Sun Belt Sizzle Week One: Somebody’s Get’n Burned
Week One is the most important week in the Sun Belt. A victory here can change the perception of a program. Multiple victories elevates the reputation of the conference. Week One of the 2017 provides plenty of opportunity for the Sun Belt to sizzle.
Opening week of the season brings a little bit of everything for Sun Belt fans: SEC slugfests, new stadiums, FCS punching bags, peer conference matchups, and revenge games against old P5 antagonists. Welcome to Sun Belt Sizzle! All season long, we weigh in on the OOC battles between the Sun Belt and the out-of-conference opponents who are about to get burned, brah! All predictions are made by the most accurate measure know to man: Gut! Let’s begin:
Tennessee State Tigers @ Georgia State Panthers
Thursday, August 31st, 6PM on ESPN3
What’s new for Georgia State? Head coach Shawn Elliot and a sparkling stadium Also new (for starting QB Conner Manning at least): WR Penny Hart, freshly recovered from a season-ending injury last year. Meanwhile, the Tigers of Tennessee State are coming off a solid 7-4 season and is expected to place third in the Ohio Valley Conference in 2017. Not a pushover FCS opponent, but the Panthers should be jazzed enough to put a solid check in the win column to christen newly minted Georgia State Stadium.
GUT: 31-14, GEORGIA STATE
Sacramento State Hornets @ Idaho Vandals
Thursday, August 31st, 8PM on ESPN3
Warming up for 2018 the Vandals are opening the season against future Big Sky conference-mate Sac State. Idaho’s senior signal caller Matt Linehan should make sweet hay against the super soft defense of the Hornets, who went 9-2 last season. DL Aikeem Coleman will have a good opportunity to take a big lead in the SBC sacks race.
GUT: 45-6, IDAHO
ULM Warhawks @ Memphis Tigers
Thursday, August 31st, 8PM on CBSSN
ULM was not good in 2016 (4-8), but this match-up isn’t a bad peer conference contest for either team. The Tigers are projected to challenge for the American West title, and QB Riley Ferguson might be better than former Tiger (and current Denver Bronco) Paxton Lynch. But ULM’s offensive line should give newly minted starting QB Caleb Evans time to find his receivers. Upset in Memphis? Probably not, but Viator will have the Warhawks ready.
GUT: 24-21, ULM
New Mexico State Aggies @ Arizona State
Thursday, August 31st, 9:30PM on PAC12 Network
The Aggies have a juicy opener for its Sun Belt swan song. The Sun Devils (5-7) lost the last 6 games of the season last year, surrendering 46 points per game in that span. Colorado State’s win over Oregon State in Week Zero should inspire Doug Martin and New Mexico State. Look for stud RB Larry Rose III to run all over the Sun Devils.
GUT: 35-21, NEW MEXICO STATE
Troy Trojans @ Boise State Broncos
Saturday September 2nd, 2:45PM on ESPNU
Last year, Boise State crushed fellow Sun Belt member Louisiana 45-10. But the Cajuns were rebuilding and led by not-quite-ready QB Anthony Jennings. Troy, on the other hand, is a more complete team with entrenched (and talented) players both at the skill and beef positions. The Broncos are once again predicted to win the Mountain West, which makes this A GAME ON PAR WITH ALABAMA/FLORIDA STATE am I right?
GUT: 38-31, TROY
Appalachian State Mountaineers @ #15 Georgia Bulldogs
Saturday September 2nd, 5:15PM on ESPN
Last year, the Mountaineers opened the season by waltzing into Knoxville and nearly upsetting the #9 Tennessee Volunteers. This year, they get #15 Georgia, and a more seasoned and battle hardened Appalachian State team has the skillsets to close escrow. Head coach Scott Satterfield landed a dozen players on the preseason All Sun Belt Teams, including offensive player of the year RB Jalin Moore. On paper, this is App’s toughest obstacle to a 12-0 season.
GUT: 24-10, APPALACHIAN STATE
UMASS Minutemen @ Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
Saturday September 2nd, 6:00PM on ESPN3
Welcome to the Sun Belt, Chants! You get the guys that nearly beat Hawaii in Week Zero! Honestly, nobody really knows what to expect out of Coastal Carolina, who enter the year sans head coach (Joe Moglia is on a season-long medical leave). And how are they going to replace RB De’Angelo Henderson? Meanwhile, the independent Minutemen are coming of a drab 2-10 season and may have spent all its emotional collateral falling by 3 points to the Rainbow Warriors.
GUT: 14-9, COASTAL CAROLINA
Southeastern Louisiana Lions @ Louisiana Ragin Cajuns
Saturday September 2nd, 6:00 PM on ESPN3
The Lions finished 7-2 in the Southland Conference, good for 1st place. Meanwhile, the Cajuns finished 6-6 and lost to Southern Miss in the New Orleans Bowl. The Cajuns had one of the best run-stopping defenses in the nation last year. This year, many of those defensive stars return. Where Louisiana will struggle is making up for RB Elijah McGuire’s loss. But the D should be enough to defeat the Lions.
GUT: 41-10, LOUISIANA
Houston Baptist Huskies @ Texas State Bobcats
Saturday September 2nd, 6:00 PM on ESPN3
The Huskies, the second Southland program to visit the Sun Belt in Week 1, finished 4-7 last season. Just north of Houston, Texas State finished the season a miserable 2-10. Everett Withers’ no-nonsense approach to coaching may or may not eventually produce dividends. How the Bobcats perform against an FCS opponent may tell us which direction Texas State is trending.
GUT: 17-14, TEXAS STATE
Georgia Southern Eagles @ #12 Auburn Tigers
Saturday September 2nd, 6:30 PM on SEC Network
Rumor has it that the Eagles are recommitted to the triple option, and that probably unnerves the Tigers at least just a little. Nobody in the SEC runs the Triple O, and nobody (used to) run it better than Georgia Southern. Unfortunately, most of the Eagles who led the program to an 8-0 conference record in 2014 and 6-2 mark a year later are all gone. Does freshman signal caller Shai Werts have the intangibles to tangle Gus Malzahn and Auburn? Sure, why not?
GUT: 59-56, GEORGIA SOUTHERN
South Alabama Jaguars @ Ole Miss Rebels or Black Bears or Something
Saturday September 2nd, 6:30 PM on ESPNU
Uh-oh, Ole Miss! Now you done it. NOW YOU DONE IT! You just scheduled the Jags, the SUN BELT S-E-C KILLER! South Bama bested Mississippi State last year, and now it’s going to complete the job by taking out the Hugh Freeze-free Rebels. Coach Joey Jones is rolling with Cole Garvin at QB. He’s the guy who threw 3 TDs in the win against #19 San Diego State last season. If Garvin still has the magic, and if RB Xavier Johnson can find more running room that he did in 2016, the Jags could notch their second SEC upset in as many years.
GUT: 28-21, SOUTH BAMA
Arkansas State Red Wolves @ Nebraska Cornhuskers
Saturday September 2nd, 7:00 PM on Big 10 Network
Historically, the Cornhuskers have crushed the Red Wolves (38-9 in 2009, 42-13 in 2012). But these Cornhuskers are interestingly vulnerable, having lost about 30 seniors from last year’s squad, including the starting and back-up QBs. While Nebraska rolls the dice with Tulane transfer Tanner Lee, the Red Wolves receive a second year of Justice Hansen, who threw the conference’s 2nd most TDs (19) despite starting only 9 games. The state is set for upset!
GUT: 38-21, ARKANSAS STATE
A former notary public, Jeremy Harper is a professional writer and Chief Instigator for Storm the Castle Creative. He spends much of his free time staring blankly into space.