After three revealing weeks of being tested in the pigskin cauldron, what have we learned about the Sun Belt?
When the Sun Belt announced that it would proceed with a full schedule, despite the looming threat of COVID-19, the conference had but one mandate: TO BRING THE HEAT. And guess what? We did.
The Sun Belt Established Its Bona Fides
Even in losses (if we throw ULM’s disaster against Army), the Sun Belt performed in entertaining fashion before national audiences. Sweeping the Big XII sweetened the pot, with Louisiana’s win over ranked Iowa State providing the bow and the cherry. As a result, we’ve seen two Sun Belt programs crack the AP Top 25, which is historical on a biblical scale.
The Basement Belt is Moving On Up
Remember when Coastal, South Bama, Georgia State and Texas State suuuuuucked? Of course you do. It was just last year, you goobers. The Basement of the Belt is rising thanks to hungry young coaches and the maturing of talent. Who among the four have the most potential to unseat a Sun Belt titan? Coastal has the wins, but the Panthers seem to have a lot of pieces in place to give Troy and Appalachian State problems. Meanwhile, the Bobcats and Jags still have issues, but they also have ability. There are no such things as an easy win in the Sun Belt.
Appalachian State is Sheriff (But for How Long?)
The Mountaineers opened the season in the AP Top 25 and responded by struggling at home versus Charlotte and then losing pitifully to Marshall. No longer ranked, Appalachian State appears to be missing punch on both sides of the ball, especially at the ground game. The Sun Belt East sees the Sheriff staggering early, and there’s a host of eager desperadoes looking to take the badge.
Cajuns are For Realz
Yes, Louisiana struggled against the Panthers in Atlanta. Was it a “comedowner” from beating #23 Iowa State? Perhaps. Is it that Georgia State is not without considerable skills? Indeed. Still, the Sun Belt’s lone ranked team looks tremendous despite losing key talent to the NFL last season. Sun Belt coaches, however, will be studying how that Panther’s defense held up so well against Levi Lewis and all of his many weapons.
Troy Beat Middle Tennessee
Nobody in the Sun Belt cares for Middle, so job well done, Trojans. MTSU is trending down these days, and the win was business for Troy. However, the 47-14 score is hard to dismiss. Is Gunner Watson a legit QB threat? Is the defense, coming off THREE PICKS, good enough to give the Mountaineers a run?
Arkansas State Might Be Back
Were the Red Wolves ever really gone? Argue among yourselves. What can’t be disputed is that Jay Adams is a legit stud at wide receiver and the QB combo of Layne Hatcher and Logan Bonner is a successful experiment. The defense remains an issue, especially with COVID-19 contact tracing decimating important positions, like linebacker. Still, the squad had its moments against Kansas State. But it’s this week’s game against an improved Tulsa team that will truly determine whether or not the Red Wolves are back in business.
COVID Continues to Suck
The coronavirus and its contact tracing measures canceled games for Georgia Southern and Arkansas State during the three week Golden Age of the Sun Belt. Still, the conference’s success coaxed the Big 10 (and soon, the Pac-12 and Mountain West) back on the field. Welcome to the party, pal. Expect cancelations to plague the rest of the season.
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.