Last Thursday the Sun Belt Conference finally released the 2016 conference schedule for the upcoming football season. Arkansas State will play four conference games in Jonesboro and the other four on the road. The conference slate also includes three games on national TV for the Red Wolves.
2016 ARKANSAS STATE FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
SAT., SEPT. 3 vs TOLEDO (Paint the Town Red)
Sat., Sept. 10 at Auburn
Sat., Sept. 17 at Utah State
SAT., SEPT. 24 vs. CENTRAL ARKANSAS (Agriculture Day/Public Service Day)
WED., OCT. 5 vs GEORGIA SOUTHERN* (ESPN2)
SAT., OCT. 15 vs SOUTH ALABAMA* (Homecoming)
SAT., OCT. 29 vs LOUISIANA-MONROE* (Howl-O-Ween)
Thu., Nov. 3, or Fri., Nov. 4^ at Georgia State* (ESPNU)
SAT., NOV. 12 vs NEW MEXICO STATE* (Senior Day)
Thu., Nov. 17 at Troy* (ESPNU)
Sat., Nov. 26 at Louisiana-Lafayette*
Sat., Dec. 3 at Texas State*
The Red Wolves will start the season in Jonesboro when they welcome the Rockets of Toledo to town for “Paint the Town Red”. Which is an interesting game for A-State fans due to the fact the last two meetings have not been good to the scarlet and black. On January 4th, 2015 the Red Wolves would give Toledo all they could handle, but fall short at the GoDaddy Bowl 63-44. Fast forward to September 26th, 2015 and we saw a not 100% Red Wolf team get roughed around 37-7 in Toledo, Ohio. So now with Toledo coming to Jonesboro this year it may just be the Red Wolves turn to grab a win. Third time is the charm right?
After Toledo the Red Wolves will have back to back games on the road starting against the Tigers of Auburn. The last time the Red Wolves faced Auburn and their former head coach (Gus Malzahn) was back in 2013. The Red Wolves would be held to just three field goals for the game and end up getting beat 38-9.
Up next will be the trip to Logan, Utah to face Utah State. The Aggies came to Jonesboro in 2014 and lost a classic game to the Red Wolves in overtime 21-14. So they may be looking for revenge this time around, but I’m sure the game will have people on the edge of their seats once again.
After the Red Wolves play Central Arkansas on September 24th, they will have three straight home conference games that will be very important to start conference play off with. The game on October 5th will be the first meeting between Arkansas State and Georgia Southern as Sun Belt opponents. I know it is on a week night that is also a church night for a lot of folks, but if you can make it to that game I would advise you to do so. Just by the way the social media talk between the two programs fans has gone since they entered the conference, I am very sure this first game will be just as intense and emotional.
The biggest thing about the 2016 schedule for me is the fact the Red Wolves will close the season out at Louisiana-Lafayette and Texas State. If your chasing a conference championship at any level you don’t want to do it on the road. Anything can happen late in the year on the road especially in this league.
I like this schedule for Arkansas State this year though. The Red Wolves will have two solid OOC games against teams of the same caliber in Toledo and Utah State. Then you add Auburn in there who wasn’t that great in 2015, but it’s still a SEC program with more talent and it gives you a shot to test your team out early.
The Central Arkansas game gives you a little break in competition and adds a “should” win game to the schedule. Having three straight SBC games at home to start league play is amazing to me. Jonesboro is the toughest place to play in the Sun Belt and it gives this team a shot to jump out early in conference play and get some wins. I like what A-State brings back this season and who they have brought in player and coaching wise to fill some holes.
So with it being March I’m going to give a “way early” prediction for the Red Wolves this season. I’m going to predict the Red Wolves to go 10-2 overall and 7-1 in SBC play. This will most likely change some since we are just entering March, but without knowing exactly what A-State and all their opponents will look like in 2016 I think that’s a fair prediction this far out.