2018 Sun Belt Sizzle Week 9: Rivalry Week
Sun Belt Sizzle keeps y’all woke on what’s hot in Sun Belt football.
The Sun Belt notched two more wins agains “peer conference” opponents in Week 8, pushing the conference’s overall OOC record to 21-23 (including FCS).
|vs. Top 25||0-5|
Under .500, yes, but a vast improvement over last season. If I could gather everyone affiliated with Sun Belt football onto one golf course, I’d encourage everyone to participate in an awkward high five. Yay, almost .500!
Far more savagely important than the OOC are Sun Belt Rivalries® – a fist-full of contests with which bitter Sun Belt enemies are pitted to fight before angry mobs. The new Championship format makes these rivalry games essential viewing, which is great considering two make mid-week appearances everybody hates but the ESPN family of channels.
Tuesday, October 23
Troy vs. South Alabama, 7:00 on ESPN2 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium
(Jaguars +12.5, 18% FPI)
Nobody really knew this was a rivalry until:
That’s right, somebody in Alabama forged a damn belt for this in-state fracas, and now it’s a real rivalry. Troy tragically lost its starting QB, Kaleb Barker, in Week 6, and subsequently endured a tragic loss to Liberty (!) in Week 7. With a week’s rest in the books, Troy will need to bounce back against the Jags if they want to keep pace with the lava-hot Mountaineers and Eagles in the SBS East.
After receiving a trio of horrible beatings from Memphis, Georgia Southern and Appalachian State, bullied South Bama went ahead and bullied poor Alabama State 45-7 last week. Will a taste of victory – plus Ladd-Peebles’ toxic atmosphere of mold and asbestos – be enough to overcome the QB-challenged Trojans? Nope.
Trojans 35, Jaguars 10
Thursday, October 25
#25 Appalachian State vs. Georgia Southern, 6:30 on ESPNU at Paulson Stadium
(Eagles +8, 26% FPI)
Both teams steam into the mid-week contest 3-0 in conference and battling for SBC West supremacy. The Mountaineers, the first Sun Belt team enjoying a national ranking since Troy in 2016, hadn’t allowed double-digit points in its last 4 games until giving the Cajuns 17 in Week 8. Is the Mountaineers coal cart slowing down? Eh, probably not.
Hated rival Georgia Southern has completely forgotten the Tyson Summers era, ground-pounding win after win – including last week’s emasculation of former Sun Belter New Mexico State 48-31. The Eagles look stronger every game. Are they strong enough to knock off Appalachian State?
Mountaineers 38, Eagles 28
Saturday, October 27
Coastal Carolina vs. Georgia State, 1:00 on ESPN+ at Georgia State Stadium
(Eagles +3.5, 49.5% FPI)
So, uh, this isn’t really a rivalry, but it might kind of be a good game as both teams are pretty bad. Both surrender tons of yards. Neither team really scores much. But only one is entering Saturday’s contest coming off a win. The Chants have been fire in the OOC, defeating UAB earlier in the year and then breaking the Minutemen again in Week 8. Coastal coasts into Atlanta with momentum.
Meanwhile, the Panthers didn’t look completely inept versus Arkansas State last week – they scored 35 points, with three TD passes from running QB Dan Ellington. But that Panthers defense is awful, and Coastal’s funky offensive schemes should be enough to puzzle out a victory for the Chants.
Panthers 16, Coastal 24
New Mexico State vs. Texas State, 6:00 on ESPN3 at Bobcats Stadium
(Bobcats -2.5, 53.8% FPI)
Did New Mexico State actually leave the SBC? The Bobcats will be the third Sun Belt opponent for the Aggies in as many weeks. Good news for Texas State: the Aggies are 0-2 against the Sun Belt. Bad new for Texas State: the Bobcats are still the Bobcats.
Bobcats 17, Aggies 21
Arkansas State vs. Louisiana, 6:00 on ESPN+ at Cajuns Field
(Cajuns +3, 39.6% FPI)
The Cajuns aren’t exactly a good team, but they did give #25 Appalachian State a few quality minutes last week. Running back Trey Ragas is a legit threat, and Aaron Nunez is capable under center. Give new head coach Billy Napier a defense, and he might be in contention to win the SBC East.
The Division Championship is exactly what’s at stake. With both teams 1-2 in conference, a loss in Lafayette makes an invite to the first SBC Championship Game unlikely. The Red Wolves pounded Georgia State last week behind 5 total touchdowns from QB Justice Hansen. The offense will need more of the same to out-slug Louisiana on notoriously tough turf.
Cajuns 28, Red Wolves 42
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.