The Old Dominion Monarchs (1-2) are hosting the Arkansas State Red Wolves (1-2) on Saturday in the Sun Belt Conference opener for both teams. This will be the first time these programs have ever met. The Monarchs are favored by 5.5 points at home with a total of 56.5.
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Sun Belt sleeper?In 2021 Arkansas State went 2-10 and according to Phil Steele magazine, came in ranked 117th in returning production. However, having a lot of roster turnover isn't necessarily terrible when you are coming off a season like that. According to the preseason coaches poll, the Red Wolves were predicted to finish sixth out of seven teams in the conference's West Division.
Arkansas State opened the year with a 58-3 win over Grambling, followed by road losses to No. 3 Ohio State 45-12 and 44-32 to Memphis.
Arkansas State is 70th in the nation averaging 162.3 rushing yards per game, and 72nd with 243.7 passing yards per contest. The Red Wolves have used two quarterbacks due to involvement in two blowout games, but the top signal-caller is James Blackman, who has completed 68.2% of his passes with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Blackman is in his second season at Arkansas State after playing four years at Florida State.
On defense, the Red Wolves are 64th allowing 135 rushing yards, and 99th allowing 260.7 passing yards
Better on field than the box scoreODU went 6-7 last season and came into this year 20th nationally in returning production. The Sun Belt coaches still had low expectations and picked this team to finish last in the seven-team East Division. The Monarchs came out the gate with a 20-17 home win as a six-point dog against Virginia Tech. They followed that up with a 39-21 loss as a 13-point dog to East Carolina and fell to Virginia 16-14 as a seven-point road dog last week.
Old Dominion's numbers don't look good on paper. They are 118th picking up 292.3 total yards per game, and 121st allowing 462.7 yards per game. The running game has been almost non-existent ranking 124th with 67.3 yards per game. The only signal caller to throw a pass at ODU is Hayden Wolff who has completed 54.5% of his passes for 675 yards with five touchdowns and an interception.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
Old Dominion's win against Virginia Tech and a close loss against Virginia looks solid on paper. The formula the Monarchs used and will need to use to beat Arkansas State is winning the turnover battle. ODU won the turnover battle 5-2 against the Hokies and 3-1 against the Cavaliers. The Monarchs were however dominated when they lost the turnover battle against East Carolina. ODU will have a difficult time against Arkansans State, similar to the East Carolina game, as the Red Wolves have done an excellent job protecting the football. The Red Wolves are 3-0 against the spread to open the season, and in their last two losses, this team showed a lot of growth. First, they lost to Ohio State 45-12 as a 44.5-point dog, but they competed with the Buckeyes for most of the first half and did not commit any turnovers. Arkansas State lost to Memphis 44-32 last week as a 14-point dog, but they led 32-31 with three minutes left. The Red Wolves did not commit a turnover against Memphis until a final desperation 4th&15 play with 1:12 left to play.
If Arkansas State does not turn the ball over, they will win this game outright, as the Monarchs cannot beat them matching possession for possession game without mistakes. I expect the experience that the Red Wolves gained at Ohio State and Memphis to go a long way here, and I expect them to win outright. Take Arkansas State +5.5 and sprinkle something on the +175 money line.
Full-Game Total Pick
Old Dominion ranks 116th out of 131 teams in possession per game and will want to slow this game down. Arkansas State is 53rd in possessions per game, but this contest will be much different than any of their previous three games. Although Arkansas State has not been great defensively. the ODU offense is a big step down from what they have faced the last two weeks. The Monarchs are yet to score more than 21 points in a game, and I don't expect them to torch the Red Wolves in this one. I am going with the under, taking Arkansas State 28-21.