Who From the Sun Belt Will Get Bowl Eligible?
The Sun Belt Conference has five guaranteed bowl tie-ins for this year. And, the question this time of year is how many teams can reach the necessary wins for bowl eligibility.
In this league, it's a really good question.
Troy (6-1) has the necessary wins. Appalachian State (5-2) will get there.
With all respect to New Mexico State, Texas State and ULM, they won't be bowling this year, although none have been eliminated from contention.
That leaves six teams with a chance to get to a bowl game, with three slots available. All six have a shot, although some are more likely than others.
Here's a look at where those six stand as of this week:
GEORGIA SOUTHERN (4-3): At first glance, four wins at this time of year should be pretty solid, right? Well, yes...until you look at the rest of the schedule. The Eagles have three home games left, but two of them are against Appalachian State and Troy. One of their road games is against Ole Miss. That leaves a Thursday night home game against Louisiana and a road game against Georgia State. Unless the Eagles knock off one of the Sun Belt leaders, there is absolutely no margin for error.
IDAHO (4-4): The Vandals have two left on the road against Louisiana and Texas State before coming home for the final two against Georgia State and South Alabama. Those last two at home will be very interesting. Both of the opponents could still be in the bowl hunt. Assuming Idaho wins in San Marcos, they need one of the other three. You have to like their chances to get at least one.
SOUTH ALABAMA (3-4) The biggest enigma in the league, South has beaten an SEC school and a nationally ranked team. And, they haven't won in the league. But all is not lost. The Jags are going to be favored at ULM and home against New Mexico State. They are a slight favorite this weekend. But they'll need to get that one or a win at Idaho. Otherwise, they have to hope for a waiver from the NCAA because as of right now, they can't count a win against Presbyterian. Still, it'll be a surprise if the Jags are sitting at home. It'll also be a surprise if they don't get that waiver.
LOUISIANA (3-4). There isn't a sure win on the schedule, not even the season finale at ULM since the Warhawks will treat it as their bowl game. But even with a win in that game, there's nothing certain. Discounting a probable loss at Georgia, the Cajuns' other three games are at Georgia Southern on a short week and Idaho and Arkansas State at home. They can afford to lose one, but not two. That won't be an easy task.
ARKANSAS STATE (2-4): The Red Wolves have awakened from their deep sleep and have a somewhat favorable schedule the rest of the way. I say somewhat because while the opposition means stAte will be favored in most, four of their remaining games are on the road. The game with Troy will be a tall order, but the rest are winnable. If they get wins as expected vs. ULM, NMSU and Texas State, it will come down to winning either in Atlanta against a good Georgia State defense, or a win in Lafayette, which has only happened once for Arkansas State since 1992. Their chances are good, but they aren't a lock.
GEORGIA STATE (2-5) Everyone counted the Panthers out a year ago after they started 1-6. Remember how that worked out? Well, here they are again and they've got a really big one this week at South Alabama. After that they get a three game home stand vs. ULM, Arkansas State and Georgia Southern,before a long trip to Idaho. Getting to six isn't impossible, but it'll be a(nother) upset if they are bowl eligible.