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Arkansas State Red Wolves preview

5/15/2015
Michael Gordon carries the ball in Arkansas State's bowl game against Toledo. Glenn Andrews/USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in half a decade, the Red Wolves claim a returning head coach. That consistency, plus explosiveness on offense and defense, bodes well for a successful 2015—even with games against USC and Mizzou to open the season.

Offense

How the Red Wolves beat you: After coach Blake Anderson was hired in December 2013, he made plain his plans for the O: “We will be one of the fastest-operating flying-around football teams in the country.” So they were. The Red Wolves recorded 33 two-minute TD drives, fifth most in the nation. And their 19 one-minute TD drives were third most. Dual-threat senior QB Fredi Knighten (3,277 pass yards, 779 rush yards) makes Anderson’s up-tempo tick, often with his own wheels: His 211 rushes led the team in ’14.

How you beat the Red Wolves: Senior RB Michael Gordon is prolific (6.9 ypc) but small (5-9, 187). And when rushing, ASU converts a dreadful 45.9 percent of third downs with three yards to go or less—second worst in the FBS.

Defense

How the Red Wolves beat you: Sacks: 37, No. 19 in the FBS in 2014. Forced fumbles: 12, No. 23. INTs: 16, No. 15. Defensive TDs: 4, No. 14. In other words, the D bulldozed its way to the ball last year. With nearly all the Red Wolves’ top disrupters back—including soph DE Ja’Von Rolland-Jones (12 TFL)—more ball-hawking looks likely.

How you beat the Red Wolves: ASU allowed 92 rushes of 10-plus yards in ’14, the 10th-worst mark in the FBS. So in an attempt to bulk up the D-line interior, Anderson added juco DTs Waylon Roberson (6-2, 340) and Jake Swalley (6-2, 280) and UAB transfer DT Robert Mondie (6-2, 300). He’ll need their help fast: The Red Wolves also allowed 13 rush TDs of 20-plus yards, tied for most in the country.