Sun Belt Heat Week 4: Earth, Meet Sun Belt
If Week 2 saw the Sun Belt rise like the sun, Week 3 saw the conference sink like a sack of Quickrete. Can the Sun Belt recover in Week 4?
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In Week 4, the Sun Belt lost 1) a peer conference rivalry, 2) a close call to the Big 10, 3) a blowout to the SEC, 4) an in-state dust-up, and 5) a pair of blowouts to the AAC and the Mountain West. In all, four peer conferences losses and futility against the Power 5. At least Louisiana and Coastal kept the conference spotless against the FCS.
The losses didn’t just appear on the W/L column. Arkansas State, in its body-bag game with #3 Georgia, appears to have lost All-Conference defensive back Jerry Jacobs, and Troy lost preseason Sun Belt All Conference POY B.J. Smith:
Week 3 can eat a sack of crap. And that sack of crap might be Week 4, which features a few intriguing match-ups plus a few get-well games that could help the Sun Belt reduce some of the swelling.
ULM Warhawks @ Iowa State Cyclones, Saturday, September 21, 11:00 AM on FS1
Cyclones get the 18.5-point benefit of the doubt
Iowa State has lost to two ranked teams by a combined point-total of three. ULM’s one loss came at Florida State after boinking an XP in overtime. By themselves, these facts mean nothing. Taken together, they also mean nothing. However, the Warhawks have enjoyed a BYE week after trading haymakers with the Seminoles, and ULM quarterback Caleb Evan just might be the most dynamic single caller in the Sun Belt. True, that ULM defense is still a weakness, but think about this: the Cyclones are posting the 22nd most passing yards in college football, are are still scoring only 23 points per game. Maybe all Viator needs to win is offense.
Coastal Carolina Chanticleers @ UMASS Minutemen, Saturday, September 21, 12:00 PM on UNKNOWN
Chants are favored by 17, but are the envy of the nation
This matchup is so delicious, nobody seems to want to broadcast it. UMASS hasn’t won a game since November 3, 2018 when the Minutemen out-slugged Liberty in overtime 62-59. This year, they’ve lost all three games by at least 25 points, including one in Week 2 to Southern Illinois. Meanwhile, the Chants are a zesty 2-1 with a victory over Kansas that Les Miles (and the nation) has already forgotten. Coastal’s ground game is posting more than 215 yards per contest and the defense is only giving up 14.7 points. I’m not ready to say that Coastal is for real, but they’re going to give the Sun Belt royalty indigestion in 2019.
Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns @ Ohio Bobcats, Saturday, September 21, 1:00 PM on ESPN+
Bobcats are a 3.5-point shrug
The Cajuns have finally returned from their two-week FCS sabbatical to take on Ohio of the tundra. The Bobcats have a single win, also of the FCS variety, but they played Pitt and Marshall tough in narrow losses. It stands to reason that they’ll play the Cajuns tough as well. Bear in mind that Louisiana has gotten stat-fat and cocky beating up on Liberty and Texas Southern, putting up 77 points on the latter. We’ll see what spices truly comprise the Cajuns on Saturday.
Troy Trojans @ Akron Zips, Saturday, September 21, 2:o0 PM on ESPN+
Trojans receive the ceremonial 17-point rudis
In the season’s first three weeks, The Zips’ lack of zip on both sides of the ball has earned Akron an 0-3 record and the disdain of Vegas oddsmakers. Troy, as we mentioned, lost Sun Belt superstar BJ Smith in a bruising loss to Southern Miss last week. Still, Trojan quarterback Caleb Barker is the highest rated QB (per ESPN) in the Sun Belt, and he has yet to throw a single pick. Look for Troy to right the ship against Akron.
O’Doul’s “Maintain Your Edge” Game of the Week
Appalachian State Mountaineers @ North Carolina Tar Heels, Saturday, September 21, 2:30 PM on ACCNX
The Tar Heels have the narrow 3-point Edge
In-state rivalry is awesome! (Or at least, so I hear.) Appalachian State is considered to be the top team in the Sun Belt, but the Mountaineers did give up 41 points to Charlotte at home, raising some questions about the stoutness of App’s defense. North Carolina has played a far meatier schedule, posting wins against Miami and South Carolina while holding opponents to 23 points per game. Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, the offense is also only scoring 23 points per game. Mack Brown is relying mostly on defense to win. If first-year head coach Eliah Drinkwitz can figure out North Carolina’s defense, this in-state rivalry could become one hell of a game.
South Alabama Jaguars @ UAB Blazers, September 21, 2:30 PM on NFL Network
Vegas gave the Blazers 10-points
UAB entered the season with many pundits really liking the Blazers. That liking was reward with two unspectacular victories over Akron and Alabama State. Likewise, the Jaguars haven’t shown much spunk since keeping up with Nebraska in Week 1, underscored in painful relief by last week’s 42-6 cheek-shattering against Memphis. Who are these Jags? Also, who are these Blazers? Honestly, answers may not be forthcoming on Saturday.
Southern Illinois Salukis @ Arkansas State Red Wolves, September 21, 6:00 PM on ESPN3+
Red Wolves given an 88.9% of avoiding shame
Southern Illinois hammered UMASS 45-20 in Week 2, so the Salukis aren’t interested in cashing their Please Beat Us Gently card against a tiered-up opponent. Arkansas State attempted to play that card in Week 3, but Georgia just ripped it in half and proceeded to pound the Red Wolves 55-0. Blake Anderson will be looking to restore the team’s confidence against the Salukis, if they’re willing to cooperate.
Georgia State Panthers @ Texas State Bobcats, Saturday, September 21, 6:00 PM on ESPN+
Bobcats are favored by 3, which means Tennessee really sucks
That’s just an unfair subhead. Also unfair is that betting line. The Panthers have a solid starting QB in Dan Ellington and an SEC win to thrust into our faces. Conversely, the Bobcats can’t figure out who to play behind center, and have yet to notch a victory. However, both programs are coming off crushing peer conference losses, and both are eager to prove ready to move out of the Sun Belt Basement. This may not be the sexiest conference opener of all time, but it threatens to be a good game.
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.