ASU at Middle Tennessee in-depth preview
ASU (8-2, 6-0) at Middle Tennessee (2-7, 1-4)
2 p.m. Saturday, Floyd Stadium (30,788)
Radio: EAB Network
Live Stats: AStateRedWolves.com
ON TAP: Arkansas State carries a seven-game winning streak and 6-0 league record into its final road game of the season Saturday when it faces Middle Tennessee at 2 p.m. in a Sun Belt Conference matchup. The game will be televised by ESPN3.com, and every A-State game can be heard live on 107.9 FM in the Jonesboro area, 88.3 FM in central Arkansas and at AStateRedWolves.com.
THE PRINCIPALS: Holding a 6-0 Sun Belt record with two league games remaining on its schedule, Arkansas State can secure at least a share of the conference championship with a victory Saturday against Middle Tennessee. The Red Wolves currently hold the nation's seventh longest winning streak at seven games, which includes three consecutive road victories. ASU defeated Louisiana-Lafayette 30-21 last week to give it eight wins this year, its most since the 1987 season. Middle Tennessee is coming off a 42-14 setback at Louisiana-Monroe and has dropped its last three games. The Blue Raiders are 1-4 in conference action with their lone victory coming 38-14 over Florida Atlantic. Statistically, the game will feature the Sun Belt's top two ranked offensive teams. A-State is ranked first in the conference in both total offense and defense, while Middle Tennessee is second offensively and seventh defensively.
THE ASU-MIDDLE TENNESSEE SERIES: While Arkansas State is 3-9 all-time versus Middle Tennessee, the Red Wolves picked up a 51-24 victory last season for their largest margin of victory ever against the Blue Raiders. ASU has won two of the last three meetings, but have never defeated Middle Tennessee in the six games played in Murfreesboro. Middle Tennessee won the first two games in the series in 1948 and 1949, and the two teams did not meet again until 2001 as Sun Belt foes.
HEAD COACH HUGH FREEZE: After enjoying successful stints as both a head and assistant coach at the NCAA?FBS, NAIA and high school levels over the last 18 years, Hugh Freeze was named Arkansas State's 27th head football coach on Dec. 2, 2010. Freeze most recently completed his first season as Arkansas State's offensive coordinator, guiding the Red Wolves' offense to a record-breaking year in 2010.
FAST START: Hugh Freeze has recorded the most victories ever by a head coach in his first season at Arkansas State with eight. Out of 27 all-time head coaches at A-State, Freeze is one of just four to win at least six games in his first season, joining Steve Roberts (2002), Gene Harlow (1955) and Jack Dale (1931). Freeze is also the fastest ASU coach to ever win eight games.
LIBERTY MUTUAL COACH OF THE YEAR: ASU head coach Hugh Freeze was 20th in the nation in voting for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year as of Monday. He was one place behind Nebraska's Bo Pelini and one ahead of Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer in the voting. Fans can vote for Freeze using the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year link(s) located on AStateRedWolves.com.
AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD . . .: Guarantee at least a share of the Sun Belt Conference championship for the Red Wolves . . . Give the Red Wolves their best record through 11 games since 1986 when it was 9-1-1 as a member of the I-AA Southland Conference . . . Give the Red Wolves nine wins in a season for the first time since 1986 . . . Give the Red Wolves their first ever 7-0 conference record as a member of any league . . . Give the Red Wolves a seven-game conference winning streak for the first time since 1985-86 . . . Make it just the third school to ever win its first seven Sun Belt Conference games . . . Give the Red Wolves their first eight-game winning streak since 1986 . . . Give the Red Wolves four road victories for the first time since 1987 . . . Give the Red Wolves a four-game road winning streak for the first time since 1975 . . . Give the Red Wolves their first ever road victory over Middle Tennessee.
A-STATE vs. SUN BELT CONFERENCE: Arkansas State is 69-63-1 all-time against current members of the Sun Belt Conference. Since the league's inaugural football season in 2001, the Red Wolves hold a 40-36 on-field record against all opponents that have been a member of the league. Against current members of the conference, ASU is 35-32 since 2001. The Red Wolves hold their most all-time victories against Louisiana-Monroe with 19. The Red Wolves have defeated every team in the SBC since the football league was formed in 2001.
ON THIS DATE: Arkansas State is 4-6-1 all-time when playing on Nov. 19 with wins over Louisiana-Lafayette, Southern Miss, Trinity College and Arkansas-Monticello. ASU first played on the date in 1937 when it defeated UAM 26-6, and the Red Wolves most recent game played on Nov. 19 saw them drop a 38-10 decision at Army in 2005. A-State has played a game on Nov. 19 during every decade since the 1920's, holding a 3-4-1 road record and 1-2 mark at home. ASU is 3-1 on the date when scoring at least 20 points.
IN THE POLLS: Arkansas State climbed from No. 33 to No. 28 in the CBSSports.com 120 rankings after improving to 8-2 with its 30-21 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette. The Red Wolves are also No. 36 in the latest BCS rankings. A-State is also receiving votes in the USA Today Top 25 Coaches Poll for the first time in its history as an NCAA FBS member. ASU received one vote last week and has five votes this week.
BOWL ELIGIBLE: Arkansas State is bowl eligible for the first time since 2008, but for the fourth time over the last seven seasons. ASU reached bowl eligibility after just eight games, making this year the earliest ASU has ever been bowl eligible as an FBS member (since 1992). Arkansas State's last appearance in a bowl game was 2005 when it played Southern Miss in the New Orleans Bowl.
MOST WINS AS AN FBS MEMBER: Arkansas State has recorded its most victories ever as an FBS member with eight, topping the previous best of six wins in 1995, 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2008. The last time the Red Wolves won eight games at any level was 1987 when it finished the year 8-4-1 as an NCAA I-AA member. The last time ASU won nine games in a season was 1986 when it posted a 12-2-1 record and finished as the NCAA I-AA runner-up.
THROUGH 10: Arkansas State not only holds its best record ever as an FBS member through 10 games, but its best since 1986 when it was 8-1-1 as a member of the I-AA?Southland Conference. The last time ASU was 9-2 or better through 11 games was 1986 as well when it held a 9-1-1 record.
ON A ROLL: ASU has won seven consecutive games for the first time since 1986 when it actually claimed eight straight victories. The Red Wolves' seven-game winning streak is the seventh longest in the nation. The teams with a longer winning streak than A-State include LSU (11), Oklahoma State (11), Houston (10), Oregon (9), Southern Miss (8) and Georgia (8).
UNDEFEATED IN CONFERENCE: Arkansas State is just the fourth school in Sun Belt Conference history to ever start 6-0 in the league. Middle Tennessee started 6-0 in 2006, Troy did it twice (2009 and 2007) and North Texas three times (2002-04). Troy (2009) and North Texas (2003-04) are the only two schools to ever post a 7-0 or better record in Sun Belt play.
CONFERENCE WINNING STREAK: Arkansas State's six-game conference winning streak is its longest since the 1985-86 seasons when it won 10 in a row as a member of the Southland Conference. The Red Wolves' conference winning streak is also currently tied for the sixth longest in the nation.
TOP TURNAROUNDS: Arkansas State currently holds the nation's third highest turnaround in wins, posting eight this year after finishing 2010 with four. The Red Wolves are also tied for the nation's highest improvement in winning percentage from to 2010 to 2011. ASU finished last year with a .333 winning percentage, but it is at .800 this year with an 8-2 record. Louisiana-Lafayette and Houston have both won five more games than they did a year ago -- the most in the nation.
ROAD WARRIORS: The Red Wolves have won three consecutive games on the road for the first time since 1986. The victories also marked the first time in school history that ASU won three consecutive road games against Sun Belt opponents. The last time A-State won four consecutive road games was 1975. ASU's three total road wins are its most for an entire season since 2006, and the last time it had four road wins in one year was 1986.
1 OF 6: Arkansas State is one of just six teams in the nation ranked among the top 30 in both total offense and defense. The Red Wolves are No. 18 in total defense (323.6 ypg) and No. 30 in total offense (441.6 ypg). The other teams ranked in the top 30 in both total offense and total defense include Stanford, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Boise State and Utah State.
1 OF 2: Arkansas State is one of just two FBS teams in the nation leading its conference in both total offense and total defense. The only other school leading its league in both is Boise State of the Mountain West Conference.
FINISHING IN THE FOURTH: Arkansas State has outscored its opponents 91-31 in the fourth quarter this season. The Red Wolves have been outscored only once in the fourth quarter all season, and that came by a one-point margin in the North Texas game ASU won 37-14. ASU has not allowed a fourth-quarter score in five games, including three of the last four. No team has scored more than eight points against A-State in the fourth quarter, while the Red Wolves have scored at least 16 fourth-quarter points in four of their last seven games.
GRABBING AN EARLY LEAD: Arkansas State has opened up a double-figure lead in the first quarter its last three games in a row, outscoring its opponents 39-0 over that span. During its seven-game winning streak, ASU has scored first five times.
DOUBLE DIGITS: Arkansas State has won five games by a double-figure margin this season, which is its most since 1987. ASU has won three of its last four games by at least 18 points and holds an average scoring margin of +11.3 points per game (31.2 to 19.9). The last time A-State won six games by a double-digit margin was 1987 as well.
TOP 50: Arkansas State is ranked among the top 50 teams in the nation in 14 statistical categories, including total offense (30) and total defense (18). ASU also ranks in the top 50 in interceptions (T4), tackles for loss (10), sacks (12), pass efficiency defense (20), rushing defense (21), scoring defense (23), passing offense (25), turnover margin (27), net punting (29), scoring offense (41), pass defense (43) and pass efficiency (47).
SUN BELT PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: Arkansas State has had five players named a Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week a combined six times. Senior defensive end Brandon Joiner won the award most recently on Nov. 14 following the Louisiana-Lafayette game. Senior safety Kelcie McCray (Defensive) and junior defensive back Don?Jones (Special Teams) earned the recognition on Oct. 10 following the ULM game. Junior quarterback Ryan Aplin was named the Offensive Player of the Week on Oct. 3 and Nov. 7 following the WKU and FAU games, respectively. Sophomore kicker Brian Davis the Special Teams Player of the Week on Sept. 26 following the UCA game.
CFPA RECOGNITION: Senior WR Dwayne Frampton, senior safety Kelcie McCray, junior punter Ryan Wilbourn, senior punter Neely Sullivent, senior WR Josh Jarboe, junior QB Ryan Aplin and senior LB Demario Davis have all been national honorable mention selections at their respective position by the College Football Performance Awards this season. Senior defensive end Brandon Joiner was also named the CFPA national defensive performer of the week. Sophomore kicker Brian Davis has been named the CFPA's national placekicker of the week and an honorable mention choice at the position as well.
HOME SWEET HOME: With a 5-0 home record this season, Arkansas State has secured its seventh consecutive winning record at ASU Stadium, dating back to 2005. ASU is now 30-7 at ASU Stadium since the 2005 season. The Red Wolves actual on-field record all-time at ASU Stadium is 122-70-1 since it opened in 1974. ASU's five home wins this season are its most since 2007.
CROWD SUPPORT: Arkansas State's first two home games this season were played in front of the largest back-to-back crowds in ASU Stadium history. The 29,872 in attendance for the Memphis game made it the second largest crowd in ASU Stadium history and the 27,918 announced for the UCA game was the fourth largest. The Red Wolves current average home attendance is 22,677, which is over 1,500 more than the school record of 21,105 set in 2008. ASU's average attendance of 21,105 is the second highest in the Sun Belt Conference.
NICE CROWD IN NOVEMBER: The attendance for the Arkansas State-UL Lafayette game was 20,261, making it the largest crowd ever for November game at ASU Stadium.
MIDSEASON ALL-CONFERENCE: A-State placed 11 players on Phil Steele's Midseason All-Sun Belt Conference Team. Three ASU players were first team selections, including senior center Tom Castilaw who was also an honorable mention All-America choice by the publication. ASU's other first team selections were senior WR?Dwayne Frampton and senior DE Brandon Joiner. A-State's second team selections included WR Josh Jarboe, CB Darryl Feemster and safety A.J. Hills. Third team choices included OL?Delano Moore, LB Demario Davis, safety Kelcie McCray and kicker Brian Davis.
PILING UP THE YARDS: The Arkansas State offense has recorded over 300 yards of total offense in all but one game, over 400 yards in five games, over 500 in three games and over 600 in two. ASU?is averaging 441.6 yards per game, which puts them on pace to go over 5,000 yards total offense for the first time in school history. ASU will enter Saturday's game needing 426 yards to break the school record for total offense in a season (4,841 in 2010).
LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD: A-State has recorded at least 30 points in six games this season, including the last four in a row, and is on pace to finish the regular season with the fourth most points in school history (374). The last time ASU scored 30-plus points in six games was 1987, and the last time it scored at least 30 in seven or more games was 1951 (10 times). ASU is ranked second in the Sun Belt Conference and No. 41 in the nation in scoring offense (31.2 ppg).
GROUND ATTACK: Arkansas State has recorded four 200-yard rushing games this season and holds a 4-0 record in those games. The Red Wolves' four 200-yard games are their most in a single season since 2008 when it had five.
300-PLUS: Dating back to last season, Arkansas State has posted at least 300 yards of total offense 21 of its last 22 games. ASU's school-record 14 consecutive games with over 300 yards of total offense came to an end against Virginia Tech earlier this season when the Hokies limited the Red Wolves to 269 yards. ASU posted over 300 yards of total offense in just six games the season prior to Hugh Freeze taking over as offensive coordinator in 2010.
MR. 3,000: Junior QB Ryan Aplin is one of just two players in Sun Belt Conference history to record 3,000 yards total offense in two different seasons. Aplin currently has 3,114 yards of total offense this season, and he recorded 3,416 last season as a sophomore. The only other player that has accomplished the feat is FAU's Rusty Smith in 2007 and 2008.
NEARING MILESTONES: Junior quarterback Ryan Aplin will enter Saturday's game needing just 19 completions to break the school record of 571 currently held by Corey Leonard (2006-09). He also needs 303 yards to break his own school record for total offense in a season (3,416 in 2010).
AMONG THE BEST IN SCHOOL HISTORY: Junior quarterback Ryan Aplin, who holds the school record for passing yards in a game (438 at UL Lafayette in 2010), is one of just three players in ASU?history to record over 6,000 passing yards (6,413) and also one of just three to post over 7,000 yards of total offense (7,672). He is also ranked second all-time in completions (553) and third in TD passes (37).
ECLIPSING 200/300: Junior quarterback Ryan Aplin has passed for at least 200 yards 19 times during his career, and all 19 games have come over his last 24 played. Aplin has recorded over 300 yards of total offense 10 times during his career, including the Illinois, UCA, WKU, FIU and North Texas games this season.
LAWSON NEARING 2,000: With at least two games remaining, senior RB Derek Lawson needs 177 rushing yards to become the 12th player in ASU history with 2,000 career yards. Lawson is ranked 14th in school history for career rushing yards with 1,823 to his credit.
APPROACHING A SCHOOL RECORD: Senior WR Dwayne Frampton enters Saturday's game needing just three receptions to break the school record for a single season. He currently has 70 receptions, leaving him just short of Robert Kilow's school-record 72 in 2000. Frampton is the only player in ASU?history to record 60+ receptions in two different seasons (70 in 2011 and 69 in 2010).
THREE OVER 100: Senior WR Dwayne Frampton has posted three 100-yard receiving games, including a career-high 147 against Louisiana-Monroe. All three games were played consecutively against UCA (100), WKU?(126) and ULM. Frampton also had 99 receiving yards in the season opener at Illinois. For the entire year, he is ranked tied for 16th in the nation in receptions (7.0 pg) and 38th in receiving yards (83.1 ypg). Frampton is on the Biletnikoff Award Watch List.
1,000 YARD CLUB: Junior wide receiver Taylor Stockemer and senior receiver Dwayne Frampton both went over 1,000 receiving yards for their careers this season. Stockemer accomplished the feat during the Virginia Tech game and Frampton against UCA. Frampton has a team-high 1,569 yards to rank sixth in school history, while Stockemer has posted 1,445 yards to rank seventh.
FRAMPTON EXTENDS STREAK: Senior wide receiver Dwayne Frampton caught six passes last week against Louisiana-Lafayette, extending his streak of consecutive games with at least one reception to 22. ?He has caught a pass in every game he has played at A-State. Frampton is ranked 16th in the nation in receptions (7.0 rpg).
JOINER RECOGNIZED: Senior DE Brandon Joiner was named the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Week and the College Football Performance Awards National Defensive Performer of the Week following the Louisiana-Lafayette game. Joiner tied an Arkansas State and Sun Belt Conference record with four sacks, and he also tied his personal career high with a team-best eight tackles. Joiner became the third ASU player and seventh Sun Belt player to ever post four sacks in a game. His four sacks total ties the most in the nation this season, joining four other players to post four in a game. Joiner recorded a career-high 4.5 tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry as well. He was part of an ASU defense that limited the Ragin' Cajuns to 314 yards total offense, 70 yards under their season average, and forced five turnovers. Joiner has now posted at least a partial sack in all but two games this year, and his 10 total on the season moves him into a tie for the fifth most in ASU history and a tie for the 10th most in Sun Belt history.
SCORING DEFENSE: The Arkansas State defense has held four opponents under 20 points, including three of the last five, this season. This year marked the first time since 1987 ASU held three consecutive opponents under 20 points. The last time A-State held four opponents to less than 20 points over the course of an entire season was 2008, and the last time it held five under 20 was 2002. ASU is No. 23 in the nation and No. 2 in the Sun Belt Conference in scoring defense (19.9 ppg).
STINGY DEFENSE: The ASU defense has held four opponents under 300 yards total defense, including three of the last four, and seven under 350 yards. The last time ASU held seven teams under 350 yards of total offense was 2008 when it did so eight times.
FORCING TURNOVERS: While Arkansas State's 23 total turnovers gained are the second most in the Sun Belt Conference for the entire season, no team has more takeaways than ASU in league games only. ASU has 18 total turnovers gained, including 13 interceptions and five fumble recoveries, against SBC competition. North Texas has 14 to make it the closest team to ASU's total.
STOPPING THE RUN: The ASU defense is currently allowing just 3.2 yards per rush and 114.5 rushing yards per game, which would rank as the fourth lowest and third lowest averages, respectively, in Sun Belt history if the season ended today. The Red Wolves have allowed only one 100-yard rusher this year and are ranked No. 21 in the nation in rushing defense.
PICK IT OFF: While the Red Wolves didn't record an interception in either of their first two games, they've now posted a combined 16 over the last eight to climb to rank tied for 4th in the nation. Darryl Feemster and Kelcie McCray each have a team-high 4 interceptions over that span and Darron Edwards has 3. Qushaun Lee has 2, while Sterling Young, Justin?Robertson and Demario Davis all have 1. ASU has recorded at least one interception in each of the last eight games.
YOUNG STEPPING UP: Since joining the starting lineup three games ago, redshirt freshman safety Sterling Young has averaged 7.0 tackles per game and recorded a team-best 28 total tackles. ?He posted a career-high 10 tackles against FAU to lead the ASU defense.
PLAYING BEHIND THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE: Arkansas State is ranked among the national leaders in both tackles for loss and sacks this season. The Red Wolves are No. 12 in the nation and No. 1 in the SBC in sacks (3.0 per game) and No. 10 in the nation and No. 1 in the SBC in tackles for loss (7.6 per game). With at least two games left, ASU already has its most sacks (30) since 2002 and its most tackles for loss (76) since 2008.
GETTING TO THE QUARTERBACK: Dating back to last season, senior defensive end Brandon Joiner has recorded at least a partial sack in 12 of ASU's last 15 games. In fact, 13.5 of his 14.0 career sacks at A-State have come over the Red Wolves last 15 games. He has at least a partial sack in eight of ASU's first 10 games this season.
LOMBARDI AWARD WATCH LIST: Senior linebacker Demario Davis is the fifth player in school to be named to the Lombardi Award Watch List, issued to the top college lineman at the end of the season. Davis, a 2010 First Team All-Sun Belt choice, joins Alex Carrington (2009), Matt Mandich (2008), Tanner Jenkins (2006) and Garry Johnson (2001 and 2002) as A-State players that have been named to the award's watch list.
DAVIS HONORED AGAIN: Sophomore kicker Brian Davis was recognized this week by the College Football Performance Awards for the second time this season. He was named a national honorable mention placekicker of the week following the Louisiana-Lafayette game. Davis was a perfect 3-for-3 on field goal attempts and added three extra points to finish with 12 points by kicking in ASU's 30-21 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette. His three field goals were the second most of his career and tied the seventh most in school history, and his 12 points by kicking also ranks among the top 10. Davis' three field goals tied the second most this year by a Sun Belt player and marks the fourth time of his career he has made multiple field goals in a game. His last field goal in the game gave ASU a two possession lead with 2:49 left. During the game, he moved into a tie for the fourth most field goals made (15) in a season by an ASU player and he also took over fourth place for the most points made by kicking (77).
DAVIS HONORED: After breaking the ASU and Sun Belt Conference records for both field goals made in a game (6) and points scored by kick (23) during the Red Wolves' game against Central Arkansas, sophomore kicker Brian Davis received numerous honors. Davis, who was only one field goal and one point shy tying NCAA records, was named a Lou Groza Star of the Week, the Sun Belt Conference Special Teams Player of the Week and the College Football Performance Awards' National Placekicker of the Week. Davis was a perfect 6-of-6 on his field goal attempts and 5-of-5 on his extra point attempts.
FIRST TIME IN OVER A DECADE: Arkansas State returned a blocked punt for a TD during the ULM game for the first time since 2000 (Sean Mitchell block and Danny Smith return against Richmond). Junior DB Don Jones blocked his first career punt and also returned it for a touchdown. It was ASU's first special teams score since Kevin Jones returned a punt for a TD against Memphis in 2007.
THE RETURN GAME: Senior WR Rod Hall finished the WKU with 46 kickoff return yards, making him the ninth player in school history to record over 1,000 career KO return yards in a career. Senior WR Dwayne Frampton had a career-long 43 yard punt return, which was also the longest by an ASU player since 2008. ?His 50 yards total against WKU was also the most of his career.