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Which Sun Belt Conference Teams Got Better Throughout the Season?

We take a look at teams' quarterly performance, as measured by Football Outsiders' S/P+ ratings, to see if there are any trends to give us insight about next season.

Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Taking a look at a team's final record never really tells you anything close to the whole story. We use Bill C.'s rankings, broken down by quarter season, to see if we can learn anything about the year that's to come.


Well alright, look at that. Great season for Georgia Southern, starting off with those close losses at NC State and Georgia Tech and then going undefeated in conference and then... oh, whoops. Little hitch in the giddyup there at the end against Navy.

Well, on the bright side, the red gets less intense as the season progresses, which is some vague form of progress. But pretty much everyone that wasn't Georgia Southern, Arkansas State, Louisiana-Lafayette and South ALabama was garbage for the first eight weeks of the season. So much atrocity.

Troy managed to get better as the season went along, though there was really nowhere to go but up from where they started, with the inability to score a point against Georgia or even to beat Abilene Christian.

Speaking of Abilene Christian, they were the lone victory on Georgia State's schedule, though as you can see they finished strong, though that still meant losing to Clemson and Texas State by 20+ points.

Texas State themselves finished strong. with a rather blah season finally getting capped by a pair of wins that saw them get invited to another bowl game take it up the ass from the selection committee get to 7-5 but get left in the cold for a bowl game that could have made for an even stronger finish.

We'll go ahead and not discuss the WAC-scented train wrecks that were Idaho and New Mexico State, although the Vandals managed to get oh-so-fractionally better as the season progressed beyond that early phase where they lost to ULM, WMU, Ohio and the weather.

These numbers bear out in line with how Appalachian State recovered nicely from their early season funk that saw them get dominated by South Alabama and Georgia Southern, as well as a loss to (good, but still) FCS Liberty. They peaked at the end with spoiler-esque wins over Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette.

Speaking of the two teams that battled all season to not take the conference crown from #GATA, they both improved after early season struggles until their Mountaineer fates were sealed. The Cajuns recovered (both in general and statistically) a little more with a dominant bowl win over Nevada than Arkansas State did from trying really hard to pretend to care about defense against Toledo.

Louisiana-Monroe performed nicely outside of that second-quarter funk where they couldn't figure out how to score more than 20 points (or win), but finished strong including a near-victory over Georgia Southern. Matter of fact, they lost five of their last six, but those five losses (including their game against Texas A&M) were by a combined 24 points. South Alabama won four in a row at that same point that ULM bottomed out, but they faded at the end (and went to a bowl game anyway).

Wait a minute...

Louisiana-Monroe was a freaking touchdown per game away from beating an SEC team and going 9-3 (7-1) as conference champions?!?! This needs further investigation.