When coaches leave for Power 5 Conference jobs, the common expression is that they left for greener pastures. The only thing greener for Matt Campbell at Iowa State is his bank account. Campbell left a Toledo program that has been a legitimate contender in the MAC dating back to Tim Beckman’s time at the helm. Offensive coordinator Jason Candle was promoted to head coach and his first test is a stiff one. Many people believe that Arkansas State is the favorite to win the Sun Belt Conference and sideline stability might be the reason why. Third-year head coach Blake Anderson is the first Red Wolves sideline boss to hold the gig for more than two seasons since Steve Roberts, who led the team from Jonesboro from 2002-10.
Toledo vs. Arkansas State College Football Preview
Date/Time: Friday September 2, 9:00 p.m. ET
College Football Betting Odds from MyBookie
College Football Betting Favorite: Arkansas State -3
Arkansas State is the preferred side so far from the investment market, as this line opened below the key number of 3 and has now hit a field goal. For three of the last four seasons under Campbell, the Rockets have been a cash cow for bettors. The Rockets are 28-21-1 against the spread over the last four seasons, but they have been on the plus side three of those four years. They are 10-3 ATS catching points on the road over the last four years. On the Arkansas State side, the Red Wolves are 15-11 ATS under Anderson and they’ve defended home field with an 8-3 ATS mark as a home favorite. One of their losses last season came at Toledo when the Rockets rolled to a 37-7 triumph and outgained the Red Wolves 477-209.
Things should remain the same on offense with Jason Candle’s promotion. Candle was the interim head coach for Toledo’s impressive win over Temple in the Boca Raton Bowl. The Owls didn’t want to be playing in that game, but Toledo still took advantage with a very efficient offensive performance. Logan Woodside returns from a torn ACL to lead the offense and it’s a loaded group. Top running back Kareem Hunt, who was limited to seven starts last season, ran for 973 yards and 12 touchdowns. There are big play threats on the offensive side with Cody Thompson, who averaged over 22 yards per catch, and Diontae Johnson, who racked up nearly 17 yards per reception. This is also one of the most experienced offensive lines in the MAC.
On the defensive side, Brian George has been brought over from in-state, cross-conference rival Kent State to call the plays. When Campbell left for Iowa State, he took most of his assistants with him, so things will change a little bit defensively for UT. A lot of talent left in the offseason as well. Top two tacklers Chase Murdock and Trent Voss, who recorded 10 quarterback hits, are both gone. Almost the entire secondary needs to be replaced. Top pass rusher Allen Covington is gone as well, so somebody will need to step up to help out the inexperienced secondary. It could be an interesting first few weeks on this side of the ball.
Arkansas State Red Wolves:
Forty-four-year-old Chad Voytik will likely get the first opportunity at quarterback for Arkansas State this season. He’s not actually in his 40s, it just feels that way. The graduate transfer from Pitt will get the first crack to replace Fredi Knighten. Knighten posted a 19/9 TD/INT ratio and was also the team’s fourth-leading rusher. Anderson has stated that JUCO transfer and former Oklahoma recruit Justice Hansen will also get some reps in this game. The top skill players at both running back and wide receiver are gone, as Michael Gordon took over 1,000 yards with him when he left and Tres Houston caught 10 of the team’s 23 passing touchdowns. The entire offensive line is back and is one the most experienced in the country.
The defense is a major worry for the Red Wolves this season. They’ve given up over 30 points in back-to-back seasons and top pass rusher Chris Stone has moved on. Top cover corner Rocky Hayes exhausted his eligibility, so the Red Wolves need to find a replacement there, but Arkansas State is very experienced in the secondary. The Red Wolves were gashed for 37 points and 477 yards in the meeting between these two teams last season.
Pick: Over 64.5
It should be business as usual for the Toledo offense and Arkansas State has the ability to change schemes and tempos with two different quarterback options. New Ark St OC Buster Faulkner led Middle Tennessee State to its top offensive season in yardage and total points, so expect some tempo and some explosive plays this season, starting with this Week 1 matchup.
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