Pay Attention to the Sun Belt Games This Weekend – From the Bird’s Nest
Louisiana's Ragin' Cajuns have the weekend off this week, but that doesn't mean fans should quit noticing what's going on in the league. With the 'Belt having as many as six bowl eligible teams and only two tie-ins. this weekend will have a lot to do with jockeying for position.
Here are my thoughts about this weekend's games and what they could mean to the bowl scenario. Overall records are listed.
GEORGIA STATE (0-10) AT ARKANSAS STATE (6-4) Saturday, 2pm, ESPN3
WHY IT'S IMPORTANT: Arkansas State is still mathematically alive for the Sun Belt's auto bid. They need two wins and two UL losses for it to happen. In order to make ASU's game at Western Kentucky really meaningful, they have to make sure they don't fall into a trap game with the Panthers, who are going to play hard for 60 minutes. Arkansas State has everything to lose here. You figure godaddy isn't thrilled with the thought of the Red Wolves for the third straight year, and a loss would dampen their chances at New Orleans as well. A win gets them to seven wins and a followup win at WKU probably gets them somewhere. A loss gives the auto bowl bid to the Cajuns.
LOUISIANA-MONROE (5-5) AT SOUTH ALABAMA (3-6)
WHY ITS IMPORTANT: The Warhawks still need to get a win to become bowl eligible, and, to be frank, need to win their last two in order to really get serious bowl consideration. (This is a year where 6-6 in the Sun Belt isn't going to mean much.) Louisiana is up next for ULM, but if they don't take care of business in this one, next week's game won't mean nearly as much to the Warhawks as it will to the Cajuns. Remember, four of the six South Alabama losses are by two points or fewer. The Warhawks want a piece of the Cajuns badly. Their focus had better be on the Jaguars.
WESTERN KENTUCKY (6-4) AT TEXAS STATE (6-4)
WHY IT'S IMPORTANT: Read my statement above about how much six wins means this year. The winner of this game has a real chance to get to eight wins, though it won't be easy. (TSU is at Troy, WKU hosts Arkansas State) The loser has a chance to fall to the dreaded 6-6. To enhance its bowl chances, this one is huge to the Bobcats, since they're a newcomer to the league and weren't on anyone's radar last year when they were in the WAC. They could very well need to get to eight wins in order to get real consideration. But it's big for WKU as well. Even though the Hilltoppers are leaving the league, Bobby Petrino makes them a very attractive option to a bowl (Hello, Mobile??). But WKU can't afford to go 6-6, and next week against ASU isn't a lock by any means. Seven wins could get them a 13th game.
I'm still of the opinion only three Sun Belt teams will go bowling, and there's not even a guarantee of THAT, depending on what shakes out in other leagues. Louisiana is the only team that can reasonably assume they'll be playing after December 7th. Everyone else who is eligible or almost eligible needs to win this week.