This Week in the Sun Belt
Well, here we are, midway through the season and, while we've learned a little bit about the teams in the Sun Belt, there's still a lot to discover. Five teams have either zero or one loss in league play and it's the second half of the year where you really see the teams start to separate themselves. Overall, three teams have four or more wins in the race for bowl eligibility.
Here's what's on tap in the 'Belt this week
TROY (5-1, 3-0) at SOUTH ALABAMA (3-3, 0-3) (+8') 6:30pm ESPNU--The Trojans are 5-1 on the season. Last time that happened? 2000. They were still an FCS program back then. The last time they were 3-0 in the league? 2010. They won the Sun Belt that year; in fact, every time the Trojans have started 3-0, they've won the Sun Belt title. Next up, a trip to Mobile for the in-state Battle for the Belt. The Jags failed to score a touchdown last week and the offensive struggles can be traced to the fact South Alabama is averaging less than 100 yards per game on the ground. They won't find the going easy Thursday either. With a win, Troy can start making bowl plans.
IDAHO (4-3, 2-1) at APPALACHIAN STATE (4-2, 2-0) (-21) 2:30, ESPN3--Matt Linehan had a special day at the Kibbie Dome last week en route to winning SBC Offensive POW honors, with four touchdown passes and a rushing score as the Vandals hung 55 on New Mexico State. Chances are he won't have that kind of a day at The Rock. App State has allowed exactly three points in two conference wins. RB Marcus Cox is listed as probable for the game. He and Jalin Moore ought to thrive against an Idaho defense that hasn't been very good against running teams.
LOUISIANA (2-4, 1-2) at TEXAS STATE (2-4, 0-2) (+6) ESPN3--The Cajuns' offense was non existent against an outstanding App State defense a week ago and the injuries are mounting for a team that had some promise before the season started. The good news for the Cajuns is they didn't turn it over last week. They need to have that kind of performance against a Bobcats' team that had two defensive touchdowns last week. Elijah McGuire is near 100 percent, and that's good news. Texas State allowed two backs to gain 100 yards in Monroe last week. Louisiana needs to be careful of Tyler Jones. He's a solid quarterback and the Cajuns' haven't exactly been the bastions of defense in their secondary.
GEORGIA SOUTHERN (3-3, 2-1) at NEW MEXICO STATE (2-4, 1-2) (+14) 7:00pm ESPN3--Georgia Southern has lost three straight, but it should be noted all three were on the road. Well, they're on the road again and yes, that means they're wrapping up four contests in a row away from Statesboro. Last week the Eagles threw it more than 30 times in their loss to Georgia Tech. They should get back to the ground attack against the Aggies this week, a team that got nothing done defensively at Idaho a week ago. There's no more margin for error as far as the Eagles are concerned. With games against App State, Ole Miss and Troy on the horizon, every game is crucial to their bowl hopes.
UL MONROE (2-4) at NEW MEXICO (3-3) (-17') 8:00 pm ROOT Sports--Just when it looked like things were getting untracked for Matt Viator's club, they lose the vastly underrated Garrett Smith to an ACL injury and he's done for the year. Credit to redshirt freshman Will Collins who was solid in a relief role at QB is the starter now, and here's his baptism. New Mexico was bad enough to lose to New Mexico State, but last week they were good enough to win at Air Force. This could be the battle of the backups. UNM quarterback Lamar Jordan is doubtful for the game.
UT-MARTIN (4-3) at GEORGIA STATE (1-5) (NL)--2:30pm ESPN3--Connor Manning has thrown for over 300 yards in his last two starts for the Eagles, who have scored 62 points the last two weeks. That's good news for the Panthers' offense, which had been pretty anemic. Georgia State had been pretty good defensively until last week when Troy hung 41 on them. They'll need to be good defensively on Saturday. After scoring just seven in a season-opening loss to Cincinnati, UT-Martin has scored at least 30 points in every game. This is their third game against an FBS opponent this year.
(Lines courtesy vegasinsider.com)