Utah State (2-1) at Arkansas State (1-2) (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Centennial Bank Stadium (30,964) -- Jonesboro, Arkansas. Television: None. Home Record: USU 2-0, ASU 1-0. Away Record: USU 0-1, ASU 0-2. Neutral Record: USU 0-0, ASU 0-0. Conference Record: USU 0-0, ASU 0-0. Series Record: Utah State leads, 3-2.
GAME NOTES: The Sun Belt Conference and the Mountain West Conference will clash on Saturday night, as the Arkansas State Red Wolves welcome the Utah State Aggies to Centennial Bank Stadium.
Since suffering a season-opening loss at Tennessee (38-7), Utah State has rebounded nicely with back-to-back wins, both at home, to surge above .500. The Aggies made easy work of Idaho State on Sept. 6, 40-20, and they downed Wake Forest last Saturday, 36-24, making them 8-2 in their last 10 September games.
ASU has followed the opposite trend as Utah State, having lost two in a row following a season-opening victory versus Montana State (37-10). The Red Wolves dropped a pair of difficult road games at Tennessee (34-19) and Miami- Florida (41-20), but they now return to Jonesboro, where they've won nine of their last 10.
Utah State has a 3-2 lead in the all-time series with ASU, although the Red Wolves claimed the latest matchup in 2004 in Jonesboro, 16-7.
The Aggies' offense sputtered out of the gate in putting up only seven points against Tennessee, but since then it has piled on 76 points in the last two contests. The unit averages 27.7 ppg and 354.0 ypg, with both numbers expected to continue to rise.
Chuckie Keeton's start to the season has been forgettable. The signal caller is completing only 55.4 percent of his passes for 426 yards with three touchdowns (one rushing) while throwing four touchdowns, twice as many as he did all of last season. He was forced to leave the Wake Forest win with a knee injury, prompting the insertion of Darell Garretson (11-of-16, 121 yards, TD, INT), although his return to the field this week is probable.
Keeton is one of four Utah State rushers with at least 80 yards. JoJo Natson is the team's leading rusher (125 yards) despite being fifth in carries (11).
Natson is also the team's top pass-catcher with 15 receptions for 155 yards and a score. Hunter Sharp has also been solid with 14 catches, 175 yards and a touchdown.
Utah State's defensive numbers don't exactly jump off the page (27.3 ppg, 341.0 ypg), but it is coming off a dominant performance where it held Wake Forest to negative-25 rushing yards, the third-lowest rushing output by an opponent in school history.
The unit has five interceptions, two of which have been recorded by Jalen Davis. Nick Vigil has a team-high 32 tackles to go along with 2.0 sacks and a forced fumble. B.J. Larsen (6.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks) and Devin Centers (2.0 sacks) are strong pass-rushers.
ASU's offensive numbers (25.3 ppg, 402.3 ypg) have been hindered by a pair of disappointing efforts on the road, where it has scored 19.5 ppg, but a return home should call for better play.
Fredi Knighten hasn't made many mistakes under center, having yet to throw a pick in 103 attempts, but he hasn't turned many heads either, completing 60.2 percent of his throws for 602 yards and two scores. He's been much more efficient with his legs, as he leads the team in rushing (163 yards, two TDs) and has even made some plays out wide (two receptions, 64 yards, TD).
J.D. McKissic is tops on the team in both catches (16) and yards (180) but has yet to score a touchdown. Tres Houston (14 receptions, 157 yards, TD) gives the Red Wolves a formidable receiving duo.
Jonathan White has earned most of the work at tailback, rushing the ball 30 times for 137 yards and two touchdowns.
The Red Wolves' defensive effort has gotten worse with each passing game, culminating in Miami's 41-point showing last week. On the season, the unit allows 28.3 ppg and 377.0 ypg.
Qushaun Lee was pegged the Preseason Defensive Player of the Year in the Sun Belt and has lived up to that billing so far with 18 tackles, 2.0 TFL and two interceptions. Other notable defensive playmakers include Sterling Young (20 tackles, sack), Xavier Woodson (17 tackles, 2.0 sacks), Money Hunter (INT, FF), and Chris Stone (2.0 sacks).
Both teams have shown two drastically different sides of themselves at home versus the road, meaning the Red Wolves should have a leg up in taking down the Aggies.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arkansas State 34, Utah State 31Game Date and Time
Saturday, September 20, 7 p.m. (ET)