This Week In the Sun Belt
If there's one thing we've learned about the league this year, it's not to take things for granted. While it may appear as though things have been decided in this league, teams still have to go out and play. And, those who don't play well are in danger.
Three teams still have a mathematical shot at a bowl game. And, one of them is a favorite this weekend
Here's a look at what's happening in the Sun Belt this weekend:
LOUISIANA (4-6, 3-3) at APPALACHIAN STATE (8-2, 5-1) 1PM ESPN3 --The Cajuns lost one they absolutely had to have last week against New Mexico State and now, if they're going to have a chance to play in a fifth straight bowl, they've got to get by an Appalachian State team that's on its way to perhaps gaining double digit wins in this, their second year in the league. The Mountaineers are a complete team and the Cajuns will have to play near perfect football against the team that leads the league in scoring defense. Louisiana has had many issues this year and forcing turnovers is one of the biggest. If they can't get that done multiple times on Saturday, loss number seven will be staring them in the face.
SOUTH ALABAMA (5-5, 3-3) at GEORGIA SOUTHERN (7-3, 5-1) (-21) 1pm, ESPN3--After passing two tests in their previous two games, the Jaguars couldn't make it three in a row last week as their offense scored the fewest points against Georgia State since the Panthers moved into the FBS. Scoring might be the least of their worries this week facing the Eagles option attack. If South fails again this week, they get one more chance...but it'll be against Appalachian State. LIke Louisiana, last week's loss might have been a mortal wound to their bowl chances.
TROY (3-7, 2-4) at GEORGIA STATE (4-6, 3-3) (-1) 1pm ESPN3--Georgia State still has a chance to become bowl eligible in week eleven. Let that sink in a bit. Trent Miles' team has played solid football the second half of the season and they are just a fre plays away from being 7-3. But they can't dwell on those close losses to Charlotte, Liberty and Louisiana. They've got to look forward to a Troy team that, despite their record, has continued to play hard and improve. But the Panthers should be ready. A win here gives them a chance to do what no one thought they had a chance to do. Nick Arbuckle has played like a first team all league quarterback. He needs to do it again this week
ARKANSAS STATE (7-3, 6-0) at NEW MEXICO STATE (3-7, 3-3) (+17) 3pm, ESPN3--The Red Wolves can clinch a share of the league title on Saturday with a road win in Las Cruces. It would be wrong to suggest no one saw this coming, after all, ASU returned almost their entire offense. And, that 1-3 start was pretty misleading considering the opponents they played early. They're in this position because they've played the best football. There is still work to do, however, before the boys from Jonesboro make their plans for a few days in New Orleans. NMSU has won three straight and is probably playing with more confidence than they've had in years. Rose will get his. And NMSU will score points. But can they come close to stopping that Red Wolves offense?
TEXAS STATE (3-7, 2-4) at IDAHO (3-8, 2-5) (-2.5) 4pm ESPN3--The Vandals close out their season this week and, like Georgia State, are looking at a couple that got away during the last few weeks. But there were many,myself included, that felt three wins would be the high water mark before the season started and they have a chance to surpass that with a win against a team that has been decimated by injuries. I wonder how the league leaders would fare had they had to go through what the Bobcats have gone through. Dennis Franchione has been coaching a long time. He says he's never seen anything like it. That means it's bad.
UL MONROE (1-10) at HAWAI'I (2-9) (NL) 10pm Mountain West Network--I'm sure when the announcement was originally made, fans of the Warhawks were probably pretty excited about a trip to the islands. But after the season they've had, playing 13 games probably isn't a thrill for them. Nine straight losses will do that to you. But here they are with a chance to win one against a team that isn't really any better than they are. Both head coaches have been fired and that tells you plenty about this matchup. Business trip or fun in the Sun? The Warhawks will be forgiven if they choose the latter. It's been that kind of year.