2018 Sun Belt Sizzle Week 2: Slow Boil
Sun Belt Sizzle keeps y’all woke on what’s hot in Sun Belt football.
Week One of Sun Belt Sizzle is a good news/bad news scenario. The Good News: The Sun Belt went a hot 5-0 against the FCS. The Bad News: The Sun Belt was a freezing 0-5 versus everybody else. Sure, Appalachian State took #10 Penn State to overtime, and South Alabama fell just four points short of Louisiana Tech, but close ain’t cutting it. The conference needs to sign on the line that is dotted.
|vs. Top 25||0-2|
Maybe the dotted-line-signing happens this week. The schedule is not without opportunity. It’s also not without sheer bladder busting terror. Slip into your asbestos pants and leap into the fire with me.
Saturday, September 8
Georgia State Panthers @ North Carolina State Wolfpack, 11:AM on the ACC Network at Carter-Finley Stadium
(Panthers +24.5, 3.7% FPI)
For the second week in a row, the Panthers are the first to fire the Sun Belt Flamethrower, this time with a morning matchup with the Wolfpack. In week 1, Georgia State was in danger of losing a second consecutive season opener to an FCS opponent until Shawn Elliot and the offense finally realized that wide receiving super stud Penny Hart was still on the roster. Now they get NC State, who looked nearly as unimpressive against James Madison, squeaking by with a 24-13 win.
Though Georgia State looked discombobulated against Kennesaw State, Panther QB Dan Ellington did throw three touchdown passes and ran for a team-leading 77 yards. Where he lacks in familiarity with the offense, he makes up for with raw skills. Ellington will need to gel much earlier with Hart if the Panthers want to notch a P5 win.
Georgia State 24, North Carolina State 17
Arkansas State Red Wolves @ #1 Alabama, 2:30 PM on ESPN2 at Bryan-Denny Stadium
(Red Wolves +36.5, 1.4% FPI)
ESPN FPI has downgraded the Red Wolves chances of victory from 1.8% to 1.4% despite Arkansas State marching through a 48-21 demolition of Southeast Missouri State on Saturday. Quarterback Justice Hansen fired a team record six touchdown passes – to six different receivers, earning him Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Week honors.
Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide make Louisville look pretty awful, rolling the Cardinals 51-14 with the usual Nick Saban good cheer. At least Saban paid enough respect to the Red Wolves to name a starter at QB, going with Tua Tagovailoa, who tossed a couple TD passes on Saturday. For some reason, Alabama is a 36.5 point favorite. Whatevs.
Arkansas State 36.5, Alabama 0
UMASS Minutemen @ Georgia Southern, 5:00 PM on ESPN+ at Paulson Stadium
(Eagles -2, 51.1% FPI)
OH GOD NO! NOT THE MINUTEMEN! Maybe you don’t remember, or maybe you had it electrically burned from your brain, but the Minutemen provided the darkest hours for the Sun Belt last season, dishing out embarrassing defeats to Appalachian State and Georgia Southern in back-to-back weeks.
Now the Eagles get a chance at redemption, hosting UMASS in Statesboro upon a fine performance from QB Shai Wertz – 163 rushing yards and 3 TDs for a 37-6 win for South Carolina (State). He also passed for 29 yards, so you know the triple option is back! UMASS put 63 points on Duquesne in Week 0, but fell hard to Boston College 55-21. Which version of the Minutemen will the Eagles get?
Georgia Southern 28, UMASS 24
Appalachian State Mountains @ Charlotte 49ers, 5:00 PM on ESPN+ at McColl-Richardson Stadium
(Panthers -14, 80.3% FPI)
A mere 102 miles separate Boone and Charlotte, setting up an interesting in-state, G5 rivalry between two programs fairly new to FBS play. I can’t say how stoked the 49ers are for the game, but Mountaineers fans seem interested.
New Appalachian State QB Zach Thomas put up solid numbers versus #10 Penn State last week (270 yards, 2 TDs and a pick), removing lingering doubt about the drop-off the Mountaineers might endure after losing longtime signal caller Taylor Lamb. The Mountaineers will get a test from 49ers running back Benny LeMay, who posted 135 yards and a pair of scores. But let’s be honest, y’all. The 49ers ain’t the Nittany Lions.
Appalachian State 38, Charlotte 13
ULM Warhawks @ Southern Miss Golden Eagles, 6:00PM on ESPN3 at M.M. Roberts Stadium
(Warhawks +5, 35.3% FPI)
Matt “Darth” Viator delivered a Phantom Menace level victory over Southeast Louisiana last week, staggering into the win column thanks to a last-minute blocked field goal. Normally, that kind of win is pretty exciting, but the Warhawks didn’t do much to assuage those defensive concerns.
Meanwhile, hay baled Jackson State 55-7 behind 4 TD passes from sophomore QB Jack Abraham. The matchup between Caleb Evans and Abraham should be entertaining ESPN3 content to say the least.
ULM 56, Southern Miss 49
UAB Blazers @ Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, 6:00PM on ESPN3 at Brooks Stadium
(Chants +10, 23.9% FPI)
Welp, the Chants were rolled on Saturday by South Carolina’s favorite son, the Gamecocks. Now coach Joe Moglia gets a more digestible test with UAB coming into town. Senior RB Marcos Outlow might have more running room against the Blazers, though UAB shutout Savannah State in their opening game – the Blazers first shoutout in a decade – while limiting the Tigers to just 155 yards on the turf.
The Blazers put 55 points on Savannah State, and QB A.J. Erdely completed 24 of 28 passes. I still don’t know much about the Chants, but I do know that they can’t allow that.
Coastal Carolina 24, UAB 16
Texas Southern Tigers @ Texas State Bobcats, 6:00PM on ESPN3 at Bobcats Stadium
(Bobcats 97.2% FPI)
Young and promising Bobcat quarterback Willie Jones III looked pretty bad against Rutgers, completing only 7 of 20 passes for 79 miserable yards. The Bobcats managed to score all of one touchdown against the Big 10 bodybag, likely foreshadowing another year in the Sun Belt Basement for Texas State.
The bright spot for Texas State? The Bobcats snagged three picks on Saturday. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe Everett Wither’s defense had zero picks last year. (SPOILER: I’m not wrong)
I know zip about Texas Southern, except they have a win in the W column.
Texas State 20, Texas Southern 10
Florida A&M Rattlers @ Troy Trojans, 6:00PM on ESPN+ at Veterans Memorial Stadium
(Trojans 96.4% FPI)
For the second consecutive year, the Trojans put up a disappointing effort in an opener with Boise State, this time getting pile-driven at home 56-20. New starting quarterback Kaleb Barker was mostly ineffective against the Broncos defense, throwing for only 211 yards and a pick before giving way to Sawyer Smith (4/5 for 44 yards). Not only was Brandon Silvers misses, so was running back Jordan Chunn. The Trojans mustered a mere 124 yards on the ground.
Against the Rattlers, Neal Brown should find more opportunities to get Barker right.
Troy 42, Florida A&M 6
South Alabama Jaguars @ Oklahoma State Cowboys, 7:00PM at Boone Pickens Stadium
(JAGs +32.5, 1.7% FPI)
Honestly, I’d be more comfortable if this game were against Sand Diego State, who the Jags own. Instead, new head coach Scott Campbell and South Bama get the Cowboys, who flat murdered them in Mobile last year.
South Alabama played a stout Louisiana Tech team to a 26-30 loss on Saturday, despite getting a 13.9 QBR from starting QB Cole Garvin. What should really worry Campbell is the performance of starting RB Tra Minter who toted the rock 16 times for 23 yards. The Jags will probably have easier plowing against the Cowboys….right?
South Alabama 24, Oklahoma State 20
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.