Well folks, here we are. One more game left in the season. One more game left in the Sun Belt. And it comes against the boys from Jonesboro in Arkansas St.
The Tops are coming off of a statement win against Texas State, and ride their 2nd 3-game winning streak of the season, and will play at home for the first time since losing to the now bowl-eligible Trojans on October 26th. Whew, that’s a lot.
The Red Wolves come into the game on a 4-game winning streak, and, oddly enough, their only winning streak of the season. While the number of consecutive wins is more impressive than WKU’s, Arkansas St. had to squeak by Texas St. (38-21) and Georgia State (35-33).
Arkansas St. comes into today’s matchup ranked 31st in rushing yards per game, and are lead by another double-back attack in Michael Gordon, who has rushed for 585 yards in 87 carries and has 10 scores, and David Oku, who has 493 yards on 132 carries, and 6 scores. Not only do the Red Wolves have a dual threat in the backfield, QB Adam Kennedy is a duel-threat quarterback: Kennedy is 2nd on the team in rushing with 509 yards in 141 carries, and he has nearly 2,900 yards in just over 200 completions. Kennedy has a combined 15 TD’s this season, with 4 coming on the ground, and the rest via the air.
Unlike what WKU saw last week in San Marcos, the Red Wolves carry with them a capable passing attack, and have 2 receivers over 500 yards – JD McKissic (555 yards on 66 catches, and a team leading 4 touchdowns) and Julian Jones (team leading 614 yards on 49 catches, and 3 TD’s).
What’s at stake here? Well, several things.
First, the ultimate bragging rights. WKU would love nothing more than to leave the SBC with it’s 3rd straight winning season, a winning SBC season (Tops would finish 4-3 with a W), and to represent the Sun Belt one final time in a bowl game.
Second, the all-time series between Ark St. and WKU dates back to 1947, and is tied at 3-3-1. Additionally, the home team in the series has never won, so the Tops would love to do all the things mentioned above, ALONG with being the first home-victor of this Red Towel vs. Red Wolves series.
Finally, if WKU doesn’t win this game, bowl hopes are most likely gone. When this game kicks off, 4 SBC schools are bowl eligible (ULL, ASU, Troy, WKU and Texas St.), and ULM has a chance to collect their 6th win against the Cajuns tonight. Texas St. won’t get a bowl game, for their resume is the weakest of all the eligible schools. WTRT will have a more in-depth look at the bowl picture later, so we will keep it simple here: WKU wins, WKU is (more than likely) in the postseason.
LAST TIME OUT:
The last time these two teams met was last September in Jonesboro. The Red Wolves scored the first 13 points of the game, and would be stopped in their tracks after that. James Mauro took over for an injured Kawan Jakes and lead WKU to 26 2nd half points to win 26-13. Neither of those QB’s are currently on WKU’s roster, but Red Wolves signal caller Adam Kennedy is still playing. In last year’s game, A.A. went for 215 yards on 29 carries and a score, and he will be a key component, as always, again today.
WKU is 3rd in the Sun Belt in points for AND points against with 30.5 for per game, and allowing 24.0. The Red Wolves come in ranked 6th in scoring (29.5 ppg), but are tops in the SBC in scoring defense, only allowing 26.0 points per four quarters.
This game features the top two defenses in the conference, with WKU being first, and ASU being a somewhat distant second. The Tops allow 337.5 yards per game, and the Red Wolves allow 419, which is good news for guys like A.A., McNeal and Doughty. The Tops average more total offense (463.3) than the average of what ASU gives up, which is a very very good sign.
It’s been a while since WKU has been home, and unfortunately, it’ll be played in front of a Thanksgiving crowd. The attendance will be heavily Bowling Green citizens as opposed to students, most of which are still home for the break. If the stat breakdown is to be believed, the Tops will wind up with this game in hand, and while I’m not basing my prediction off of statistics, I think they’ll say the right thing.
WKU has more to play for, and will be pumped to be back in L.T. Smith Stadium, and look to close the season on a high note, and look to get back to the postseason promised land. I think WKU wins, although it’ll be a tough and well fought game.
Stand up and cheers, and cherish this one. The last regular season football game played as a member of the Sun Belt Conference.