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Is Ark St vs Troy the Most Important Game In Sun Belt History?

Red Wolves & Trojans represent the rise of the Old Guard

NCAA Football: Troy at Southern Mississippi Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

“Show me Grandfather and I will finish what you started.” —Kylo RenStar Wars : The Force Awakens

Suppose if you will that Han Solo shot first before Kylo Ren had a chance to gut him in the surprise scene from the latest Star Wars movie. What if the old guard refused to be taken out by the new upstarts? This is what ran through my head as Troy held off Sun Belt newcomer and FBS upstart Appalachian State Saturday night 28-24 while Arkansas State continued its run through the Sun Belt (again) by dispatching New Mexico State 41-22.

Appalachian State v Georgia Southern
Plenty of hype but no conference titles yet in Boone.
Photo by Todd Bennett/Getty Images

The last 2 years has seen Appalachian State and Georgia Southern become the new darlings of the media and appeared to be steering the path of future conference titles through Boone and Statesboro. So they represent the new guard, the shiny great additions, but wait there is still a little matter of the old guard. The rise of the once proud Troy Trojan program under 2nd year coach Neal Brown has been meteoric this year, 8 wins with the lone blemish being a 6 point loss at Clemson. And after a rocky 0-4 start where most prognosticators seemed ready to call the run over, the Red Wolves have found new life with 5 consecutive conference wins in 2016 and now boast the nation’s longest conference winning streak at 14. Troy had done its part to set up the showdown by ambushing the Mountaineers. ASU had done its part back on the first Saturday in October by overcoming a large Vegas spread and stunning Georgia Southern with a last minute win 27-26 and then reeling off 4 consecutive conference wins afterward.

Then the news broke Sunday that Troy had become the first Sun Belt program to crack the top 25 landing squarely at that number in the newest AP poll. So now the question begs “Is this the most important game in Sun Belt history?” The answer is a definitive yes and no. If Troy finds a way to beat ASU and break the Red Wolf conference win streak, the Trojans will more than likely finish 11-1 and the Sun Belt conference will bask in the glow of a member and their historic Top 25 run. So is the conference office now secretly wishing this scenario play out in Troy’s favor? An ASU wins sets them up realistically to run the table and secure a 5th conference title in 6 years.

Louisiana Monroe v Georgia Southern
Commissioner Benson will be keeping a close watch on Troy, Alabama Thursday night.
Photo by Todd Bennett/Getty Images

This is the first time in conference history that two teams at least 5-0 in conference play have faced each other and also the latest date a game has been played by two undefeated teams. So the stakes couldn't be higher for either team nor the league office itself. So biggest in history? It certainly feels that way, at least in Jonesboro, Troy, and even in New Orleans.