The Arkansas State Red Wolves and the Toledo Rockets earned themselves a bowl appearance in 2015. Most prognosticators think that they will play in another this winter as well. The two schools open the season against one another on Friday night, September 2nd at 9:00 p.m. ET in Jonesboro, Arkansas. The contest will be shown for your viewing enjoyment on ESPNU. The Red Wolves are a -3.5 point favorite and the over/under is placed at 64.5.
The Arkansas State Red Wolves are plenty capable capable of re-capturing the Sun Belt title in 2016. They will have to do it without their experienced quarterback and team leader Fredi Knighten. New signal-caller Justin Hansen, a transfer from Oklahoma, will get the opportunity to take advantage of some unproven talent on the offensive side of the ball.
The Red Wolves might be even faster on offense thanks to some key transfers at the wide-out position. Catching the balls from new quarterback Justin Hansen will be veteran Dijon Paschal. Paschal collected over 500 yards from scrimmage and three scores last season. He will be joined by Texas Longhorn transfer Kendall Sanders and TCU transfer Cameron Echols-Luper.
Johnston White and Warren Wand become the Red Wolves rushing attack with the departures of Fredi Knighten and Michael Gordon. Production shouldn’t be a problem with this one two punch. Johnston White and little Warren Wand (5’5, 170) combined for over 1,300 yards and also 19 touchdowns. Both backs averaged over six yards a carry. To top things off, the offensive line returns almost all of it’s starters from 2015.
The Defense can provide a little bite of their own. The Red Wolves front-four run two-deep and is large and in charge. They are lead by Dee Liner and Big Waylon Roberson (6’2, 350). Ja’Von Roland Jones will return and with him comes a Sun Belt leading nine sacks and 13 tackles for a loss.
Ja’Von Roland Jones should have plenty of support from First Team Sun Belt All-Conference linebacker Xavier Woodson. The dominance from the front half should allow the secondary to have another big season. Last year they also totaled an impressive 26 interceptions.
The Rocket’s Logan Woodside led them to a 9-4 record in 2014, but found himself as a back-up the following season. He also ended up getting injured so it was irrelevant anyways. Woodside is back and his roll under center is obvious. Let the two man wrecking crew of Kareem Hunt and Terry Swanson.
The two Toledo Rocket stalwarts combined for over 1,800 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2015. Heck, Hunt amassed over 1,600 yards all by his lonesome in 2014. They will be led by an offensive line that is as impressive as any in the nation and they return mostly intact.
When the Toledo Rockets decide to move the chains through the air, Woodside will have a deep and talented group of play-makers to work with. They are led Corey Jones. Jones had 55 catches and almost six hundred yards with 5 touchdowns. Jones also is an All-MAC punt returner with some first class track speed.
The Rocket’s defense took some heavy losses after the 2015 season. Six seniors on the defensive front departed and four secondary starters will not be playing anymore. Toledo is hoping that some new talent they brought in can right the ship. Sophomore Notre Dame transfer Jhonny Williams and Earl Moore, a 6-1, 302-pound senior from the Miami Hurricanes. This season’s defense may not be as talented or cohesive as last years. Hopefully, there is still plenty of talent to keep opposing offenses in line.
Toledo had their way with the Red Wolves two seasons ago in the Go Daddy Bowl. They dismantled them to the tune of 63-44. Fast forward to 2015 and they also clobbered them at home in a one-sided 37-7 affair. The Rockets also lead the all-time series against Arkansas State four zip.
The Rockets are returning an offensive line the yielded only four sacks in 2015. That stat in itself is ridiculous. Toledo’s offensive line also created plenty of space for their talented backs. The Rockets have plenty of talent at the skilled positions and this team also knows how to win. The defending MAC Conference champs beat Arkansas and man-handled a solid Bowling Green unit last season.
I think the Red Wolves will be the best in the Sun Belt, but it will take some time for the transfers to jell. Both squads should be able to run the ball effectively and move the chains with too much resistance. Toledo lost some on the defense and revenge games bug me anyways. I’ll root for the offenses in this battle.
The Hun’s Prediction:
The over 64.5