By Craig Fields
Arkansas State Red Wolves vs. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
Saturday – December 19 – 8:00 pm CT
Mercedes-Benz Superdome – New Orleans, Louisiana
Records Before the Game
Arkansas State Red Wolves (9-3, 8-0 Sun Belt)
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (8-4, 6-2 C-USA)
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
The Bulldogs led by quarterback Jeff Driskel and running back Kenneth Dixon will be looking to outscore the Red Wolves in what looks on paper to be a high scoring and pass heavy type game. While the Bulldogs do struggle to stop opposing teams passing games, they are pretty good at stuffing the run and tend to make their opponents one-dimensional for large portions of the game.
In my very humble opinion, that makes the Bulldog secondary the most important unit for this game. The Bulldog front seven usually bring their best and stop the run, but the secondary has been less than mediocre the entire season. The Bulldog offense averages 41 points in their wins but the defense gives up an average of 46 points in their losses.
Many times this is a product of the opposing teams airing the ball out against the defense and their suspect secondary. In a seemingly possible high scoring affair, the Bulldogs might need to rely on their offense, one of the best in the nation.
Led by former University of Florida stand out quarterback, Jeff Driskel, the Bulldogs have had little problem scoring the football. Driskel had a very good season passing for 3,575 yards, 24 touchdowns, eight interceptions, and 415 rushing yards.
Kenneth Dixon, the team’s premier running back, had 1,354 combined rushing and receiving yards on the year, 22 touchdowns and a 5.5 yards per carry average. He rarely gets taken down in the backfield and even though he is 5-10 he finishes off his runs.
If Dixon can manage to get a good run game going against the Red Wolves, it could be a long day for their defense because Driskel and his receiving corp can pretty much get their passing game going against anyone.
Arkansas State Red Wolves
The Red Wolves, on the other hand will likely try to keep the ball in the hands of three very capable running backs. Michael Gordon, Warren Wand, Johnston White should all see time in this game and all average over 6 yards per carry.
Gordon led the team in rushing with almost 1,100 yards on the season. Wand had the second most yards on the team and White had 14 rushing touchdowns which also led the team. Quarterback Fredi Knighten also has the ability to run the ball and scramble outside the pocket, often extending plays and buying himself time to either make a play throwing the ball or running it. Both options often lead to positive yardage and help to negate negative plays, which is one thing that ASU head coach Blake Anderson stresses to his players and his senior quarterback.
Behind a very physical and aggressive offensive line, the Red Wolves put together a rushing offense that totaled almost 3,000 yards. With the Bulldogs ability to stop the run, The Red Wolves may need to be a bit more progressive and less predictable with their play calling in order to find holes to exploit.
It will also be imperative that Knighten, who was able to complete about 54 percent of his passes this season, be able to keep the Bulldog defense honest and keep that suspect secondary on their toes.
Their running back trio are all small and shifty with their biggest back at 5-11 and smallest at 5-5. They each have their own unique running style which will make for an interesting game-within-the-game type of dynamic.
This game comes down to the Red Wolves ability to run versus the Bulldogs ability to stop the run and the passing game. If the Red Wolves manage 250 yards rushing or better this game, the Red Wolves should win it. That being said, I still think that this game will be close.
Prediction: Red Wolves 38 – Bulldogs 35