The Sun Belt Records Hottest Sun Belt Season In Human History
As Benjamin Franklin once said, “It’s a college football conference all right, if we can keep it.”
On August 31, the Georgia State Panthers rolled into Knoxville and dispatched the Tennessee Volunteers 38-30, an upset that had many in the Power Five questioning their place in the universe. So began a very interesting year for Sun Belt football – one that started with a high-profile upset and ended with the conference taking three of five bowl games.
But where’s our place in the college football universe? The Sun Belt went a solid 25-20 out-of-conference including a perfect 10-0 against FCS competition (far better than the MAC or CUSA). For the first time, the Sun Belt featured a team in the College Football Playoffs Poll and the final AP Poll (thanks, Appalachian State). The conference racked up four P5 wins, all on the road. Both Sun Belt divisional winners won more than 10 games apiece, and both acquitted themselves as the superior team in their respective bowl games.
The feast of success offered a chalky aftertaste. Despite Appalachian State’s storied season – one which saw road wins against South Carolina and North Carolina, plus a nearly flawless conference slate – the Mountaineers were considered no better than 19th in the nation. It seems that losing to Georgia Southern, a bowl team in its own right, was simply unforgivable. Palookas like Baylor and Michigan, combined losers of seven games, received more leeway than the one-loss Mountaineers. A whopping six teams with three or more losses were received better than 13-1 Appalachian State.
This may be as much P5 snobbery as it is Sun Belt bias. The eventual NY6 Group of Five winner, Memphis, finished the season only two spots ahead of the Mountaineers. Maybe we’re all treading water in the kiddie pool. But it wasn’t just teams getting stiffed. Red Wolves wide receiver, Omar Bayless, the Sun Belt Player of the Year who ranked 2nd in the nation for receiving yards and third for TDs, wasn’t even worth an invite to the Senior Bowl. Why?
Sun Belt still has some work to do. It would behoove the conference to see more stars selected in this April’s NFL Draft. Less lopsided OOC scheduling helps, too. (It’s nice to see Georgia State pick up and HvH with Georgia Tech.) The Sun Belt is finally congealing into a good football conference. Let’s see if we can keep it.
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.