1. Appalachian State (Last Week: 1)
Last week: Won 35-9 at Arkansas St.; This week’s game: Saturday vs. Louisiana
A solid win on a Tuesday night in enemy territory was sullied with the news of Jalin Moore’s injury.
Is Moore’s injury part of the reason the Mountaineers are still shutout from the national rankings? Maybe.
And with Troy’s lost quarterback and loss to Liberty this week, there may not be enough style points in their remaining schedule to get ranked.
Oh well. Mountaineers have a solid backup running back in Darrynton Evans to make the run to a conference title game appearance.
2. Troy (LW: 2)
Last week: Lost at Liberty 22-16; This week’s game: Bye
Sawyer Smith was underwhelming and the Trojan offense was mostly ineffective against the Flames.
Perhaps more alarming, however, was the defense allowing the Liberty offense to march 89 yards in 14 plays late in the fourth quarter to wrestle the lead away from Troy.
It was an ugly loss, but a non-conference loss, so they are still in control of their own postseason destiny. A Tuesday special next week with South Alabama awaits.
3. Georgia Southern (LW: 3)
Last week: Won 15-13 at Texas St.; This week’s game: Saturday at New Mexico St.
That was it for the Eagle offense that has been so potent this year. The defense was good enough to limit the Bobcat offense and squeak out a road ‘W’.
But still, 215 yards? Really?
The option attack show heads to Las Cruces on Part 2 of New Mexico State’s Sun Belt Reunion Tour. (Spoiler for later in this column: Part 1 didn’t go so well for the Aggies.)
4. Arkansas State (LW: 4)
Last week: Lost 35-9 vs. Appalachian St.; This week’s game: Thursday vs. Georgia St.
That was the sound of the Red Wolves hitting the canvas on national TV.
That was the sound of the Red Wolves hearing the bell for the next round.
If they answer it, stAte still can win out and control their path to a Dec. 1 Sun Belt title game.
5. Georgia State (LW: 6)
Last week: Off; This week’s game: Thursday at Arkansas St.
Having said all that about Arkansas State, the Panthers are getting the Red Wolves at an opportune time.
The defense will have to find ways to frustrate Justice Hansen early and get in their heads.
Offensively, balance will be key, but finding Penny Hart will be key-er (that’s a thing, right?).
Are the Panthers ready for primetime?
6. UL Monroe (LW: 7)
Last week: Won 45-20 at Coastal Carolina; This week’s game: Saturday vs. Texas St.
The offensive playmakers showed up.
Caleb Evans, Derrick Gore and Marcus Green made the plays, especially late, to pull away from Coastal Carolina. Defensively, David Griffith was disruptive (1.5 sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss, eight total tackles).
If Arkansas State continues to stumble, don’t be surprised if UL Monroe challenges for the West Division crown.
7. Louisiana (LW: 8)
Last week: Won 66-38 vs. New Mexico St.; This week’s game: Saturday at Appalachian St.
The Aggies don’t miss Sun Belt football that much, do they?
Andre Nunez threw for 315 yards and five touchdowns and Elijah Mitchell ran for 107 yards and three scores to turn on the afterburners.
They’ll need plenty more offensive jet fuel in the tank this weekend when they travel to Boone.
8. Coastal Carolina (LW: 5)
Last week: Lost 45-20 vs. UL Monroe; This week’s game: Saturday at UMass
Three turnovers on offense.
Allowing eight of 12 on third down on defense.
These will probably be the focal points for Coastal to go back to the drawing board in practice this week.
A trip to Amherst should be a deceivingly challenging task against the home-happy Minutemen.
9. South Alabama (LW: 9)
Last week: Won vs. Alabama St. 45-7; This week’s game: Bye
Give Tra Minter a game ball.
Recording 70 yards from scrimmage and turning in a shifty 75-yard punt return for touchdown was all the Jaguars really needed to dispatch Alabama State.
Celebrate this one, Jaguar fans, but be ready for Troy come Tuesday.
They’re going to motivate following their loss to Liberty.
10. Texas State (LW: 10)
Last week: Lost 15-13 vs. Georgia Southern; This week’s game: Saturday at UL Monroe
This was ugly, but the effort was there.
Shai Werts was bottled up and the Eagles needed every last thread of the fourth quarter to hold the Bobcats off.
Say what you will about their inefficiencies, but Texas St. will find a win somewhere along the conference way if they continue to grind like they did this past week.