1. Appalachian State (Last Week: 1)
Last week: Won 27-17 vs. Louisiana; This week’s game: Thursday at Georgia Southern
Our #1 is now #25.
And it feels pretty sweet.
The Associated Press finally saw the light and the Mountaineers garnered enough points to slip into the final spot in the rankings.
More importantly, Darrynton Evans looked very capable as the lead running back (26 carries, 183 yards, two total touchdowns).
A gigantic tilt with Georgia Southern awaits Thursday. A loss could send them from breaking the rankings to reeling into second or even third place in the Sun Belt East.
2. Troy (LW: 2)
Last week: Bye; This week’s game: Tuesday at South Alabama
The Trojans remember.
Following a landmark upset last year against LSU, Troy’s follow-up performance against the Jaguars fell flat, 19-8.
The offense in particular was stagnant. With a little extra time off this past week, expect coach Neal Brown to get his backs into favorable matchups and exploit the Jaguar linebackers.
And if the Trojans have forgotten, you can expect the fans in Mobile to remind them.
3. Georgia Southern (LW: 3)
Last week: Won 48-31 at New Mexico St.; This week’s game: Thursday vs. Appalachian St.
Six consecutive touchdown drives, including a six-yard Shai Werts run just before halftime were the back-breakers the Eagles needed.
Werts had 70 yards on six carries Saturday and finished fourth on his team in rushing on the day. Logan Wright (136 yards, two touchdowns), Wesley Kennedy III (97 yards, two touchdowns) and Monteo Garrett (76 yards, one touchdown) all joined the option-al fun.
Georgia Southern now faces its biggest game since joining the Sun Belt in 2014.
This Thursday puts first place on the line in the Sun Belt East when the Eagles host Appalachian State and their shiny new national ranking.
4. Arkansas State (LW: 4)
Last week: Won 51-35 vs. Georgia St.; This week’s game: Saturday at Louisiana
That’s more like it.
Justice Hansen had his first true breakout performance of 2018 with five total touchdowns in this past week’s drubbing of Georgia State.
Marcel Murray and Warren Wand helped Hansen on the ground with a combined 186 yards on 24 carries to keep Georgia State defenders honest.
A few quick fumble recoveries by the defense, including a return for touchdown by Tajhea Chambers, salted this game away early.
There is a logjam at in the Sun Belt West standings with four of the five teams currently sporting two conference losses. Saturday’s trip to Cajun country is crucial to staying at two losses and near the top of the West standings.
5. Louisiana (LW: 7)
Last week: Lost 27-17 at Appalachian St.; This week’s game: Saturday vs. Arkansas St.
The Ragin’ Cajuns stuck close to the Mountaineers, but the offense came up just short on a couple of key fourth downs in the final quarter.
Louisiana might be the toughest team in the Sun Belt to truly get a handle on with blowout losses on the road to powerful SEC schools and big wins over meek competition.
It was an “L”, but their defense showed some hope for winning the crowded Sun Belt West.
6. UL Monroe (LW: 6)
Last week: Won 20-14 vs. Texas St.; This week’s game: Bye
The defense clamped down when it needed to and was able to carry the fairly conservative offensive output to the winner’s circle.
The Warhawk defense forced the Bobcats into a 2-for-13 effort on third downs.
With a week off to prepare, this same stout defense must now prepare for the option attack of Georgia Southern, who comes to town in a couple weeks.
7. Georgia State (LW: 5)
Last week: Lost 51-35 at Arkansas St.; This week’s game: Saturday vs. Coastal Carolina
A 36-yard Tamir Jones touchdown catch tied the game early, but stAte’s Warren Wand returned the impending kickoff back 91 yards to setup a quick Red Wolves response.
Two fumbles (including one that was scooped up and returned for a touchdown) dug the hole deeper, as the Panthers trailed 34-7 before halftime and could never recover.
The next two games are crucial home contests (vs. Coastal Carolina and vs. Texas State) if the Panthers want to have a sniff of the division race.
8. Coastal Carolina (LW: 8)
Last week: Won 24-13 at UMass; This week’s game: Saturday at Georgia St.
Coastal looked sloppy in the first half, but got two big touchdown passes from freshman quarterback Fred Payton to help pull away from the Minutemen.
The 4-3 record has locals around Myrtle Beach buzzing about a possible bowl in their first year of eligibility.
Let’s pump the brakes…at least until after this Saturday’s contest.
The Chanticleers must be sharper for the full 60 minutes against the Panthers to move one step closer to that buzzy goal.
9. South Alabama (LW: 9)
Last week: Bye; This week’s game: Tuesday vs. Troy
The Jaguars welcome Troy to town fresh off a bye week.
Well, half a bye week or so.
South Alabama promptly squashed all the good vibes the Trojans had last season following their win over LSU.
Time for Evan Orth to showcase his skills to a national TV audience.
10. Texas State (LW: 10)
Last week: Lost 20-14 at UL Monroe; This week’s game: Saturday vs. New Mexico St.
A second straight week the Bobcats kept the game close, but just couldn’t find that play or two to put them over the top.
At this point, however, moral victories are getting to be all too common.
New Mexico St. has taken two large beatings from their former Sun Belt opponents. If the Bobcat defense can play just as stingy as the last two weeks, expect a “W” at home for Texas State.