1. Appalachian State (LW: 2)
Last week: Won 52-7 vs. South Alabama; This week’s game: Off
Zac Thomas and Jalin Moore continue to lead the Sun Belt’s most potent offensive attack. Each rushed for a pair of touchdowns and Thomas passed for two more to get the Mountaineer out ahead of the Jaguars, 42-7 by halftime.
At 51.8 points per game, they rank third in the FBS in scoring. Let’s not forget the stingy defense, however, that ranks in the top 20 in FBS for points allowed per game (17.0) and yards per game allowed (276.3).
South Alabama won’t.
A week off will allow for strategizing an ESPN2, primetime visit to the Red Wolves’ den.
2. Troy (Last Week: 1)
Last week: Won 45-21 vs. Coastal Carolina; This week’s game: Thursday vs. Georgia St.
Troy’s opponents are not doing them in favors in these rankings.
The win against Nebraska and the close win against UL Monroe (given their blowout loss to Georgia State this past weekend) seem a bit more unimpressive.
But don’t get me wrong (I’m talking to you, rest of the Sun Belt), do not tread lightly.
Troy attempts to climb back to the top spot in a Thursday night special, hosting the aforementioned Panthers.
3. Georgia Southern (LW: 5)
Last week: Won 28-21 vs. Arkansas St.; This week’s game: Saturday vs. South Alabama
There is still plenty of football to play in 2018, but early contender for play of the year in the Sun Belt has to be the leader in the clubhouse. Wesley Kennedy III took the reverse end around to the house with under a minute to play to give the Eagles the win.
Great play aside, let’s not let the one play tell the whole story of how impressive the Eagles contained the stAte offensive attack. Two early stops on fourth down kept the Red Wolves off the board and close in the first half.
They don’t get those early stops and “That. Play.” is just a footnote.
4. Arkansas State (LW: 3)
Last week: Lost 28-21 at Georgia Southern; This week’s game: Off
The bad news: It drops stAte to 0-1 to begin conference play.
The better news: Everyone else in the West Division of the Sun Belt lost, too.
A week to lick their wounds is now. One of the most anticipated games of the year in the Sun Belt looms in two weeks when the Mountaineers come to town.
5. UL Monroe (LW: 4)
Last week: Lost 46-14 at Georgia St.; This week’s game: Saturday at Ole Miss
Three first half turnovers was just the beginning.
The real back-breaker for the Warhawks came to start the third quarter when UL Monroe got the ball to start the half and went three-and-out. On the flip side, the Panther offense converted on four third downs on their initial drive in the second half.
The end result: 15 plays, 90 yards, and a touchdown that pushed the deficit from a hopeful 16 points down to a 22-point cliff.
UL Monroe travels to Oxford to try and turn their fortunes around.
6. Coastal Carolina (LW: 6)
Last week: Lost 45-21 at Troy; Off
Why is time of possession an imperfect stat?
The Chanticleers dominated in that category: 40 minutes to 20 minutes. And it didn’t matter.
Coastal Carolina watched Marcus Jones take the opening kickoff back for six and then had the Trojan offense hit on several quick, big plays to put the game away in the second half.
CC host the Warhawks in two weeks after a bye.
7. Georgia State (LW: 9)
Last week: Won 46-14 at UL Monroe; This week’s game: Thursday at Troy
We told you last week that the Panthers are not the ninth-best team in the Sun Belt.
On Saturday, they proved it and then some.
The Panther defense yielded only 262 total yards to Caleb Evans and the Warhawks. The offense looked shiny and new with a very productive performance from quarterback Dan Ellington (15-for-18, 179 yards, 64 rushing yards, two total touchdowns).
A showdown at Troy comes quick this Thursday, but could not be timed any better given the way they played on the road this past Saturday.
8. Louisiana (LW: 7)
Last week: Lost 56-14 at Alabama; This week’s game: Saturday at Texas St.
Those guys down at Tuscaloosa are decent.
The Tide have been a buzzsaw against everyone so far. The 200 yards the Cajuns accumulated rushing (even if much of it was in garbage time), is something to build upon.
Trey Ragas rushing for 111 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries was a nice look.
Those two fourth quarter scores did not mean a thing on Saturday, but maybe they can help inspire a touch of confidence heading out to Texas for their conference game on Saturday.
9. South Alabama (LW: 8)
Last week: Lost 52-7 at Appalachian St.; This week’s game: Saturday at Georgia Southern
The Jaguars defense was overmatched against the high-octane Appalachian State offensive machine, allowing five consecutive touchdowns to close the first half.
The second half was much better, including interceptions by Gus Nave and Travis Reed. However, zero points came from those picks and down 42-7 were too little, too late.
The red-hot Georgia Southern option attack will be a tough test for this defense on Saturday.
10. Texas State (LW: 10)
Last week: Off; This week’s game: Saturday vs. Louisiana
The legs are rested.
The Bobcats get Louisiana on Saturday and then Georgia Southern five days later at home. Texas State, coming off a week of rest, need to get those conference wins now.
The last three games of the season: vs. Appalachian State, at Troy, vs. Arkansas State.