It’s that time of year! Early weekday action on the college gridiron is here. Tuesday night we get a couple of Sun Belt powers going at it, as the Arkansas State Red Wolves will host the Appalachian State Mountaineers. Kickoff is set for 8:00 EST at Centennial Bank Stadium in Jonesboro, Arkansas and will be televised on ESPN2.
Taking a look at the Week 7 NCAAF odds, the books opened up the Mountaineers as a 9-point road favorite and that number has crept up to -9.5 at some books, while most are still on the opening line.
Vegas Game Preview & NCAAF Betting Odds: Appalachian St vs Arkansas St
A lot of times with the early weekday Sun Belt action, we don’t get a lot of great matchups, as there’s a lot of really bad teams in this conference. That’s not the case this week, as these two teams were both popular picks to win their respective divisions and play in the Sun Belt title game.
The Mountaineers come in at 3-1 overall and 1-0 in conference play. Last time out they absolutely annihilated South Alabama 52-7 as a 26-point home favorite in their Sun Belt opener. Appalachian State improved to 4-0 ATS with the easy cover. The only slip-up to this point is also their most impressive performance, as the Mountaineers had Penn State on the ropes in a 38-45 Week 1 overtime loss to the Nittany Lions as a massive 24.5-point underdog.
The Red Wolves also played their first conference game last time out, but it didn’t go as planned. Arkansas State fell 28-21 at Georgia Southern as a 3-point road dog. Prior to that the Red Wolves were 3-1 with their only loss coming at No. 1 Alabama. Their most impressive win was a 29-20 victory at Tulsa as a 1.5-point dog. It’s also the only game Arkansas State has covered, as they are just 1-4 ATS thru their first 5 games.
The only two previous meetings came in App State’s first two years as members of the Sun Belt (2014-15). The road team won both matchups. The Mountaineers beat the Red Wolves 37-32 as a 15-point road dog in 2014. Arkansas St returned the favor with a 40-27 win as a 12.5-point road dog in 2015.
College Football Free ATS Pick & Predictions: Appalachian State -9
Don’t love laying close to double-digits on the road in these weekday games, especially against a quality team like the Red Wolves, but I would have to lean towards doing just that with the Mountaineers. I just think this Appalachian State team has looked too good to bet against.
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When the Mountaineers nearly pulled off the upset against Penn State in Week 1 (missed a field goal to win it at the end of regulation), I credited the close game more to Penn State just not being as good this year without Saquon Barkley. More than a month down the road, we know that the Nittany Lions are one of the most talent teams in the country, which makes that performance all the more impressive, especially given it was on the road.
Since that near upset the Red Wolves have beat Charlotte 45-9, Gardner Webb 72-7 and South Alabama 52-7. I know that’s a bunch of cupcakes, but the key thing is they absolutely dominated all 4 of those teams. Arkansas State has a couple of nice wins over Tulsa and UNLV, but in their big step-up game they lost by 50 points to Alabama.
Not only do I think Appalachian State is the better team, but I think the matchup here is heavily in their favor, as I think they will dominate both the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
There were concerns about the Red Wolves run defense coming into this season, as they only had one starter back on the defensive line and it’s been even worse than expected. Arkansas State ranks 124th in the country, giving up 244.4 ypg. In their conference opener against Georgia Southern, they let the Eagles rush for 348 yards on 49 attempts (7.1 yards/carry). Appalachian State has one of the best offensive lines in the Sun Belt this year and are 9th in the country in rushing at 269.5 ypg.
As for the Mountaineers defense, they are giving up just 104.3 rushing yards/game (12th) and 172.0 passing yards/game (14th). They are also allowing a mere 4.0 yards/play. The final score against Penn State makes you think it was a shootout, but the Nittany Lions had just 24 points with just under 12 minutes to play in the 4th quarter. They held Trace McSorley to just 229 yards passing and Miles Sanders to a mere 91 yards on 19 carries. This defense is the real deal and while the Red Wolves have a legit quarterback in Justice Hansen, I don’t see Arkansas State being able to keep pace offensively to keep this one competitive. Give me the Mountaineers -9.5.