Sun Belt Sizzle Week Thirteen: Hot Soup
After 12 weeks of fumbling, stumbling, rumbling football, the Sun Belt is finally getting really good.
Finally, after a season of 4th quarter collapses, OOC blowouts, and disappointing under-performances, the Sun Belt has reach a suitable level of interesting. Five teams remain in the conference title hunt – Troy, Arkansas State, Appalachian State, Georgia State and Louisiana. With four teams locked at one loss apiece, some form of Sun Belt Title Tie is eminent, but not guaranteed! Everything hinges on Week 13.
Everything! I’m not kidding. Although, I have to admit, everything will hinge on Week 14 when Week 13 is finished being all up in our faces. But now were discussing time travel, which is too much math and physics to digest this close to Thanksgiving.
Texas State Bobcats (2-9) @ Troy Trojans (8-2)
Friday, November 24th, 3PM on ESPN3, (Troy is a 25.5-point favorite)
Of all the contenders, Troy is projected to have the easiest Thanksgiving weekend, which likely points to an upset (because this is the Sun Belt). After piling up impressive point during its last two games, the Bobcats were held to a pair of TDs against the Red Wolves, reminding us that Everett Withers’ squad still has a some growing up to do. Meanwhile, Troy enters Friday’s game off a bye and well-rested. May too well rested? After all, nobody plays well after a bye, and the Trojans have been especially dicy on weekday games at home. Are we really talking upset here? Not likely. The Troy offense ranks around the middle of the Sun Belt pack, but that defense ranks 19th in the nation with opponents scoring a measly 17.6 points. The Trojans should devour the Bobcats like Thanksgiving leftovers this Friday.
Gut: 24-3, Troy
Appalachian State Mountaineers (6-4) @ Georgia State Panthers (6-3)
Saturday, November 25th, 1PM on ESPN3 (The Panthers are a 6.5-point Dog)
One of these one-lose teams is getting bounced out of the title race! The key to beating the Mountaineers is to run. Sadly for Georgia State, the Panthers feature the Sun Belts’ most anemic ground attack, ranking 10th in the Sun Belt. That puts the Panthers’ hopes and dreams in the hands of quarterback Conner Manning and his capable wide receiver Penny Hart, who have connected for seven touchdowns in Sun Belt matchups. Meanwhile, the Appalachian State defense isn’t bad, led by hard-charging Tee Sims and a secondary that leads the conference with 12 picks. On paper, this is a bad match for Georgia State. But the Mountaineers can be rattled, and if the not-bad Panthers defense can apply pressure on Tayler Lamb, we could see an upset in Atlanta.
Gut: 35-21, Mountaineers
Arkansas State Red Wolves (6-3) @ ULM Warhawks (4-6)
Saturday, November 25th, 2PM on ESPN3 (ULM is a 8-point Dog)
Darth Viator and the Warhawks have punched above their weight since going the distance with Memphis to open the season. There’s still two rounds left. ULM has no shot at the title, but it can become bowl eligible by running what remains of the table against Arkansas State and Florida State. The QB combo of Caleb Evans and Garret Smith has proven formidable as the season progressed. And Alabama transfer Derick Gore has provided plenty of juice at running back. But the defense is still surrendering massive amounts of points – 38.7 per game at last count. The Red Wolves defense has more-or-less shut down Sun Belt offenses all season. Viator will attempt to throw on Arkansas State’s secondary, which does give up big plays. But look for the Red Wolves monster front seven to create more than enough havoc to keep the Warhawks out of the end zone.
Gut: 42-31, Arkansas State
Idaho Vandals (3-7) @ New Mexicos State Aggies (4-6)
Saturday, November 25th, 3PM on ESPN3 (No odds exist)
Who’s ready for a battle of teams who won’t be in the conference next year? Obviously not Vegas, who isn’t interested in posting odds. Still, who wouldn’t want to catch two of the conference’s best lame-duck, sub-500 teams going head-to-head? Tyler Rogers, Jaleel Scott and Larry Rose III are worth the price of admission, and Paul Petrino is likely to throw at least one red-faced temper tantrum before the afternoon is over. Aggies still have a shot at bowl eligibility, so look for a slightly more motivated New Mexico State to drop the people’s elbow on the Vandals.
Gut: 35-10, New Mexico State
Georgia Southern Eagles (1-9) @ Louisiana Ragin Cajuns (5-5)
Saturday, November 25th, 4PM on ESPN3 (Cjuns are a 6.5-point Favorite)
GEORGIA SOUTHERN IN THE HOUUUUUUSE! The Eagles’ 52-0 steamroll over South Bama convinced Joey Jones to retire. Would a similar outcome force the same from Mark Hudspeth? The Cajuns bounced back from its embarrassment in Oxford to collect a solid win at New Mexico State. But what is more significant is that Trey Ragas has returned at running back, and Jordan Davis is back behind center. If Joe Dillon and the Cajuns defense can contain Georgia Southern’s two-head QB monster Shai Werts and Kado Brown, Louisiana enters the final week of the season poised for noise.
Gut: 35-31, Cajuns
Sitting out: Coastal Carolina, South Bama
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.