wolves have a porous defense, but are fairly competent on offense thanks to the Herculean efforts of former Florida State signal caller James Blackman.
The Golden Eagles have a stout defense, but have cycled through quarterbacks in search of answers. Without consistency at the position, the offense has been rough.
Southern Miss is favored by a small margin in this game of well-hued animal mascots. But which side is the best bet in a matchup of strengths vs. weaknesses?
Butch Jones arrived in Jonesboro after a three-year course in the Nick Saban Academy for Wayward Head Coaches.
While his tenure at Tennessee may have ended on a sour note, Jones did win three bowl games in five years and sported a career 84-54 head coaching record in FBS before taking the Arkansas State job.
The offense has been competent for the Red Wolves, ranking 64th in SP+, and scoring 24 in a loss to ODU and 32 in a loss to Memphis.
Blackman helms a passing game that ranks 42nd in explosive plays. He is having a nice season, with 1,459 passing yards and a 9:1 touchdown:interceptions ratio.
Unfortunately, the overall offense might be going the wrong way for the Red Wolves. Some underlying issues have started to crop up in the last three games.
After zero drops in the first three games, the Red Wolves' pass catchers have dropped five balls in the last three.
Blackman was protected well in the first three efforts, but that is dropping off. He was sacked only three times in the first three games, but has been brought to the turf 15 times in the past three.
After scrambling three times in the first three, he has had to escape the pocket eight times over the next three.
Perhaps this is due to worse offensive line play, although the team’s snap counts have been fairly stable up front. Perhaps it is scheme and game plan, or perhaps it's Blackman’s decision making.
Either way, this increase in pressure coincides with a decidedly more downfield passing attack. Blackmon’s ADOT in the first three weeks was 6.1, and it has been 9.9 in the last three weeks, which is a fairly drastic rise. He has eight of his ten Big Time Throws in that span.
It’s hard to diagnose this mid-season revamp as a good or a bad thing. The first three games — with the dink and dunk — featured a big win over an overmatched foe, a blowout to a top-25 team and a close loss to a similar program.
The second three games featured a big win over an overmatched foe, a blowout to a top-25 team and a close loss to a similar program.
The defense has been poor in Jonesboro, ranking 110th in SP+. The Red Wolves match an 87th-ranked Success Rate against the rush with an 87th-ranked Success Rate against the pass.
The real downside is the big-play pass defense, as the Red Wolves are 128th in preventing explosive passes.
Will Hall arrived in Hattiesburg with a sparkling offensive reputation. He had previously served as Willie Fritz’s right hand in Tulane, and Fritz is one of the sport’s most underrated creative minds.
But so far, the Hall era has been marred by a poor offense, particularly quarterback play. You might remember last season when the entire QB depth chart got hurt and Hall was left to run a wildcat system he called “Superback” for the last three games of the season.
Ty Keyes was tabbed the starter in preseason, but he suffered an injury in the opener. While Hall considered going back to “Superback,” he gave the reins to freshman Zach Wilke, and he has held the job ever since.
Wilke has been inconsistent, as many freshmen thrust into a starting position can be. In a win over Tulane, he completed 68% of his passes, threw two touchdowns and had no turnovers or Turnover Worthy Plays.
In last week’s loss to Troy, he completed 54% of his passes, was sacked five times and had one touchdown to go with five Turnover Worthy Plays.
Star running back Frank Gore Jr. has been slumping, another factor in the offense’s struggles. After rushing for 176 yards in the opener, he has only compiled 202 on the ground in the five games since.
Gore’s production was the straw that stirred the "Superback" drink last November, and he single-handedly powered the Golden Eagles in the 4OT loss in Week 1 to Liberty.
Getting him going will be crucial to any future success.
The defense is even more improved from last season’s unit, now checking in at 41st overall in SP+. The Golden Eagles are equally stout against the pass as the run and rank 23rd in creating Havoc.
Arkansas State vs. Southern Miss Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Arkansas State and Southern Miss match up statistically:
Arkansas State Offense vs. Southern Miss Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
Southern Miss Offense vs. Arkansas State Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
Pace of Play / Other
|SP+ Special Teams||1||52|
|Seconds per Play||27.7 (94)||27.1 (79)|
|Rush Rate||54.8% (59)||56.6% (43)|
Data via CollegeFootballData.com (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, Pro Football Focus and SportSource Analytics.
Arkansas State vs. Southern Miss Betting Pick
This is a tough matchup to call. Both teams have left a few wins on the table and could really use a few conference wins for their second-year coaches.
Arkansas State has the better quarterback, but Southern Miss has home-field advantage. Arkansas State has the better offense and a far worse defense. Meanwhile, Southern Miss has a quality defense, but has been inconsistent on offense.
Against a defense as leaky as Arkansas State’s, this will be a get-right game for Gore — plus, Wilke will be much better than his struggles against that ferocious Troy pass rush.
The biggest factor will be Arkansas State’s recent boom-or-bust play. The Red Wolves' new all-or-nothing, big risk and big reward style will play into the hands of an aggressive Southern Miss defense that thrives on creating Havoc.
Blackman has protected the ball well this year, but he is struggling with pressure right now. That factor will be crucial to a game that Southern Miss will win.
The game opened at USM -3.5 and now sits at -4.5. I’ll play it at any number up to 5.5.