This Week in the Sun Belt
The league leaders try for their first winning season in the Battle of the Bayou and a rivalry on Thursday night highlight this week’s action.
MIDDLE TENNESSEE (5-2, 3-1) AT WESTERN KENTUCKY (6-2, 3-1)
HOUCHENS INDUSTRIES/L. T. SMITH STADIUM, BOWLING GREEN, KY
Line: WKU -9, TV: ESPN U THURSDAY 8:15PM
Hilltoppers were taken to the limit on the road at FIU last Saturday, but escaped the trap game with a win. Now they face their arch-rivals in the 63rd meeting between the two schools. MT holds the all-time edge 32-29-1 in the series that dates back to 1914. The Blue Raiders have won eleven of the last 15, but lost to WKU in two overtimes a year ago. MT is still a player in the league race and a win here gets them bowl eligible. Not an easy task at Houchens Industries/L. T. Smith Stadium. MT’s Logan Kilgore is the reigning SBC offensive player of the week. WKU’s Quanterus Smith is the player of the week on the defensive side. The big question will be the Raiders’ ability to slow down the WKU running game.
FIU (1-8. 0-5) at SOUTH ALABAMA (2-6, 1-3)
LADD-PEEBLES STADIUM, MOBILE , AL
Line: FIU -3.5 SATURDAY, 2:30PM TV: NONE
FIU has lost eight in a row, a couple of them in pretty dramatic fashion. Last week they went toe-to-toe with WKU before falling 14-6. QB Jake Medlock has thrown for 1,710 yards and nine touchdowns despite missing 2 1/2 games with injuries. FIU has allowed 27 sacks and that could be an issue against a Jaguars’ defense that’s getting better each time out. USA is third in the league in total defense and has sacked the quarterback 17 times. Everyone keeps looking for the Panthers to break through after some excruciating losses, but the bottom line is they’ve lost eight straight.
ARKANSAS STATE (5-3, 3-1) AT NORTH TEXAS (3-5, 2-2)
APOGEE STADIUM, DENTON, TEXAS
LINE: ASU -5 SATURDAY, 4PM TV: NONE
The Red Wolves have had eleven days to prepare after their 50-27 dismantling of Louisiana on national television and with a win, will become bowl eligible for the second straight season. The Mean Green lost on the road to Middle Tennessee and their hopes of a break even season are growing dim, especially since they have yet to play WKU or ULM. UNT has played pretty well at home, however and their defense could give ASU some problems. The question will be UNT’s ability to get their ground game churning.
TROY (4-4) AT TENNESSEE (3-5)
NEYLAND STADIUM, KNOXVILLE, TN.
Line: TENNESSEE -18.5 SATURDAY 11AM TV: FOX SPORTS NET
After suffering an inexplicable loss last Saturday to Florida Atlantic, Troy now finds itself with little room for error in order to obtain bowl eligibility. In fact, they probably need to pull an upset to get there. They’ll try to get that upset at Tennessee, where folks are pretty upset with Derek Dooley, who still has yet to win an SEC game. They’ve got a favorable schedule to get to a bowl game, but they’ve got no room for error, either. Wonder what the Vols motivation will be after four straight conference losses and another league game on the horizon…
LOUISIANA (4-3, 2-2) AT LOUISIANA-MONROE (6-2, 4-0)
MALONE STADIUM, MONROE, LA
LINE: ULM -10.5 SATURDAY, 3PM TV: SBC NETWORK (COX SPORTS TELEVISION)
I wrote about this game in yesterday’s blog. The Cajuns have allowed 500 yards in offense to their last two opponents and now have to face the most dangerous quarterback in the league in Kolton Browning. With two running backs injured, ULM must still find a way to move the football on the ground. After giving up lots of yardage to Ryan Aplin last week, look for the Cajuns’ corners to play a little tighter, which means Browning may get a chance up top with Je’Ron Hamm. ULM has been able to have a really good season despite a kicking game that isn’t a whole lot better than the huge mess it was a year ago.
FAU is idle this week, which gives them extra time to celebrate their win over Troy.