The Red Wolves are a massive underdog to #3 Buckeyes
Yeah, that Vegas line is obnoxious – 43 points in favor of Ohio State (at the time of this writing), the largest spread listed for Week 2. Last week, the Warhawks were a 38-point dog to Texas, and ULM couldn’t best the spread. Should we expect more from Arkansas State?
College football is an industry bearing 95% parity and 5% astronomical advantage This year, the Buckeyes are one of those latter teams. According to 247, “Ohio State has more five-star prospects on its roster than the entire Big 12 (10) and Pac-12 (10).” That’s a damn crime of riches. While Arkansas State did enjoy the Sun Belt’s best recruiting class this off season, the side-by-side comparison should reveal a significant size and speed gap.
It doesn’t help (at all) that the 11 AM game will be played in Columbus, or that Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud is the odds on favorite to win the Heisman this season, or that the Buckeyes have three players listed as First Team All Americans by CBS Sports. The list of Ohio State advantages grows thick.
Can the Red Wolves overcome that 43.5 point spread? Can Arkansas State possibly win the game outright? Ours is a broad and beautiful universe of glorious possibility. With that, I punt it to the Fates.
Can James Blackman Be More Perfect on Saturday?
According to ESPN, your nation’s QBR leader isn’t CJ Stroud, it’s A-State quarterback James Blackman, who was 15-20 for 210 YDS and a pair of passing TDs to destroy Grambling in Week One. Blackman looked poised, confident, and strong against the Tigers, who didn’t have a single answer for the Florida State transfer.
It stands to reason that the Ohio State defensive line has more talent than Grambling State’s. The Buckeyes defense held #5 Notre Dame to just 250 yards of offense, dropping Irish QB Tyler Buchner three times. Blackman will definitely see more pressure on Saturday, which means Butch Jones and his staff will likely be focused on mitigating mistakes that result in opportunities that the Buckeyes clearly do not need.
Is There Momentum for the Arkansas State Defense?
Red Wolves defense works best when it’s applying pressure to the quarterback. Arkansas State racked up four sacks and 14 TFLs against Grambling, which eventually rattled the Tigers QB into throwing a pick to Red Wolves safety Eddie Smith. With only one game supplying data, the A-State appeared vastly improved over last season’s.
Meanwhile, Ohio State has a pair of All-American offensive line candidates in Paris Johnson Jr. and Dawand Jones, two 300+lb behemoths, and Notre Dame was only able to get to Stroud one time in Week 1.
Weapons-wise, Stroud and WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba is the guy with name recognition, but Smith-Njigba apparently got dinged against Notre Dame – he only collected two receptions for a measly 3 yards on Saturday. Most of Ohio State’s damage was manufactured by sophomore wide receiver Emeka Egbuka (90 yards, 1 TD) and sophomore RB Treveyon Henderson (91 yards, 6.1 per carry).
Overall, this will be a real test for traditionally undersized nose tackle TW Ayers and the defensive end squad of Kivon Bennett, Thurman Geathers and possibly the freshman Keyron Crawford, who led Arkansas State with 6 tackles, one sack and 3 TFLs against Grambling. Additionally, the Red Wolves secondary performed well on Saturday, holding the Tigers to just 52 yards passing. However, the entire squad will have to elevate their game when squaring up against the Heisman favorite.
Arkansas State Unveils Some Sick New Drip
What Say You, Dark Emotions Board?
Ohio State’s Head Coach on Arkansas State
“Certainly a good coaching staff, good players, they’ve added some new pieces. They have talent. They got off to a good start this year. They’re much improved this year. We got to do a really good job of getting ready for a noon kickoff — that’s different from last week — and then play up to our standard.”Ryan Day, Ohio State HC
Who Will Be Key to a Red Wolves Victory?
Red Wolves soft-pawed wide receiver Champ Flemings was the fastest man in Jonesboro on Saturday, schooling the Tigers for 122 yards and a TD. But keep in mind that 11 Red Wolves recorded a reception on Saturday, including several running backs. Not included, senior wide receiver Te’Vailance Hunt, who is a bit dinged and is still “day-to-day” according to Coach Jones.
However, Blackman will need Flemings’ speed, sure hands, and knack for getting open if the Red Wolves want to create offensive menace. If the offensive line (which performed quite well on Saturday) can pry open an occasional lane for former Buckeye Brian Snead and Johnnie Lang, Arkansas State may have the firepower to keep the Buckeyes guessing.
On defense, the line of scrimmage will be abattoir of human suffering, leaving the Red Wolves secondary to understand their assignments and reduce big plays. Eddie Smith’s leadership was instrumental in holding the Tigers to just three points. Butch Jones will need Kenneth Harris and Leon Jones to access more gears to stop that Ohio State host of NFL caliber receivers.
The Final Analysis
The Red Wolves were supposed to beat Grambling State. That Arkansas State won handedly 58-3 provides an insulating layer of confidence for a program that was suffering in every aspect of the game last season.
The Red Wolves are not supposed to beat Ohio State, widely projected to occupy one of the College Football Playoff slots come January. ESPN gives Arkansas State a 1.6% chance to win. We already discussed the attitude in Vegas.
“The only thing that we can control is our preparation,” Coach Butch Jones. But Jones feels confident about the Red Wolves too. “For the first time since arriving here, I feel like we have a team that is ready to hunt.”
Whether these dogs can hunt in Columbus, only the gridiron can tell us.
PHOTO CREDIT: I took this shot from the press box, like the world’s laziest photographer