1. It's a three horse race at the top of the Sun Belt
A week after almost upsetting a vulnerable-thus-far Missouri team at home, the Arkansas State Red Wolves took a damn chainsaw to the other team from the Show Me state, routing Missouri State 70-7. Oh, and they did it without Fredi Knighten. Sure, it's an FCS team, but this game and last week's effort suggest the Red Wolves may be for real. If they can upset an incredibly salty Toledo team on the road? Consider stAte the odds-on Sun Belt favorite.
But don't forget about the Georgia Southern Eagles. They hammered a pretty decent FCS program in the Citadel 47-13 on Saturday. Kevin Ellison didn't do much in his return outside of a couple of touchdown runs inside the 10. Then again, it's not like GSU needed him to play an incredible game--Matt Breida put up 164 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns by himself, and Chaz Thornton, Wesley Fields, and L.A. Ramsby combined for another 190+ rushing yards. Maybe those eulogies after the West Virginia game were a bit premature.
Louisiana Lafayette didn't play this week, but with Mark Hudspeth at the helm and Elijah McGuire at running back you'd have to think that they'll remain in the hunt. ULL's visit to Jonesboro on October 20th can't come soon enough.
2. South Alabama and, yes, Georgia State could surprise some folks
After two far from convincing performances to start the season, the South Alabama Jaguars engineered a 14 point comeback and came up with a solid road win in overtime at San Diego State. UAB transfer Cody Clements looked much better, and he may have found a reliable target in fellow UAB transfer Gerald Everett. Xavier Johnson is also emerging as a legitimate threat on the ground.
The Jags' defense may also be gelling into a unit that can stop opponents just at the right time, as they held SDSU to 5 of 16 on third downs. If USA and their talented but raw athletes are putting together a cohesive identity as a team, watch out. They could end up bowling again.
The Georgia State Panthers, of course, aren't going to be anywhere close to a darkhorse for the Sun Belt title. Yet Nick Arbuckle dumping 318 passing yards and 3 touchdowns at Oregon was nothing short of impressive, and Penny Hart could torch some SBC secondaries. GSU's defense won't scare anyone, but they might just be evolving into a unit that can make some stops when it counts (expected Oregon blowout aside). That would be a massive step up from last year.
Could Georgia State be evolving into a team that could come out of nowhere and ruin someone's week? Appalachian State and ULL visit the Dome, so perhaps Atlanta might be the site of a trap game or two in the future.
3. It's a race to the bottom for Idaho and New Mexico State
The good news for the Idaho Vandals: They won a football game! The bad news is they needed a comeback to beat a Wofford team that hasn't even sniffed the FCS playoffs since 2012. Matt Linehan getting sacked four times and throwing two interceptions isn't exactly confidence inducing, and giving up 300+ rushing yards to Wofford will have Sun Belt defenses licking their chops. It's hard to see a win on the schedule for the rest of the season, except for perhaps...
...the New Mexico State Aggies, who blew a 14 point lead in the last four minutes and eventually fell in overtime to rival UTEP. Normally there'd be no shame in that, except UTEP is now a shell of itself without star running back Aaron Jones, and the Miners engineered the comeback with their backup quarterback after their starter also got injured. Larry Rose is awesome to watch, but that defense might just be the worst in the conference (although Idaho, Georgia State, and Texas State might have something to say about that).
Circle your calendars, college football masochists. New Mexico State hosts Idaho on Halloween.
Texas State Bobcats quarterback Tyler Jones might be morphing into the best quarterback in the Sun Belt. He went bonkers for 470 yards of offense and five touchdowns BY HIMSELF against Southern Miss, and would've had more if his receivers hadn't dropped some wide open throws. Unfortunately for him, the worst fears about Texas State's suspect defense were realized as they somehow gave up even more eye-popping numbers to the Golden Eagles.
Which means that despite having possibly the best quarterback in the conference, Texas State might not even crack the top half of the Sun Belt because of how woeful their defense is. Sometimes life just isn't fair.