The UL Monroe Warhawks (0-1) will host the Texas State Bobcats (0-2) in the Sun Belt Conference season opener on Saturday. In 2019, the Warhawks finished with a 5-7 record and went 4-4 in conference play. Texas State went 3-9 overall and 2-6 in the Sun Belt.
UL Monroe opened the season on the road against Army with a 37-7 loss last Saturday as a 24.5-point underdog. The Bobcats are also looking for their first win after losing the season opener to SMU 31-24as a 24.5-point dog, and then to UTSA 51-48 in overtime last week despite being a six-point favorite.
Bobcats fall to 0-2 after missed PAT leads to overtime lossTexas State returned five starters on offense and four on defense from a team that struggled on both sides of the ball in 2019. Texas State has allowed an average of 521.5 yards per game through the first two contests, giving up 268 yards passing and 253.5 on the ground along with 41 points per game. Texas State allowed 417.1 yards and 32.6 points per game last season. Even though last week's high scoring game against UTSA went into overtime, the score was tied at 41-41 at the end of regulation.
The Bobcats have to feel like they should have won the game on Saturday against the Roadrunners. Texas State tied things up with 1:18 left in the fourth quarter after a 91-yard punt return by Jeremiah Haydel, but freshman kicker Alan Orona missed the extra point that would have put the Bobcats up 42-41.
Offensively the Bobcats are averaging 445 yards per game after their first two games. In 2019 they finished 121st in the nation with 317.8 yards per game and 121st scoring 18.4 ppg.
Memphis transfer Brady McBride started the first game of the season against SMU and threw for 227 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT. McBride did not play against UTSA last week due to COVID-19 protocol. In place of McBride, Texas State turned back to junior quarterback Tyler Vitt, who was the teams starting quarterback in 2019 when he threw for 1,590 yards with 11 TDs and 14 INTs. Vitt threw for 346 yards on 26 of 39 with 4 TDs and 2 INTs in the overtime loss against UTSA.
TEXAS STATE RETURNED IT 91 YARDS ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/RlfIpyMcCc— ESPN (@espn) September 12, 2020
Texas State has used a combination of sophomore Brock Sturges (30 carries 164 yards 2 TDs) and redshirt freshman Calvin Hill (23 carries 158 yards 1 TD) through the first two games. The Bobcats are averaging 157 yards per game on the ground so far, which is on pace to be much improved from a rushing attack that only averaged 76.8 ypg last season.
Warhawks no match for ArmyThe Warhawks return six starters on offense and eight starters on defense from last year's squad. The strength of the offense is the running game led by senior running back Josh Jacobs, who rushed for 1,298 yards and 11 TDs while averaging 6.5 yards per carry last year. Jacobs struggled in the season opener, only rushing for 38 yards on 12 carries against Army. Sophomore quarterback Colby Suits made his first career start for the Warhawks and completed 14 of 19 passes for 148 yards and threw for one touchdown with no interceptions.
For the game, UL Monroe only gained 200 total yards and nine first downs, compared to their opponents 24 first downs and 465 total yards, 436 of which came on the ground.
The strength of the Warhawks defense this season should be the secondary, where they return both starting corners and safeties from last season. Unfortunately, the Warhawks did not get to benefit from that strength in the first game, as it is not very significant when facing a team like Army. The Warhawks only saw Army attempt five passes, completing one pass for 29 yards. Senior linebacker Traveion Webster led the team with 11 tackles in the loss.
- UL Monroe is 2-1 ATS in their last 3 games against Texas State
- Texas State is 0-5 ATS in their last 5 games as a favorite
- Texas State is 4-10-1 ATS in their last 15 games.
- Texas State is 1-6 SU in their last 7 games on the road against a Sun Belt conference opponent.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Texas State played two close games against SMU and UTSA while UL Monroe lost to Army by 30 points, which is why the Bobcats are favored on the road.
I'm not going to put too much weight into the Army loss, which was a bad matchup for the Warhawks. UL Monroe does have talent in the secondary, but that was not seen against an Army team that rarely throws the ball at all.
Texas State has only been favored five times over the last three years, and they have failed to cover the spread in any of those games. Neither team here is very good, and likely not contenders to win the conference, but I do think the Warhawks have a stronger overall roster and will match up much better against Texas State than they did against Army. Texas State has lost six straight road games, and here they are favored to not only win, but they would need to cover by two field goals. Until they prove otherwise, I still see Texas State as a bad team, and I can't back them as a road favorite.
Prediction: UL Monore Warhawks +6
Full-Game Total Pick
I think Texas State's best offensive strategy is to utilize their ground game more against a UL Monroe defense that was much weaker against the run than pass last season, and that should be the same this year. Although we didn't get to see it against Army, the Warhawks' strength on offense should be running the ball as well while they break in an inexperienced quarterback, who is only making his second career start.
I expect the running games to chew up the clock more than what we would see from two explosive passing attacks. I don't love either defense, but I think the total is too high and will take the under.
Prediction: Under 62