The SMU Mustangs travel to Jonesboro in Week 1 to battle the Arkansas State Red Wolves. Kickoff is set for 7:00 PM EST on Saturday, August 31 at Centennial Bank Stadium and the game will be televised on ESPN+.
Taking a look at the Week 1 college football odds, Arkansas Satate opened as a 3-point home favorite earlier this week. That line has changed only slightly after early betting, as the Red Wolves are currently listed at -2.5. The total for the game is sitting at 58 points.
Vegas Betting Preview & Game Odds: Arkansas State vs SMU
SMU got off to a rough start to begin 2018, going 0-3 out of the date before eventually finishing 5-7 overall. It was the Mustangs first full season under new head coach Sonny Dykes, who was hired after Chad Morris left for Arkansas. While there were certainly some positives, their loss to Tulsa in what ended up being their final game of the year wiped out any chance of bowl eligibility. If they hope to turn things around in 2019, new starting QB Shane Buechele will have to inject some life into the offense. Buechele is a transfer from Texas who passed for almost 3,000 yards and added 21 touchdowns before eventually losing his starting job to Sam Ehlinger. He has already shown great leadership with his new team and was recently voted as a captain by his teammates. Buechele will likely lean heavily on the receiving due of Reggie Roberson and James Proche, who combined for over 2,000 yards last season.
The Mustangs also had a rough year on the other side of the ball in 2018, allowing opponents to average 35.3 points per game on 430 yards of total offense. They were especially bad against the run, surrendering an average of 197.2 yards per game on the ground (95th overall).
Arkansas State had a pretty solid season in 2018, going 8-5 overall and finishing tied for first place in the Sun Belt West division. Unfortunately, the Red Wolves failed to qualify for the conference championship game after a loss on the road to Louisiana in late October. It could be an interesting start to 2019 for the Arkansas State offense, as Justice Hansen is gone after three years as the starter. His replacement appears to be Logan Bonner, who hasn’t exactly turned heads in limited action. Bonner should have plenty of help adjusting to his new role from star receiver Kirk Merritt, who managed to eclipse the 1,000 yard mark in 2018.
The Red Wolves were about average on defense last season, giving up 26.4 points per game (59th overall) on 377 total yards of offense. They showed a lot of strength defending against the pass, limiting teams to 175.9 yards per game through the air. However, they did struggle immensely against the run, getting torched for an average of 200.7 rushing yards per game (102nd overall).
NCAA Football Betting Predictions & Free Pick: SMU +2.5
This should be a highly competitive game between two pretty closely matched opponents. While Arkansas State is favored and playing at home, there are a couple of factors that have me leaning the other way. The Red Wolves still have plenty of questions at the quarterback position, as Bonner is totally unproven and hasn’t impressed at all so far. They will also be without their head coach to start the season, as his wife tragically passed away in the offseason after a long battle with cancer. On the other side, SMU looks to finally have a legitimate starter at quarterback after acquiring Shane Buechele. He should make an immediate impact for an offense that looked somewhat average in 2018. The Mustangs ground attack should also be improved in 2019 after adding Notre Dame transfer CJ Sanders.
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This really does seem like a spot where taking the points seems like the best play, as there really isn’t all that much separating these two teams. I actually think that SMU could easily win this game outright, especially since their new-look offense should come out firing on all cylinders. Arkansas State will certainly bring their best effort – especially since they will desperately want to win this game for their absent head coach – but I just have a bit more trust in the Mustangs in this one. Give me SMU!