Hello, Sun Belt, My Old Friend
Sun Belt football fans emerge from the darkness to take on the establishment yet again.
Every Sun Belt football fan as their own offseason coping mechanism – adopting less-than-healthy pursuits to numb the pain, like wrestling alligators or maybe trying that goofy Paleo Diet. Mine was to slip into a mindless coma that reached its lowest depth by watching three straight seasons of “Stranger Things.”
Listen, I enjoy 80s nostalgia as much as the next guy who lived through the 80s. I honestly appreciate the reminder that Bufferin was a thing. But let’s face it: Season 3 (while more fun than Season 2 and more colorful than Season 1) was mostly Hopper and Joyce bickering and Mike calling every character a “piece of shit” at least once.
The best moment of Season 3 was when the circus carny called Hopper “Magnum.” Honorable mention for the use of “Goldrush” by Yello.
Don’t panic. This isn’t a “Sun Belt Head Football Coaches as Stranger Things Characters” article. (Mostly because Everett Withers was the perfect Ted but Withers is gone, boo.) The opportunity to post June content has come and gone. In fact, I’d don’t know what this article is. I’m just trying to pull myself out of the offseason coma.
By now, I’ve usually worked myself into a Group of Five Fury that has me believing that the Sun Belt is poised to put a team into the New Years Bowl Sweepstakes. In addition, I would have successfully ignored all weaknesses associated with the Red Wolves roster and predicted an THIRTEEN and OH season. Just for chuckles, I’d straight-face insist that Texas State or South Alabama are finally ready to deliver some Sun Belt Heat.
But the coma is strong, y’all.
This football season arrives with a new Sun Belt Commissioner, Keith Gill, for whom I’m still waiting for some kind of conference vision statement. I wouldn’t mind enjoying some Mike Aresco-level moxie from Gill. How about, “This is the season the Sun Belt cracks the College Football Playoff Committee’s Top 25!” or “Our only peer conference is the SEC!” or even “Sun Belt is the Power One!” Gill is playing his new role low key, so far. Maybe he’s waiting until Sun Belt Media Day on July 22 to drop the sasshammer.
Without cheerleading from the conference commish, we have the usual prognosticators to rely upon. Everybody likes Appalachian State, and many seem to believe that Kaleb Barker is healthy enough to deliver Troy another solid season. But head coaches Scott Satterfield (Louisville) and Neal Brown (West Virginia) have bolted for that P5 cheddar. We can under or overestimate the impact of that. I’m inclined to believe those departures will have an impact.
Meanwhile, Arkansas State brings back many intriguing pieces, but the Sun Belt Player of the Year (Justice Hansen) is not one of them. I’ve long believed that a quarterback transition spells early struggles for a program, but I’m often proven wrong. I really have no idea.
Big questions remain for the Sun Belt Troika, leaving programs like Georgia Southern, Louisiana and ULM (???) to create a new Troika. The Eagles and Cajuns are especially intriguing, led by young, hungry head coaches. And now that I see it all written down, it appears that the Sun Belt may have at least a five-way battle for conference supremacy in the works.
I feel the coma lifting.
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.