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Three things we learned in the Sun Belt: Week 13

Troy and Arkansas State could be considered the conference title game.

NCAA Football: Arkansas State at Nebraska
Justice Hansen and Arkansas State will be playing in the biggest Sun Belt game of the season on Saturday.
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

We only have one more weekend of action before the bowl season begins and that makes me sad. It’s been a wild year in the Fun Belt and we’ll find out who the champion will be this weekend.

It was a weekend filled with blowouts, but it helped set the table for what should be an excellent first Saturday in December.

As always, here is what we are taking away from this past week.


We’re set for the biggest game of the year

Both Arkansas State and Troy took care of business this past weekend as each scored over 50 points in Sun Belt victories. Both programs will enter Saturday night at Centennial Bank Stadium with identical 6-1 conference marks and the winner will get a ring. This one will be fun.

The Red Wolves survived a tricky road test in Monroe as the two teams played a basketball game that ended in a 67-50 victory. For the season, this squad is averaging nearly 40 points per game as they are putting up 6.2 yards per play. Justice Hansen has been outstanding all season behind center as he’s tossed 32 touchdowns and is averaging over eight yards per attempt. Warren Wand is a solid back and this may be the most balanced receiving group in the FBS.

The defense has had its issues, however, but they’ve done just enough to get the Red Wolves to 7-3 and playing for another league title. After giving up 25 points or less in six straight games, Arkansas State was lit up by ULM this past week. Ja’Von Rolland-Jones has been outstanding as he has 16.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks.

After a very slow start to the season, the Troy offense has started to come alive as they’ve scored at least 42 points in consecutive games. Brandon Silvers is starting to give the Trojans much better quarterback play while the trio of Josh Anderson, Jordan Chunn, and Jamarius Henderson is the best running back group in the Sun Belt.

You could make the argument that Troy has the best defense in the Group of Five as they haven’t given up more than 24 points in any game this season. For the season, Troy is only allowing 16.8 points per game and this group has been dominant all fall.

ESPN will be in town to televise the game and the matchup between the league’s best offense and defense will be worth the price of admission. This will be a big moment for the conference.

How about Georgia Southern

For the second week in a row, the Eagles picked up a conference victory as they went on the road and knocked off a UL-Lafayette team that was looking for that sixth win to reach bowl eligibility.

It was a dominating performance for interim head coach Chad Lunsford’s squad as the Eagles jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the second quarter. Wesley Fields had his best game of the season as the running back ran for 186 yards on 23 carries.

The defense came away with three interceptions and held a potent offense to under 400 total yards. With these last two performances, Lunsford has now been named the full-time coach in Statesboro.

Ugly final FBS year for Idaho

In the road trip to Las Cruces, the Vandals lost to a New Mexico State team that was without their star quarterback as the Idaho offense continues to struggle without senior quarterback Matt Linehan.

For the second game in a row, the Vandals scored 10 points or less as this offense is now barely averaging 20 points per game. After a brilliant season last fall, this team has really struggled in 2017 and they are a loss to Georgia State away from a 3-9 campaign a year after going 8-4.

Idaho will move to the FCS in 2018 on a sour note.