These two teams have been having a tough run of it. But as of this Thursday, one of them is going to get their first conference win of the 2012-2013 season. So how should you bet this closely framed between these two Sun Belt teams?

NCAA Football Betting – Arkansas State vs Florida International Picks 

The Arkansas State Red Wolves are the defending Sun Belt Conference champions but this past Saturday on their home field in Jonesboro, the Wolves got ripped apart by the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in an important conference clash.

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Arkansas State won the Sun Belt under the direction of former head coach Hugh Freeze, who is now the head man at the University of Mississippi football program. ASU's new coach is Gus Malzahn, the high-profile offensive coordinator at Arkansas and Auburn, who turned down the Vanderbilt head coaching job to return to the state of Arkansas. Malzahn was supposed to give the Red Wolves' offense the ability to sustain the level of production Freeze was able to generate but in the game against Western Kentucky, ASU was held to just 13 points in a 26-13 loss to the Hilltoppers. That loss puts Arkansas State behind the eight-ball in the race for the Sun Belt crown. Winning this game against Florida International is non-negotiable if ASU has any realistic aspirations of winning a league title.

Florida International has made bowl games in each of the last two seasons but the Golden Panthers might already be running out of steam this season. The University of Louisiana-Lafayette smoked the Golden Panthers by 28 points last week as coach Mario Cristobal's FIU crew didn't belong on the same field. 

Each of these teams is tasked with the challenge of overcoming its weaknesses and limitations to win a very important contest on Thursday in Miami where the Panthers are listed as a 1.5 point odds favorites on the betting lines.

The Red Wolves can win because 

Their opponent's defense is not particularly imposing. 

What also has to be appealing from ASU's viewpoint is that Malzahn, following a film study of his team, should be able to provide sound coaching in practice and get his players to learn from their mistakes against Western Kentucky. Florida International's defense is something that Malzahn should be able to exploit on a regular basis. Florida International didn't just allow 48 points to Louisiana-Lafayette this past weekend, they conceded 46 points to Duke in Week 1 and have just not been very reliable on the defensive side of the ball. This is a unit that can be pushed around and since Arkansas State engaged Western Kentucky in a very physical conference opener this past Saturday, it's quite reasonable to conclude that Arkansas State will be battle-tested for this contest.

The Golden Panthers can win because

They're playing a team whose offense is not functioning anywhere close to an optimum level. Arkansas State was not expecting to score only 13 points against Western Kentucky but that's exactly what happened this past weekend. The Red Wolves ran into a buzz saw and FIU's coaching staff now has a blueprint for how to combat ASU. 

The embarrassment of losing to Louisiana-Lafayette by 28 points should make the Golden Panthers a tougher, more energized and more focused team against Arkansas State. 

Outlook & NCAA Football Betting Prediction 

This is an important game in the Sun Belt conference as the loser drops to 0-2 in the conference. FIU is down in the dumps right now after three straight losses and four in their first five weeks. They haven’t scored more than 21 points since Week 2 when they beat Akron 41-38 in overtime and points could very be at a premium here if the Red Wolves offense gets back on track.

Look for FIU to put up a good fight but the presence of superior offensive talent should carry Arkansas State to the finish line first. Add the Red Wolves to your college football picks.

NCAA Football Picks: Arkansas State +1.5