South Alabama vs Arkansas State Odds, Prediction: CFB Betting Guide
Photo by Bobby McDuffie/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Carter Bradley (South Alabama)
South Alabama vs Arkansas State Odds
South Alabama heads to Jonesboro following a tough mid-week loss to Troy. That game was for the upper hand in the Sun Belt West division, on primetime television and was the first sellout crowd in South Alabama history. The Jaguars came up just short, falling 10-6.
How they pick themselves up off the mat will be crucial in determining the outcome of this slightly less consequential conference matchup.
Arkansas State sits at 2-6 on the season, with three of those losses being blown fourth quarter leads. It’s one of the youngest rosters overall in the country, and the Red Wolves are currently battling the injury bug.
The shorthanded roster couldn’t keep it close at Louisiana last week, but will the Red Wolves be able to do so this week hosting South Alabama?
Despite last week’s losses, Kane Wommack has good vibes going in only his second year in Mobile. The Jaguars are 5-2 and can clinch bowl eligibility as early as this week.
Last year entering November, South Alabama was 5-3 and in shouting distance of a bowl game before losing its final four games and missing out on the postseason. The Jaguars are hoping to avoid that fate again this year, and are in stronger position to do so.
Last year’s collapse was fueled by an injury to quarterback Jake Bentley and a tough schedule, which featured Appalachian State, Tennessee and Coastal Carolina to end the slate.
This year’s November docket is much more favorable to the Jags, and quarterback Carter Bradley and this passing attack are firing on all cylinders.
Bradley, the Toledo transfer, is having a great season under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Major Applewhite. Bradley has completed 65.4% of his passes for 1,902 yards and has 13 touchdowns to only five interceptions.
The Jaguars look to dink-and-dunk you down the field — posting the 24th-best Success Rate in FBS on pass plays — but are only 88th in Explosiveness. Either way, Bradley will have success against an Arkansas State pass defense that ranks 109th in EPA against the pass.
The defensive side of the ball is where Wommack cut his teeth and is the star of the show here.
South Alabama’s defense is 30th overall in SP+ and is stronger against the pass (38th in EPA Allowed/Pass) than the rush (106th). It’s really hard to get quality drives against the Jaguars and create scoring opportunities, as they rate 35th in the country in Parker Fleming’s ECKEL Rate.
They are a particularly poor matchup for this opponent, even before we consider the injury bug that has bitten Arkansas State.
The Red Wolves have little ground attack (120th in Rushing Success Rate), but have some modicum of passing ability with veteran quarterback James Blackman (68th in Passing Success Rate).
That fits perfectly into South Alabama’s strengths and doesn’t attack the Jaguars' weaknesses. Arkansas State struggles mightily to create scoring chances, ranking 109th in ECKEL Rate.
Year two of the Butch Jones tenure looks nothing like Wommack’s successful campaign, and it looks like it is taking a midseason turn for the worse.
Early in the year, sixth-year senior Blackman was propping up one of the youngest rosters in FBS with his do-everything heroics, providing a decent passing attack to an otherwise limited roster.
Arkansas State was showing signs of progress in some tough losses, blowing fourth-quarter leads to Old Dominion, Memphis and Southern Miss. But now as injuries mount, it looks like this team might struggle to compete going forward.
Blackman, leading rusher Johnnie Lang and others missed the Louisiana contest, and the game ended in a 20-point blowout to a middling Cajuns squad.
Other Red Wolves left that game early and did not return, including multiple contributors in the secondary — which is bad news against this South Alabama passing attack.
College football injury reports are notoriously terrible, so it's tough to get a sense mid-week of how much the Red Wolves can expect from Blackman and Lang. Even with those two on offense, their defense will be too limited to keep this game competitive.
Arkansas State’s defense is bad in almost every metric. The Red Wolves do one thing well, which is create Havoc — ranking 32nd in the country in that metric.
Unfortunately for them on Saturday, South Alabama is 22nd in preventing Havoc. Their best weapon is nullified in this matchup.
South Alabama vs Arkansas State Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how South Alabama and Arkansas State match up statistically:
South Alabama Offense vs. Arkansas State Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)
Arkansas State Offense vs. South Alabama Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)
Pace of Play / Other
|SP+ Special Teams
|Seconds per Play
Data via CollegeFootballData.com (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, Pro Football Focus and SportSource Analytics.
South Alabama vs Arkansas State Betting Pick
There’s hope for Jones' tenure long term; he just signed the best high school recruiting class in the country in the 2022 cycle and is working on another strong class for '23.
But right now this is still a deep rebuild, and his Red Wolves face a team that has a better roster, a shorter injury report and significant matchup advantages.
I like South Alabama to cover the spread, even with Blackman playing. I’ll take the Jaguars at -9.5 on FanDuel with value to -10, and if Blackman doesn’t play, I’ll take it all the way up to -13.