Arkansas State (5-4, 3-2 Sun Belt Conference) travels to Mobile, Ala., today to take on South Alabamaat Hancock Whitney Stadium with an opportunity to become bowl-eligible with a victory.
The Red Wolves have won five of their past seven games, including an eye-opening 37-17 drubbing of Louisiana-Lafayette at home last Saturday.
South Alabama (4-5, 2-3) is looking to get back on track after dropping its past two games to Louisiana-Lafayette on Oct 28 and at Troy on Nov 2. Jaguars starting quarterback Carter Bradley suffered a knee injury in the loss to the Ragin' Cajuns and his status for today's game is questionable.
If Bradley is unable to play, South Alabama may look to start freshman Gio Lopez, who threw for 155 yards with an interception in the loss to the Trojans last week. Desmond Trotter could be another possible option at quarterback for South Alabama.
"No matter who the quarterback is, they're explosive on the perimeter," ASU Coach Butch Jones said. "They have a 1,000-yard receiver [Caullin Lacy] who can change the complexion of the game in a hurry, can ruin the game in a hurry. Very talented running back group, big offensive line and they do a lot of good things in terms of [run-pass options], play passes and running the football."
The Red Wolves' secondary figure to have its hands full trying to deal with Lacy, a 5-10 wide receiver who already 1,046 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns in 9 games. Lacy ranks second in the FBS in receiving yards, trailing Malik Nabers of LSU.
"I've played against some of these guys two years in a row now," ASU safety Justin Parks said. "They're just a very veteran group. I'd say that's the strength of their team."
Parks also said he is aware of the challenge that Lacy and the Jaguars' other playmakers present.
"They absolutely get him [Lacy] involved much as one of the leading receivers in the NCAA," he said. "They also have another one in Jamaal Pritchett who is a problem himself. Both of them are very similar, they can play inside and outside. Having certain coverages to just tighten them up and slow those guys down and stop them."
After scoring 37 points against the Ragin' Cajuns, the ASU offense will be looking to build off that success as it prepares to face an aggressive South Alabama defense that allows 21.9 points per game.
"They're very aggressive and they have 10 returning starters on defense," ASU quarterback Jaylen Raynor said of facing the Jaguars' defense. "They're very mature and experienced. We'll just have to hone into our details throughout the week and just really focus on ourselves."
Linebacker Quentin Wilfawn leads the South Alabama defense coming into today's game with 61 tackles on the season, including 10.5 tackles for a loss. He also has three sacks. Safety Jaden Voisin spearheads a fast and veteran secondary group for the Jaguars. He enters today's game with 51 tackles and two interceptions.
"If you look at them defensively, they've forced 13 turnovers, 56 tackles for loss, 21 sacks and they're 26th in the county in total defense," Jones said. "The first thing is we have to be able to run the football in the low red [zone] area."
South Alabama's most impressive showing this season was Sept. 16 when they traveled to Oklahoma State and knocked off the Cowboys 33-7. Jones said he has a high level of respect for the talent and style of play South Alabama brings to the table.
"Great challenge this week," he said. "Playing what I feel is one of the top three teams in our conference. Very senior-laden group on both sides of the football. Extremely talented. Very disciplined and very physical. It's a very difficult place to play."
ARKANSAS STATE AT SOUTH ALABAMA
WHEN 4 p.m. Central
WHERE Hancock Whitney Stadium, Mobile, Ala
RECORDS Arkansas State 5-4, 3-2 Sun Belt Conference; South Alabama 4-5, 2-3
COACHES Butch Jones 10-23 in third season at ASU, 94-77 in 14th season overall; Kane Womack 19-15 in second season at South Alabama and overall
RADIO KFIN-FM, 107.9, Jonesboro;
KBZU-FM, 106.7, Little Rock
NOTEWORTHY Arkansas State quarterback Jaylen Raynor leads the Sun Belt and ranks 18th in the FBS in pass efficiency (167.49). … The Red Wolves are 4-0 this season when getting 14 or more quarterback pressures, which includes sacks, quarterback hits and hurries. … ASU kicker Dominic Zvada in the fourth player in program history with multiple 50–yard field goals made. … The Red Wolves lead the series 6-5, but the Jaguars have won the past four meetings, including a 31-3 victory at Jonesboro last season.