The first two months of the season are officially over as we get set to step into November. It appears we have a new top dog emerging and we’re starting to see who the worst teams in the Sun Belt are.
It was a wild weekend and after taking some time to digest, here were three big headlines from week nine.
Arkansas State is the best team
The Red Wolves faced their first real challenge on the conference slate as they headed out west. Arkansas State would be taking on a New Mexico State squad that was fresh off a bye and hungry for a big win. The Red Wolves had beaten all previous conference opponents by at least 18 points and seemed ripe for an upset. We were hoping to see Arkansas State be challenged and I believed NMSU had what it took to pull out the victory.
I was wrong.
After trailing by a touchdown heading into half, the Red Wolves played their best half of football this season as they outscored the Aggies by a count of 30-7 in the second half. Justice Hansen threw for four touchdowns for the fourth time this season and now has 25 touchdown passes on the year. Meanwhile, the defense played their best game of the season as they held a solid New Mexico State offense to only 256 total yards and forced two turnovers. Ja’Von Rolland-Jones continues to dominate Sun Belt competition as he recorded 2.5 sacks. The pass rush specialist has eight sacks on the year and they’ve all come in Arkansas State’s four Sun Belt wins.
With App State struggling and Troy still not living up to potential, it is clear at this point that Arkansas State is the best team in the Fun Belt. Just like every year, we probably should have seen this coming.
It’s been a long season in Conway
Coastal Carolina entered this fall with optimistic expectations as this would be their first season in the FBS. The Chants were breaking in new offensive coordinator Jamey Chadwell and after multiple double-digit win seasons in the FCS, they really thought they were ready to compete in the Sun Belt.
Things went south in a hurry.
After an impressive opening win over UMass, the wheels have fallen off in the Myrtle Beach area as Coastal Carolina has dropped seven straight games. Jamey Chadwell, who was named interim head coach for the season, has had his team competitive in most games as three of their five Sun Belt losses have been by one possession. Coastal Carolina also played a UAB team, that may win their division in C-USA, very tough on the road.
It’s just hard for a program that has accomplished so much to take moral victories. The Chants have just not been able to get over the hump and it’s been a brutal transition year. However, a lot of young guys are gaining experience and head coach Joe Moglia should be back on the sidelines next fall. Good times will eventually return.
What is going on in Boone?
After playing with fire for multiple weeks, the Mountaineers made the road trip to Amherst and were upset by the Minutemen in double overtime. For the season, App State is still undefeated in conference play but they haven’t looked like their normal self all season.
In the loss this past weekend, the App State passing game could not get going against a horrible UMass pass defense. The Mountaineers just cannot get on the same page and that’s been the story of the season. If the running game is good, then the passing game is bad. If the passing game is good, then the ground game struggles. It’s been quite unbelievable.
If the Mountaineers were going to drop a game, this was the one. App State is still undefeated in conference play and will be a favorite in all of their remaining games. There is time to salvage the season.