Well, our Troy writer has watched his team be *thisclose* to a three-game winning streak but still isn't sure if they are any good. Our Texas State writer has only seen back to back losses but is sure this might be the worst Texas State team in the history of ever. So we're all over the place now.
1. The Sun Belt finally has more than three bowl tie-ins...
...and might not fill the extra ones. Even from a simple math perspective, this could easily happen. ULM and NMSU are already bowl ineligible. Idaho is a loss away from being ineligible and they'll now play back-to-back games against Appalachian State and Auburn.
Georgia State and Texas State are also one loss away, and will play against each other this coming weekend. Whoever loses is done, but whoever wins is only earning a temporary reprieve as the Panthers end the season at Georgia Southern and Texas State plays Arkansas State at the same time.
Troy is playing the best of the six-loss teams, but probably not well enough to beat a Georgia Southern team coming off a bye week. So that leaves a whopping two teams - Louisiana-Lafayette and South Alabama - as the only ineligible teams who don't need to win out against a schedule that makes it impossible. And even for them, it's sketchy.
For starters, they'll play each other Thursday night, so that's a fifth loss in the books for one of the two. South probably needs the win more, as they have oscillated between "vaguely competent" and "wretched" all season and still have two likely losses left on their schedule in Southern and Appy.
Louisiana is better off in that they have lesser teams in NMSU and Troy left on their schedule, but this is also the team that just faced a two-touchdown halftime deficit against ULM and nearly blew a 10-point lead against Georgia State.
What a mess, but at least...
2. The young teams are showing improvement
Yes, improvement is a relative term, but when you are bad enough for long enough, you take victories of any kind where you can get them. Troy now has two wins sandwiched around a very-near-miss of a loss against App State, and they've scored 144 points in that span. New Mexico State has won two in a row and has only given up 60 second-half points in their last four games.
The Aggies only have 16 seniors on their roster, and five of those are a running back (Jermichael Seiders) with eight career carries and four wide receivers (Joshua Bowen, Jordan Bergstrom, Justin Allen and Iniabasi Absaumoh) with 155 career catches between the four of them. Larry Rose III has racked up 762 yards and eight touchdowns total in the past three weeks, and the defenses they face the rest of the way aren't appreciably better than what they've seen so far. Look out record books.
Troy is similarly young with only 21 seniors, but that includes top rusher Brandon Burks and two of their top three wide receivers. Their successes - especially on offense - are therefore a little less likely to carry over beyond this season. Then again, this is a team that has suddenly scored 145 points in their last three games and could pull a bowl berth out of their ass with an upset against Georgia Southern.
3. There is no way Todd Berry is coaching ULM in 2016
Every passing week gets the Warhawks further and further from that now seemingly miracle 2012 season. ULM has still not beaten anybody besides FCS Nicholls State (who is as bad an FCS team as ULM is an FBS team). They have not scored a fourth-quarter point in five straight games, and they've now been outscored 70-3 in the second half of their last four games. They followed up their second instance of blowing a fourth quarter lead with their fourth loss of 30 points or more.
This team has not gotten better over the season; somehow, the only two teams that have not managed at least 450 yards of offense against the Warhawks are Louisiana-Lafayette and Alabama. Garrett Smith has now had seven games in a row where he has either completed less than 53% of his passes or thrown multiple interceptions. Heck, he's been sacked two dozen times, but he's still seven yards away from being the team's leading rusher.
Their offense will likely improve as they fully reincorporate Ajalen Holley and Rashon Ceaser, but that's only going to do so much when you couldn't even manage a 100-yard rusher against Nicholls and you give up 48 first-half points to Troy. Things are going to get worse next week against Arkansas State.
It's time for Berry, who has now lost 16 of his last 18 games against FBS teams, to get out. As my mother would say "you aren't ahead, but you should probably quit now anyways."