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Sun Belt Selections: Battle for the Belt

Six conference games are on the slate for this weekend.

Troy v LSU
Can Brandon Silvers and the Trojans finally get the passing attack rolling?
Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Last week was probably our worst of year as we went 3-2 straight up, 2-3 against the spread, and 1-4 against the total. That is suboptimal.

For the year, our picks stand at 38-11 straight up, 21-17-2 against the spread, and 22-19 with the total. We’re still in the green and will be looking to get on a heater as Fun Belt play begins to heat up this weekend.

In week seven, we have two weeknight games being shown on the Mickey Mouse networks as well as four games on Saturday evening. It’s going to be another fun weekend and here is how UDD sees it playing out.


Game of the Week: South Alabama at Troy (-16, Over/Under 50) Wednesday 8:00 PM ET ESPN2

The Battle for the Belt happens for the sixth time on Wednesday night as ESPN heads to southern Alabama for the second straight year. Troy enters this one as one of the best Group of Five teams in the country as the Trojans are 14-4 since the start of last season and look poised to bring home their first conference title since 2010.

South Alabama will make the trip up the road in the middle of a season as they are really struggling. The Jags currently sit at 1-4 and it’s highly likely that they are headed for a losing season for the fourth consecutive season. The offense is really laboring while the defense has underperformed a bit. Joey Jones could be entering hot seat territory.

Troy’s offense has quietly become one of college football’s top rushing offenses as Jordan Chunn is on pace for another thousand yard rushing season. Memphis transfer Jamarius Henderson has been a very solid backup as he is averaging eight yards per carry and has chipped in with three touchdowns.

Quarterback Brandon Silvers hasn’t been great to start the season as Troy has yet to find a downfield threat in the passing game. But there is a ton of talent there and eventually the passing game is going to find its mojo.

NCAA Football: South Alabama at Mississippi
Jeremy Reaves is one crazy good football player.
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

For South Alabama’s defense, this is a group led by safety Jeremy Reaves and defensive tackle Tyree Turner. Each should be a member of the all-conference team at the end of the season. Reaves is one of the best safeties in all of college football and he’s someone Silvers and this Troy offense must account for at all times.

It’s been a rough start to the season for South Alabama’s offense as head coach Joey Jones has already made a change at offensive coordinator. Offensive line coach Richard Owens will call plays for the second consecutive game and we’ll see if South can come out with any wrinkles coming off of a long week of practice.

Dallas Davis and Cole Garvin have both received starts quarterback but neither has performed very well. This has been a legitimate weakness for the offense as they have some really good skill players surrounding them. Garvin will be the guy in this match-up and South Alabama will need him to play very well to have a shot.

Xavier Johnson is about to become South Alabama’s career leading rusher and he’s one of the best backs in the Sun Belt. As the Jags get deeper into conference play, expect the touches to increase for the senior. Jamarius Way has proven to be an awesome target on the outside and if big plays are going to come in the passing game they are likely because of him.

Neal Brown and his offense get the lion’s share of the credit, but Vic Koenning has done a remarkable job with the Troy defense. This is the best group in the Sun Belt and they are led by an outstanding secondary. Blace Brown is a really good corner while safeties Cedarius Rookard and Kris Weatherspoon make plays all over the field. True freshman corner Marcus Jones looks like a star in the making.

South Alabama has one of the best punters in the country in Corliss Waitman as the junior is averaging just under 45 yards per attempt. Waitman has had 11 of his 27 punts either be fair caught or downed inside the 20 so there have not been very many chances for a return.

For Troy, Marcus Jones is emerging as one of the best returners in the FBS. The freshman is averaging 13 yards per punt return and 25 per kick return. Jones vs. Waitman could be a very fun match-up.

I really like this spot for South Alabama as their new offense gets a long week to add some wrinkles and Troy has been hyped up for 10 days and is likely to regress. I think the Jags jump out to an early lead before the talent of Troy takes over in the second half.

Jaguars cover and the under hits. Troy 27, South Alabama 18.


The rest of the Fun Belt...

Texas State at UL-Lafayette (-13.5, O/U 55) 7:30 PM ET Thursday ESPNU

After being competitive for the first couple of weeks, the wheels appear to be falling off for Texas State as Everett Withers is now 3-15 since taking over the program. Outside of running back Anthony D. Taylor, the offense has been pretty bad for the Bobcats and the defense is now coming back down to earth after a great performance against Appalachian State. UL-Lafayette’s defense showed signs of growth in the road win against Idaho while the offense had their first bad game of the season. I think their offense gets back rolling again and the Cajuns win big to get to 2-1 in the Sun Belt.

Ragin’ Cajuns cover and the over hits. UL-Lafayette 38, Texas State 21.

Appalachian State at Idaho (+13, O/U 52) 5:00 PM ET ESPN3

The Mountaineers head west as they’ll take on the Vandals in the Kibbie Dome. Idaho has played their worst football in Moscow this year and they’ll need a bounce back performance against App State. Jalin Moore should be able to continue his rushing success against the Vandals and the App State secondary will get a late interception to seal a close victory.

Vandals cover and the under hits. Appalachian State 24, Idaho 21.

Georgia State at ULM (-7, O/U 58) 5:00 PM ET ESPN3

Don’t look now, but the Warhawks currently sit in first place in the conference and will have an excellent shot to start 4-0 on Saturday. The defense is still giving up big plays, but sophomore Caleb Evans has been phenomenal behind center. Georgia State is improving every week and will be looking for their third consecutive road win. Penny Hart may be the best wide receiver in the conference as the passing game is the strength of this offense. This may be the best game of the weekend.

Warhawks cover and the over hits. ULM 34. Georgia State 26.

New Mexico State at Georgia Southern (+7.5, O/U 59.5) 6:00 PM ET ESPN3

The Eagles are back at home as they’ll be welcoming NMSU to Statesboro. The option attack ran by Georgia Southern is getting better each week now they will just need quarterback Shai Werts to limit the turnovers. Tyler Rogers and this NMSU passing attack will be looking to bounce back after a dreadful fourth quarter against App State. This is a near must win game for the Aggies if they hope to reach the postseason.

Eagles cover and the over hits. New Mexico State 38, Georgia Southern 31.

Coastal Carolina at Arkansas State (-19, O/U 63.5) 7:00 PM ET ESPN3

The Chants are still searching for their first Sun Belt win after dropping winnable games against ULM and Georgia State. Quarterback Tyler Keane is starting to play very well for Coastal, but the running game has labored since conference play started. Arkansas State did not look great in their win over Georgia Southern as the defense gave up yards in bunches and the offense only really had success when they hit on vertical routes. Have a feeling this will be closer than people expect.

Chanticleers cover and the over hits. Arkansas State 44, Coastal Carolina 31.