Georgia Southern fans should breathe a sigh of relief after holding on to our number one ranking today. It was extremely close in the voting, and if it wasn't for the fact that we have an uneven number of voters, things could have been very different. On a few ballots, the Cajuns and Redwolves both jumped the Eagles after strong performances, while Southern dodged a late comeback bid against Texas State.
But dropping two spots after a win seems a little harsh, right? Maybe. Since Georgia Southern doesn't play either of the other teams in our top three, we have to split some hairs. The conference may hand out split titles, but we don't.
The only two teams we really need to consider at this point are the Eagles and the Cajuns. And while #GATA may only have one conference game left, UL has three. But after this weekend, they finally have enough similar opponents to draw a comparison.
Both UL and Georgia Southern have played Georgia State, Texas State, New Mexico State, and South Alabama so far this season. In those four games, UL holds an average margin of victory of 16.25 points, where the Eagles win by an average of 17.75 points. That's not a very large gap, until you consider that Southern has played all those opponents as the road team. (Except the Georgia State game. The Georgia Dome might as well be a home game.)
So we're down to four games which can decide the outcome of the Sun Belt race. Three of those will be played by UL. ULM is the lone team which could potentially bring Arkansas State back into the mix with a win in the season finale against the Eagles.
Football season is nearly over folks. We will soon have the glory of a championship, followed by the incredible sadness of the offseason. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Now let's rank some football teams.
1 Georgia Southern Eagles 8-2 (7-0)
The #GATA faithful are making a strong push to get the Eagles into a bowl game, and with three tie-ins this year for the Sun Belt, I think it should be a no brainer. Well, so long as the win the conference. An eight win (former) Sun Belt team was left out of a bowl game last year after failing to win the conference crown. Don't expect an exception to be made if Georgia Southern fits the same criteria. #BeatNavy sure, but you must beat ULM. Read the full recap here.
2 Louisiana Ragin Cajuns 6-3 (5-0)
The Cajuns on the other hand have a good thing going. The New Orleans Bowl loves UL and the 40,000 people they bring annually. (Well above their average home game attendance.) After a dominating performance, the Cajuns really only need one more win to all but secure a spot in NOLA. Although, a second conference championship would be a little more of a sure thing. Read the full recap here.
3 Arkansas State Red Wolves 6-3 (4-1)
Easily the most impressive win of the week. In this conference, beating South Alabama is something to put on your resume. Thrashing South Alabama to the tune of 45-10 is something you hang on your wall. A-State showed without a doubt that they plan to finish strong, and should the top two teams not take care of business, the Red Wolves will once again be there to claim another title. Read the full recap here.
4 Texas State Bobcats 5-4 (3-2)
The Bobcats showed a lot of moxie playing to the end against Georgia Southern, but it was a little too late to mount a comeback. I know Coach Fran would like to go bowling this year, but the schedule won't be doing them any favors. Even with a win over South Alabama this Saturday, it will still take a victory over Arkansas State for the Bobcats to have any hope of seeing the postseason. Read the full recap here.
5 South Alabama Jaguars 5-4 (4-3)
The turnovers and injuries piled up for the Jags against Arkansas State, and in all honesty, it feels like their season is over this weekend. There is one conference game left, with plenty of meaning behind it, when they host Texas State in Mobile. After that, it's to the gallows against South Carolina, and then hosting Navy on only five days rest. Those last two aren't completely unwinnable, especially against Navy, but this Saturday looks to be a last hurrah. Too bad more of the Jags starters won't be able to enjoy it. Read the full recap here.
6 Appalachian St. Mountaineers 4-5 (3-2)
I'll be honest App State, I didn't think you had that final drive in you. I mean, Taylor Lamb is a solid QB, but the "Let ULM commit pass interference" strategy was brilliant. In all seriousness though, good for you Mountaineers for righting the ship these last few weeks. And congratulations! Now you get to play a smoking hot Arkansas State! Read the full recap here.
7 ULM Warhawks 3-6 (2-3)
Like I said last week, it's getting harder to figure this ULM team out. Which is perfect if you like to watch pretty things burn. Despite the loss, this Saturday at home against the much beloved Ragin' Cajuns should be interesting. Read the full recap here.
8 Troy Trojans 2-8 (2-4)
Dang, Troy. I know I said to take advantage of these two weeks against Georgia State and Idaho, but you didn't have to go and score all your points in the first game. Read the full recap here.
9 Idaho Vandals 1-8 (1-5)
Maybe next time we won't send Idaho to be our lone representative in the non-conference action. Read the MW Connection recap here.
10 New Mexico State Aggies 2-8 (1-5)
As expected, the slide continues. I expected a little more fight since NMSU usually has a good showing at home, but it just never happened. Kinda like this season after the first week in September. Hopefully the Aggies fare better against BYE. Read the full recap here.
11 Georgia State Panthers 1-9 (0-7)
A 24-point loss to Troy. Sweet. Shit. Just burn it down and start over. Read the full recap here.