Sun Belt Sizzle Week Six: Boiling Point
With the bulk of the OOC schedule played, the Sun Belt begins to turn its attention creating a conference champion.
As many Sun Belt fans know, the real season begins with the start of conference play, which ramps up starting about…now. Week 6 doesn’t include a single OOC game. Bring on the Sun Belt-on-Sun Belt violence! Interestingly, the entire Sun Belt is currently chasing ULM, who sits atop the standings at 2-0 and will likely be a perfect 3-0 after a visit to San Marcus on Saturday.
Please pay respect to our Sun Belt overlord, Darth Viator and the Warhawks.
Arkansas State Red Wolves (1-2) @ Georgia Southern Eagles (0-3)
Wednesday, October 3rd, 7PM on ESPN 2
In 2014, the Eagles vs Red Wolves would have been a tremendous mid-week dust up between entertaining conference contenders. But it’s 2017, bro, and the Eagles are a wreck and the Red Wolves are limping out of another disappointing OOC tilt. Georgia Southern is enduring the worst of it, though, staggering into Week 6 averaging a miserable 12 points per game as freshman Shai Wertz (47% completions, 2 TDs) attempts to survive the season – he’s already been sacked 13 times.
The Red Wolves have most of the pieces in place for a conference title run. However, starting QB Justice Hansen (985 yards, 10 TDs) is so banged up enough after SMU, back up QB Logan Bonner is taking starter’s reps this week. And after three games, the Monster Defense has yet to fully transform to beast mode. Despite the Eagles’ struggles, it would not be wise to dismiss Georgia Southern in Statesboro.
Gut: 35-10, Arkansas State
ULM Warhawks (2-2) @ Texas State Bobcats (1-4)
Saturday, October 7th, 2:00PM on ESPN3
The Bobcats defense has surrendered 44 and 45 points its last two outings, struggling and failing to play competitively against peer-conference teams (UTSA and Wyoming). The offense has been just as ineffective, with Mississippi State transfer QB Damian Williams completing only 44% of his passes in his last two games. Last Saturday, Williams was benched for freshman QB Willie Jones, who may not be an immediate upgrade, but perhaps it’s time for head coach Everett Withers to think about the future.
The future may not be now for Matt Viator and the Warhawks, but the present hasn’t been bad for the second-year head coach, who has survived his second 50+ point slugfest in as many weeks. Dual RBs Derrick Gore and Ben Luckett have provided a solid bedrock of offense for ULM, while QB Caleb Evans provides a mixture of production with his legs and his arm. The combo has created a ton of points. The defense, however, has given up 46 points per game in its last two, which isn’t ideal.
Gut: 42-14, ULM
New Mexico State Aggies (2-3) @ Appalachian State Mountaineers (2-2)
Saturday, October 7th, 2:30PM on ESPN3
A couple weeks ago, the Aggies had a fine opportunity to usurp the Sun Belt Big 3 by crushing Troy, but instead lost a heartbreaker 27-24. Good thing college football is all about second chances, right? New Mexico State makes the one million mile journey to Boone to face Appalachian State, who’s likely still kicking themselves for allowing Wake Forest to slip from their meaty grasp.
Aggies QB Tyler Rogers is throwing up obscene numbers – 1,757 yards and 14 touchdowns. Allied with the Sun Belt’s best receiver in Jaleel Scott and the conference’s most dangerous running back in Larry Rose III, you’d think Rogers & Co. would have Scott Sattersfield questioning his will to coach football. But the Mountaineers defense might be the best the Aggies’ have seen all year, allowing only 8 TDs and ranking 19th nationally in Total D. And nothing is going to stop Taylor Lamb from completing exactly 60% of his passes, especially not the Aggies’ Stay Puft Marshmallow Man™ defense.
Soul Crushing Defense vs. Blitzkrieg Offense! Larry Rose III vs Jalin Moore! Taylor Lamb vs Tyler Rogers! Yep, just go ahead and call it the Sun Belt Game of the Week.
Gut: 35-31, Appalachian State
Louisiana Ragin Cajuns (1-3) @ Idaho Vandals (2-2)
Saturday, October 7th, 4:00PM on ESPN3
Louisiana gives up 54 points per game. That’s really all you need to know about Mark Hudspeth’s Cajuns.
Meanwhile, you never know what you’re going to get out of Paul Petrino’s Vandals, who looked miserable against UNLV and almost competent in a disappointing 4th quarter loss to Western Michigan. Vandals QB Matt Linehan hasn’t quite elevated his game to that of the Sun Belt’s elite starters, but he’s completing 64% of his passes. And RB Aaron Duckworth is averaging nearly 6.5 yards per carry. Offense really isn’t a problem.
Idaho’s problem lies with a defense that completely falls apart in the second half, allowing competitive games to become horrible slaughters. Louisiana generally surrenders massive amounts of points from start to finish, but if emerging dual freshman RBs Trey Ragas and Elijah Mitchell (4 TDs apiece) can keep the Cajuns within striking distance by halftime, then Louisiana has a real shot at winning a shootout in Moscow.
Gut: 49-38, Louisiana
Georgia State Panthers (1-2) @ Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (1-3)
Saturday, October 7th, 5:30PM on ESPN3
Vegas only sees a 2 point difference between the Chants and Panthers, and that’s not a good sign for Georgia State. Since entering FBS play with a solid win over Massachusetts, Coastal Carolina has endured a three-game losing streak that included a 53-10 loss to Western Illinois. The Panthers did a sort of “reverse-Chants,” losing three in a row before finally notching a win against Charlotte.
Panthers QB Connor Manning has struggled mightiest of all mighty struggles, hurling precisely one touchdown against three picks despite completing 67% of his passes. The Panthers are only scoring a dozen points per game, but the defense hasn’t been a nightmare. It shutdown Charlotte, racking up two picks and three sacks in the process. If Manning and WR Penny Hart could get any kind of help from the running game, Georgia State could be…something.
The Chanticleers and still working on those FBS growing pains, getting most of its production from the awesomely monikered Osharmar Abercrombie (293 yards, 4 TDs). But even the talented RB has seemed to hit a wall, with opposing defenses keeping Abercrombie out of the end zone for the last two games. So, yeah, two-point game.
Gut: 2-0, Georgia State
Sitting out: Troy
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.