This Week in the Sun Belt
For the two teams that are already bowl eligible, it's a tuneup week as both Troy and Appalachian State are heavy favorites, with Troy stepping out of conference.
But for the rest of the teams trying to get to six wins, it's a really big week.
Here's what's happening:
ARKANSAS STATE (3-4, 3-0) at GEORGIA STATE (2-6, 1-3) (+3') 6:30, ESPNU The Red Wolves are rolling now. Justice Hansen looks comfortable. Arkansas State is now having success in the running game. That escape a few weeks ago against Georgia Southern has given this team new life. But those wins have come at home and the Red Wolves now face four of their last five away from Centennial Bank Stadium. It starts in Atlanta, where Georgia State tries to keep their scant bowl hopes alive. Those hopes were dealt a near-fatal blow last week with their last second loss to South Alabama. Georgia State's defense is good enough to win. But you have to score points in order to accomplish that.
GEORGIA SOUTHERN (4-4) at OLE MISS (3-5) (-27') -- 11:00am, ESPNU--Remember when the Rebels were a team thought to be a contender in the SEC West? Well, that's all by the wayside now. Now Ole Miss is just trying to get enough wins to get to a bowl, which makes this a must win. The Eagles' sputtering offense will need to put up some points for GS to have a chance. But, coming off a game with Auburn, and with Texas A&M on the road next week, this could be the perfect time for the Eagles to head to Oxford. Is Ole Miss looking ahead? Or are they looking to take out their frustrations on someone?
TEXAS STATE (2-5, 0-3) at APPALACHIAN STATE (6-2, 4-0)(-31) 2:30pm ESPN3--The Bobcats stagger into Boone this week and that's not a good place to stagger into. Appalachian State has won five straight and, to quote the late Dennis Green, "are who we thought they were." Texas State will probably struggle just to get points against the stout Mountaineers' defense. App might be looking ahead to next week's showdown at Troy. It probably won't matter much if they are.
MASSACHUSETTS (2-7) at TROY (6-1)(-21) 2:30pm ESPN3--The Minutemen are discovering what life is like as an independent. UMASS broke a five game losing streak with a win over FCS Wagner last week, but they aren't going to Wagner this week. You may not have noticed but the Trojans are starting to get some love in the polls and a win here should get them even more love. But, as always, it would be good to focus on this week's opponent. That game against App State isn't until NEXT Saturday.
SOUTH ALABAMA (4-4, 1-4) at UL MONROE (3-6, 1-3)(+13') 4:00pm, ESPN3--Wait..The Jags won a conference game? Yep. It took a last second field goal to do it, but South Alabama has evened its record on the season and have a bowl game in its sites. But there isn't a lot of margin for error. They can't let ULM be an error. The staggering Warhawks haven't been competitive the last two weeks after losing QB Garrett Smith for the season due to injury. They may struggle to move the ball against a solid, if not spectacular, South Alabama defense. Matt Viator knew what he was signing up for when he took this job. But that job is even tougher without Smith.
IDAHO (4-4, 2-2) at LOUISIANA (3-4, 2-2) (-5;) 4pm ESPN3--The Cajuns get to play on a Saturday at Cajun Field for the first time since September 17th in their designated Homecoming game. It'll be the Cajuns' first time to see Matt Linehan's talents as the two teams have not met the last two seasons. Linehan is going to have some success moving the football against the Cajuns' secondary. But the Cajuns will have a measure of success as well. Statistically, Idaho has struggled against the pass..but they've played quite a few teams that like to throw it. A win here virtually secures a bowl game for Idaho. They can lose and still get there. I don't think we can say the same for the Cajuns. They need this one...badly.