Sun Belt Heat Week 14: Thanks for Playing
With the championship game already set, the Sun Belt will attempt to avoid merely going through the motions.
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As it turns out, 2019 is the new 2018, with Louisiana and Appalachian State returning to the Sun Belt Championship game, to be held next week. Sure, the journey contained a few wrinkles, like Georgia State making a mini-run in the East and Troy producing its own Chernobyl mini-series. Otherwise, the new boss is the old boss in the Sun Belt.
Which leaves the remainder of the conference playing for the leftover trinkets. Two programs seek a sixth win for bowl eligibility– Troy and ULM. Neither are assured a post-season spot even if they scrape up the W. There are also a pair of genuine rivalry games on the table, with nothing more on the line than pride. The Red Wolves’ Omar Bayless will work to maintain his status as national receiving leader, and Appalachian State kinda needs a crushing victory to cement its place in the College Football Playoff Top 25.
Not exactly the most compelling storylines, but so what? It’s November, and any heat is welcome.
Arkansas State Red Wolves (7-4) @ South Alabama Jaguars (1-10), Friday, November 29, 4:00 PM on ESPN+
Red Wolves have an 11-point buffer
Musty, asbestos-y old Ladd-Peebles is a kind of second home to the Red Wolves, who played five straight GoDaddy Bowls in Mobile. Adding to Arkansas State’s plus column: the Jaguars are awful, losers of nine straight and without a single FBS win on the season. Yet, there is a sense of disquiet for Red Wolves fans, as 1) this feels like a letdown game after the win against Georgia Southern, and 2) this is Senior Day for the Jaguars. Don’t be surprised if the Red Wolves are caught looking ahead to whatever Bowl game comes knocking. Also, don’t be surprised if Arkansas State rolls by 50. Just do yourself a favor and leave surprise out of this.
VERDICT: Red Wolves with the win
#25 Appalachian State Mountaineers @ Troy Trojans (5-6), Friday, November 29, 5:00 PM on ESPN+
Mountaineers receive the 12.5-point nod of assurance
This is an important game for Troy, who with a win becomes bowl eligible, earns a victory over a Top 25 opponent, and besmirches the near-perfect season of a divisional rival. However, last week’s 53-3 pimp slap from Louisiana doesn’t inspire much confidence in the Trojans. Added to the dismay, the Mountaineers lost some footing in the polls after playing too cavalier with the Texas State Bobcats. On paper, this looks like a massive QB shootout between Zac Thomas and Kaleb Barker. In reality, it looks more like a Subway 5-inch tuna sub left in the sun.
VERDICT: Mountaineers grudge-pound the Trojans
Texas State Bobcats (3-8) @ Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (4-7), Saturday, November 20, 11:00 AM on ESPN+
Chants by 7 points because Bobcats
A popular self-help book written several years ago recommended that you “eat your frogs” first thing in the morning so you could enjoy the remainder of your day unfettered by dread. There’s no froggier game than Bobcats at Chants this week, played in the morning so as not to spoil the rest of an otherwise fine day.
VERDICT: Good work, Chants. Nice.
O’Doul’s “Maintain Your Edge” Sun Belt Game of the Week
Georgia State Panthers (7-4) @ Georgia Southern Eagles (6-5), Saturday, November 30, 5:00 PM on ESPN+
Eagles get the 7-point Edge
Behind dual-threat QB Dan Ellington, the Panthers enjoyed a potency of offense they had previously never experienced as a member of the Sun Belt. Ellington is tied for 2nd in the Sun Belt with 21 TD strikes, and has run it in for another five. It may come as a surprise to some that the Panthers’ Tra Barnett is the leading rusher in the Sun Belt, and that the team is behind only Louisiana and Troy for total offense. What makes Vegas nervous is that Georgia State surrenders 205 yards on the ground per game, and the Eagles love to burn you on the ground.
VERDICT: Panthers out-sling the Eagles
ULM Warhawks (5-6) @ Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns (9-2), Saturday, November 30, 6:30 PM on ESPNU
Cajuns enjoy a 19.5-point spread
Since losing to Appalachian State 17-7 early in the conference season, the Cajuns have stoically thumped the Sun Belt with a bruising mixture of power running and stifling defense. The punishment reached its climax with a 50-point spanking of Troy, and there’s no evidence to support that Billy Napier is going to ease the whip on the Warhawks. A funeral for ULM will be held immediately following the game.
VERDICT: Cajuns boil
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.