The Sun Belt punched the reset button last week, and now the conference race is once again up for grabs.
For at least four football teams in the Sun Belt (possibly five, if you want to throw in Louisiana), the season is brand new. Georgia State, Troy, Arkansas State and Appalachian State all sit atop the standings with one conference loss apiece. Credit the disruptive efforts of Joey Jones, whose South Bama Jags account for 50% of those losses.
Of those four “super teams,” the Red Wolves have the longest road to glory with three Sun Belt games remaining. All four teams have one remaining game with one of the other other three. Louisiana, with three games remaining, plays its final in Boone against Appalachian State – right after the Mountaineers take on Georgia State. Meanwhile, Troy has only Texas State before its thunderous showdown with Arkansas State in Jonesboro.
Tighten your Sun Belts, fans. The ride’s getting wild.
ULM Warhawks (4-5) @ #6 Auburn War Eagles or Tigers (8-2)
Saturday, November 18, 11:00 AM on ESPN2, (Auburn is a 36.5-point favorite)
ESPN FPI (which is sublime in its perfection, am I right?) gives Darth Viator and the Warhawks a 1.1% chance of thwarting ex-Sun Belt coach Gus Malzahn and the War Eagles. I like those odds. ULM has a habit of not giving a crap about what prognosticators say, starting at the Warhawk’s mystical upset of Arkansas in 2012 and ending at upending Appalachian State two weeks ago.
Still, Auburn is one of those “national title guys” with all the SEC speed and size money can buy. The Warhawks have Caleb Evans (currently leading the SBC in QB rating) and an offense that racks up 476 yards a contest – most in the Sun Belt. The problem for ULM is defense, which allows more than 500 yards to the opposition. In contrast, Auburn’s D allows about 290. Rumor has it that the Auburn defense is good.
Gut: 56-21, Gusburn
Texas State Bobcats (2-8) @ Arkansas State Red Wolves (5-3)
Saturday, November 18, 2:00 pM on ESPN3, (Arkansas State is a 26.5-point favorite)
For the second year in a row, the Bobcats get the Red Wolves following an upset conference loss. Arkansas States’ defeat to the South Bama Jags will either refocus an offense that surrendered a staggering six turnovers on Saturday, or will have exposed a weakness that Everett Withers and Texas State will look to exploit. The good news for Red Wolves quarterback Justice Hansen is that the Bobcats have recorded exactly zero picks in 2017, while surrendering nearly 300 passing yards per game. The upside for Texas State? Suddenly, these cats can score. Quarterback Damion Williams is on fire, leading the offense to two 30+ point outcomes in a row. The odds favor the Red Wolves, but to look past the Bobcats could end Blake Anderson’s title hopes.
Gut: 45-17, Red Wolves
South Alabama Jaguars (4-6) @ Georgia Southern Eagles (0-9)
Saturday, November 18, 2 PM on ESPN3, (The Eagles are a 4.5-point Dog)
This year, Joey Jones & the Jags (who should start a jazz band in the off season) have murdered the Sun Belt Elite, notching Ls onto the records for Troy and Arkansas State. The Eagles aren’t elite by any means, but they are playing for something pretty special – not to end the season winless. Don’t look for a big pile of offense in this game, as both teams rank among the lowest for points scored. Cole Garvin and the Jaguars offense, which registered negative three yards rushing against Arkansas State, will have to pick on Georgia Southern’s suddenly-soft secondary to escape with a win at Statesboro.
Gut: 17-7, Jags
New Mexico State Aggies (4-5) @ Louisiana Ragin Cajuns (4-5)
Saturday, November 18, 4 PM on ESPN3, (The Cajuns are a 4.5-point Dog)
Last week, Ole Miss busted up the busted up Cajuns 50-22, underscoring Louisiana’s deficiencies on defense. The Aggies ain’t Ole Miss, but Tyler Rogers and Jaleel Scott are likely prepping for a stat party at Cajun Field. While the defense has suffered for Mark Hudspeth, its the offense that has truly fallen apart for Louisiana, who are now cycling through three quarterbacks. Since putting up 50 in a loss to ULM, the Cajuns have yet to score more than 24 points in a game. Impotent offense – plus terrible defense – is a formula for woe. Meanwhile, the Aggies just outgunned Texas State 45-35. Giving up 35 to the Bobcats is a bad look. But as long as the Larry Rose/Tyler Rogers/Jaleel Scott combo is healthy, New Mexico State has the offense to make up for the defense.
Gut: 42-24, Aggies
Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (1-9) @ Idaho Vandals (3-6)
Saturday, November 18, 4 PM on ESPN3, (I couldn’t find odds for this game)
Yeah, ESPN didn’t even bother to post odds for a game featuring one team that just left the FCS and another who’s about to re-enter the FCS. THIS IS SUN BELT FOOTBALL! Anyway, neither team is good, though the Vandals have entertained us with epic 4th quarter collapses, and the Chants did just get Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long fired.
Gut: 28-17, Idaho
Sitting out: Troy, Appalachian State, Georgia 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.