Much like you saw earlier at Underdog Dynasty, here is the Fun Belt edition where weekly I will pick each game in the Sun Belt .
Throughout the year I will keep a running tally of my picks, both straight up and against the spread (odds are courtesy of the good people at Odds Shark) as we pick games each week. Here I will give you a quick synopsis of the game with predictions for each. Let’s get it started!
Game of the Week: Appalachian State (+14.5, Over/Under 45.5) at #15 Georgia 6:15 PM ET ESPN
For the second consecutive season, the Mountaineers will be opening up the year on the road facing an SEC East program. This time Scott Satterfield’s program heads down to Athens to take on the Bulldogs “Between the Hedges”.
Last year App State let one slip away in Knoxville losing to the Vols in overtime. Now on the 10-year anniversary weekend of the huge upset over Michigan, they’ll look to find a little more magic against Kirby Smart’s squad. Taylor Lamb and Jalin Moore will lead the way in for the Mountaineers as they are one of the better backfield combinations in all of the Group of Five.
Down in Athens, Georgia is the preseason favorite to win the SEC East as the Dawgs return a lot off of last year’s club. Their offensive attack will be led by running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel who will likely combine for right around 40 touches per game. Jacob Eason returns behind center after a mediocre season starting as a true freshman. UGA has some big questions at offensive line and receiver as the two groups struggled last year.
The defense is Smart’s specialty and this front seven in their 3-4 scheme will be one of the best in the country. Roquan Smith is as good of an inside linebacker you will find in all of college football and he’ll clean up a lot of the messes in the middle of that defense. Trenton Thompson is one of the best defensive tackles in all of football.
It’s a strength versus strength match-up as both offenses love to run the football while each defense hangs its hat on stopping the run. This is going to be some smashmouth football. Smart has been very public about making sure his team will not sleep on App State and I expect to see a focused Georgia squad. The Mountaineers will struggle to get the run going and their receivers will not be able to create consistent separation against UGA’s secondary.
The Dawgs cover and the under hits. Georgia 31, Appalachian State 10.
The rest of the Sun Belt...
Tennessee State at Georgia State (-13.5, O/U 55) Thursday 7:00 PM ET ESPN3
Georgia State Stadium will make its debut in front of a sellout crowd as Shawn Elliott has the Atlanta area believing in the Panthers. They’ll be facing a very competitive FCS squad and this one will be close for three quarters. Florida quarterback transfer Treon Harris makes some plays for TSU, but the Conner Manning and Penny Hart connection will be too much as GSU pulls away late.
Panthers cover and the under hits. Georgia State 33, Tennessee State 17.
ULM (+25, o/u 63) at Memphis Thursday 9:00 PM ET CBSSN
The Warhawks are heading to Memphis to take on the Tigers in Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium and this will be a tall task. ULM has little to no shot to stop the Memphis passing attack and their rush defense could get gashed too. However, ULM is going to have a solid run game and their offensive line could control the game. Weather is going to play a huge factor here as the Memphis area is going to be hit with a tropical rain storm.
Warhawks cover and the under hits. Memphis 35, ULM 13.
Sacramento State at Idaho (-22, O/U 65) 9:00 PM ET ESPN3
Paul Petrino enters year five in Moscow and it’s their final season in FBS. The Vandals will be looking to build off their nine-win season from last year and they have some nice pieces to work with. Matt Linehan is a four-year starter at quarterback and the linebacker trio of Kaden Ellisss, Ed Hall, and Tony Lashley is the best in the Sun Belt. Sacramento State is a future Big Sky Conference opponent for the Vandals, but they will not present much of a challenge. Petrino’s squad rolls in the Kibbie Dome. Linehan throws for 350+ and four scores.
Vandals cover and the under hits. Idaho 41, Sacramento State 17
New Mexico State (+22.5, O/U 70) 10:30 PM ET PAC 12 Network
It’s NMSU’s final season in the FBS as the Aggies will be going Independent in 2018. Doug Martin’s squad has some nice pieces returning this and they could emerge as a darkhorse in the Fun Belt. Larry Rose III will be one of the best running backs in the country and senior Tyler Rogers is very steady at quarterback. The NMSU defense will have a stiff challenge as this Arizona State offense goes as fast as anyone. Manny Wilkins returns at quarterback and he has three impressive weapons in running backs Kalen Ballage, Damario Richard and wide receiver N’Keal Harry. Expect points in bunches.
Sun Devils cover and the over hits. Arizona State 55, New Mexico State 31
Troy (+11, O/U 63) 3:45 PM ET ESPNU
It’s the best Group of Five match-up of opening weekend as Troy heads out to Boise to take on the Broncos on the blue turf. It’s a game featuring two future Power Five coaches as both Neal Brown and Bryan Harsin both have a bright feature. I expect both quarterbacks to put up a bunch of yards and points as this one has a chance to be the most exciting game of the day. It’s a potential statement game for the Troy program and the Sun Belt Conference.
Trojans cover and the over hits. Boise State 38, Troy 34
UMass at Coastal Carolina (+2.5, Over/Under 56.5) 7:00 PM ET ESPN3
The Chants begin their FBS run on Saturday night and they are expecting a huge crowd at Brooks Stadium. They will open up the year under new interim head coach Jamey Chadwell who will be making his debut at Coastal. The Chants have some big quarterback issues to figure out, so expect them to lean on defense and the running game. UMass heads down to the Palmetto State after suffering a brutal opening loss to Hawai’i in Amherst. The Minutemen have a lot of firepower on offense led by senior tight end Adam Breneman. The Chants will just not have enough playmakers on offense to keep up with a veteran UMass club.
Minutemen cover and the under hits. UMass 31, Coastal Carolina 16
Southeastern Louisiana at UL-Lafayette (No odds available) 7:00 PM ET ESPN3
The Cajuns open up the season in Lafayette as offensive coordinator Will Hall and quarterback Jordan Davis make their debuts. The Cajuns will be looking to make the postseason for the sixth time in seven seasons under Mark Hudspeth and this will be a must win game if they want to get there. Southeastern is a proud program that will post a challenge to the Cajuns. This will be closer than the experts think.
UL-Lafayette 33, Southeastern Louisiana 26
Houston Baptist at Texas State (No odds available) 7:00 PM ET ESPN3
Texas State will open the season in Bobcat Stadium as this match-up is one of the few games in Texas to be played as scheduled. It’s going to be another rough year for Everett Withers as they are still in rebuilding mode in San Marcos. Houston Baptist is a very young program and has yet to post a winning season. Bobcats win big and get a lot of young players some playing experience.
Texas State 41, Houston Baptist 13
Georgia Southern (+34, O/U 59.5) at #12 Auburn 7:30 PM ET SEC Network
Year two under Tyson Summers begins with a tremendous challenge as the Eagles head to Alabama to take on Auburn. Redshirt freshman Shai Werts will be making his debut behind center as the Eagles get back to their option roots under new offensive coordinator Bryan Cook. Auburn is a legit Playoff contender behind former Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham and Summers’ defense is in for a long night. This one gets ugly quick.
Tigers cover and the over hits. Auburn 62, Georgia Southern 14
South Alabama (+23.5, O/U 58.5) at Ole Miss 7:30 PM ET ESPNU
The Jags will be looking to pull off consecutive opening day Power Five upsets in Mississippi as they’ll head to Oxford to take on the Rebels. Ole Miss interim head coach Matt Luke will be making his debut after the school decided to dismiss Hugh Freeze amid all kinds of problems. The Rebels have an offense that will put up points in bunches so USA better be ready to score. With the passing game going through a total rebuild, this one becomes a blowout quickly.
Rebels cover and the over hits. Ole Miss 48, South Alabama 21.
Arkansas State (+14.5, O/U 47) at Nebraska 8:00 PM ET Big Ten Network
The Red Wolves are hitting the road in the opener as they’ll head over to Lincoln to take on Mike Riley’s Huskers. Arkansas State is still looking for their first Power Five victory under Blake Anderson and this appears to be their best chance yet. Tulane transfer Tanner Lee will be making his debut at quarterback for the Huskers and the Arkansas State front seven should cause him all kinds of problems. This one goes down to the wire.
Red Wolves cover and the under hits. Nebraska 23, Arkansas State 20.