Arkansas State Red Wolves at Memphis Tigers Betting Preview
The first Saturday of the college football season is upon us! This day won’t get near the fanfare it usually receives as there are only six games being played because of COVID-19, but college football fans are just happy that some games will be played after it looked like the entire season was in jeopardy last month. We will see just three games between FBS opponents, and the marquee game of the group will see the Memphis Tigers hosting the Arkansas State Red Wolves at the Liberty Bowl. This game will be the last in a tripleheader on ESPN, and it is scheduled to kickoff at 8 p.m. ET.
College Football Betting Odds
Arkansas State +18.5
Less than 5,000 fans will be in attendance for this game, as Memphis is limiting the amount of people that can come to the Liberty Bowl. This will be the first time that these two teams have played one another, but the Tigers are nearly a 20-point favorite after earning the New Year’s Six spot from the Group of Five conferences in 2019.
Arkansas State Offense vs. Memphis Defense
Last year’s starting quarterback Logan Bonner played just four games before his season came to an end. Bonner put up some nice numbers against SMU, UNLV, and Southern Illinois, amassing a little over 1,000 yards with 10 touchdowns and just one interception. However, he completed just 59.5 percent of his passes, averaging 6.9 YPA.
Bonner will be the starter for Saturday night’s game, but head coach Blake Anderson said that Layne Hatcher will see some snaps too. Hatcher took over for Bonner as the starter last year, and he was better at throwing the deep balls, but he threw ten interceptions on the season.
There are over 120 combined starts on this offensive line, so whoever lines up at quarterback won’t be running for their lives too often. Marcel Murray is back to pound the rock too, while Jonathan Adams Jr. could be a 1,000-yard receiver in 2020.
The Tigers have a pretty good back four with seniors at cornerback in T.J. Carter and Jacobi Francis. Unfortunately, the front seven could be an issue as Memphis allowed 4.5 YPC last season and were mauled up front by Penn State in last year’s Cotton Bowl.
Memphis Offense vs. Arkansas State Defense
Kenneth Gainwell’s decision to opt out is a big blow for Memphis, but the Tigers are still expected to have one of the best offenses in the nation, leading to the highest total in a game for Week 1 per the CFB betting odds.
Memphis has a solid quarterback in Brady White. He is entering his third season as a starter, and he has thrown for 6,310 yards with 59 touchdowns and 20 interceptions over the last two years. White led the Tigers to their first AAC Championship Game victory last season, and the offense won’t change too much with Kevin Johns calling the plays under Ryan Silverfield.
The Tigers know how to recruit great receivers, and they have one of the most underrated receivers in college football in Damonte Coxie. Coxie has posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, and he kicked it into another gear at the end of last season. He went off for 442 yards in Memphis’ last three games despite playing talented defenses in Cincinnati and Penn State.
Arkansas State has a decent run defense with Forrest Merrill and Caleb Bonner up front, but the loss of William Bradley-King as a graduate transfer is huge. He was the Red Wolves’ best pass rusher, and they needed someone that can get to the quarterback with four sophomores projected to start in the secondary.
The over might be a solid play even though it’s a big number, but the better pick is Memphis -18.5. The Tigers won’t have much of a homefield advantage, but they won’t need one given their quick-strike offense.