Sun Belt Heat Week 6: Dissed
The Sun Belt enjoyed one of its most accomplished half-seasons of its existence, yet cannot earn the respect of college football’s establishment.
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The Sun Belt clocked in a better-than-solid college football “first season” in 2019, racking up a trio of Privileged Five victories (all on the road) and accomplishing the following feat noted by Kara Richey:
The Sun Belt is 19-16 out-of-conference through five weeks, and the conference features an undefeated team, Appalachian State. You’d think this success would rate some kind of nod from the celestials of college football.
The Mountaineers have done everything necessary to earn Top 25 merit (spotless record, marquis road win, victory over a conference contender), but those honors are reserved for the Texas A&Ms and Michigans of the world – two mediocre programs lazily inserted into the poll because whatever.
Georgia Southern Eagles (1-3) @ South Alabama Jaguars (1-4), Thursday, October 3, 6:30 PM on ESPNU
The Eagles are 10-point favorites, but do they deserve it?
(Places paternal hand on shoulder) I think we need to talk about adjusting Eagles expectations this year. This preseason, Georgia Southern was considered a Sun Belt contender behind an experienced QB in Shai Werts and Chad Lunford’s commitment to the triple option. But last week’s 37-24 home loss to the Cajuns underscores the fact that the Eagles are still a work in progress – especially on defense.
But if you have to work out the knots in your game, the Jags are the ideal masseur. Since performing okay against Nebraska in Week 1, South Alabama has shown little outside of Tra Minter, who logged another nice game against ULM last week. Minter needs help, though. Cephus Johnson is the lowest rated QB in the Sun Belt, and the defense is giving up more than 6 yards per play.
VERDICT: Eagles Soar
Arkansas State Red Wolves (3-2) @ Georgia State Panthers (2-2), Saturday, October 5, 2:30 PM on ESPN+
Red Wolves get the 7.5-point nod
The Red Wolves lost yet another starter last week, with Forrest Merrill going down for the season with a torn bicep. Merrill sits atop a mountain of talent injured for Arkansas State, yet the roster had enough talent on the sidelines to beat the Trojans at Troy last week. This was largely thanks to redshirt freshman QB Layne Hatcher, who stepped in for the injured Logan Bonner to torch Troy for 440 yards and 4 TD passes. Merrill’s departure puts even more pressure on the offense. Hatcher and wide receiver Omar Bayless may be plenty.
Since upsetting the Tennessee Volunteers, the Panthers have staggered on the gridiron, getting crushed unmercifully by Western Michigan and then unceremoniously defeated by traditional Sun Belt Basement Dweller Texas State. The Panther’s offense, lead by talented quarterback Dan Ellington, just doesn’t have enough voltage to make up for the defense allowing 41 points per game.
VERDICT: Red Wolves Eat
Memphis Tigers (4-0) @ ULM Warhawks (2-2), Saturday, October 5, 2:45 PM on ESPNU
The Warhawks are a 14.5 dog, which is ruff
Warhawks quarterback Caleb Evans totaled four touchdowns against South Bama last week, certifying his street credentials as a legit offensive threat. The problem is the ULM defense, which gives up a ton of points and doesn’t put any pressure of the quarterback – the line has only recorded six sacks all season. The defensive frontline allowed Tra Minter to gain 150 yards on Saturday. The Tigers run even better. Memphis’ well-rounded team has already trounced one Sun Belt middy, South Alabama. Clearly, the Warhawks are better than the Jags. But are they that much better?
VERDICT: Tigers Pounce
O’Doul’s “Maintain Your Edge” Sun Belt Game of the Week
Troy Trojans (2-2) @ Missouri Tigers (3-1), Saturday, October 5, 3:00 PM on SEC Network
Missouri has the 25-point Edge
Behind Kaleb Barker and a deep squad of wide receivers, the Trojans can kill you with the passing game, ranking second in conference in passing yards just behind the Red Wolves. The offense is seriously stacked. What’s whacked is the Tory shutdown, red zone defense that propelled the program to its recent string of success. In two losses, the Trojans have given up 42 and 50 points, leaving it up to Barker to out-slug opponents. Can the defense do something to bottle-up Kelly Bryant and that powerful rushing offense led by Larry Roundtree III? Sure. Why not?
VERDICT: Trojans Attack
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.