Sun Belt Autopsy Week Ten: Sun Belt Entropy Returns
The charm of the Sun Belt is that the Sun Belt cannot be categorized, analyzed or quantified.
Nothing goes to plan in the Sun Belt – and yet, everything goes to plan in the Sun Belt. For example, 2017 was supposed to be The Year of the Mountaineer, with Appalachian State riding a roster full of seniors and a favorable schedule straight to fortune and glory. Instead, a two-week losing streak to Massachusetts and ULM has removed all chances of a special season in Boone, leaving us with…the predictable rise of Arkansas State.
Chilling out during a bye week, the Red Wolves tuned into ESPN 3 to witness its biggest conference competition fall in a slugfest to Darth Viator and the Warhawks. That wasn’t in the script! And yet, maybe it was. After, roughly the same scenario occurred last year when the Mountaineers dropped a game at Troy.
Now every atom in the conference standings is vibrating with zany energy. Three teams stand at 4-1, a half-game back of Arkansas State. Of those three, the Red Wolves face only Troy, a team suffering from offensive anemia but bearing an all-star caliber defense. Meanwhile, Appalachian State waits for the Red Wolves to stumble, as does Georgia State, a program drinking deeply from the chalice of Why Not Us?
The Sun Belt cannot be prognosticated, and yet, conference history tends to repeat itself. What a conundrum!
Idaho Vandals 21, Troy Trojans 24
Is stifling defense enough to win Troy the title?
News Flash: The Trojans struggled in a mid-week game versus a conference opponent on national TV. For whatever reason, Neal Brown and his QB Brandon Silvers don’t enter these Tuesday/Thursday dustups with the proper motivation. After surrendering 35 points in one quarter to Missouri, Idaho arrived to Troy determined to resemble a real football program, taking an early 1st quarter lead. It didn’t last, but it lasted longer than necessary. Rather than crush Paul Petrino’s furious spirit, the Trojans sputtered and floundered on offense, managing to put up just enough points to avoid catastrophic dismay. Troy’s total defense ranks 21st in the nation, and they have yet to allow more than 24 points to a conference opponent. Buuuuuuut.…Silvers has five passing TDs on the year.
Next Up: Troy meets a suddenly dangerous Coastal, Idaho takes a knee
Appalachian State 45, ULM Warhawks 52
It was bound to happen, right?
Taylor Lamb and Caleb Evans combined for seven passing touchdowns and 690 yards on Saturday, but the Warhawks out-rushed the Mountaineers 213 to 169. Appalachian State has a good defense, but it has shown it’s vulnerable against the run. Derrick Gore and Evans punched three on Saturday, leaving the Sun Belt in the paws of the Red Wolves. Weirdly, the Warhawks have only one conference game remaining – a grudge match with Arkansas State. While Matt Viator and Co. haven’t a shot at the title, ULM can still generate maximum chaos. Meanwhile, the 4-1 Mountaineers must win out and hope for an Arkansas State stumble.
Next Up: The Mountaineers take out frustrations against the Eagles, ULM takes a break
Georgia State Panthers 21, Georgia Southern Eagles 17
It looked like the Eagles might win (until they didn’t)
Directed by the cruel hand of Mistress Fate, the Eagles led the Panthers for most of the contest (despite opening game by surrendering a scoop and score), but Georgia State’s lucky Penny (Hart) sealed Georgia Southern’s doom with a 9-yard TD catch with a little more than 2 minutes left in the contest. Shai Werts returned under center for the Eagles and chipped in a passing and a rushing TD. But the resurgence of Panther QB Conner Manning (319 yards, 2 TDs) and his repartee with Hart is making Georgia State a real threat to upsetting the Sun Belt Establishment. If the Panthers ever find a running game, Georgia State could become a new power in the Sun Belt.
Next Up: Georgia State checks in on Texas State, Georgia Southern plays another rivalry game against the Mountaineers
New Mexico State Aggies 45, Texas State Bobcats 35
Who knew the bobcats had so many points inside of them?
When Tyler Rogers and Jaleel Scott are humming, they’re tough to beat. Rogers tossed up 474 yards, Scott grabbed 130 with a score, and the Aggies out slugged a Bobcat offense that had previously scored 20 or more points only twice this year. The points were fun, but Doug Martin has to be concerned about surrendering 400 passing yards to Texas State, including 69 (nice) to freshman RB Jaylin Nelson. But a win is a win, and now the Aggies need only win two of its remaining three to earn its first bowl invite since …(puts on reading glasses)…1960?!?
Next Up: Texas State hosts Georgia State, New Mexico State soaks up some November sun
Coastal Carolina Chanticleers 38, Arkansas Razorbacks 39
When a loss is actually kind of a win
Coastal Carolina fields a funky offense that, to the indoctrinated, can be confusing to defend. Clearly, nobody was “doctrinated” in Fayetteville, where the Chanticleers pretty much did whatever they wanted to the Razorbacks in the first three quarters. The Chants entered the fourth quarter with a ten-point lead before finally succumbing to the Razorback’s relentless panic, but by then the damage was done to the fragile Hog psyche.
Next Up: Coastal attempts to scare the hell out of Troy
Louisiana Ragin Cajuns 19, South Alabama Jaguars 14
These two played each other on Saturday, and a victory was recorded
Guess who started at QB for the Cajuns on Saturday? Jordan Davis? Nope. Andre Nunez? Uh-uh. Try 5’11” freshman QB Levi Lewis, Louisiana’s third starter behind center this year. Lewis only tossed for 110 yards, but they were 110 penetrating yards – two TDs (he also lead the team with 129 yards rushing). That and a couple of field goals from super-kicker Steve Artigue was just enough to sink South Bama, who rolled the dice on Cole Garvin and paid with a pair of INTs.
Next Up: South Bama hosts Arkansas State, Louisiana tries its luck with Ole Miss
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.