1. Georgia Southern (Last Week: 3)
Last week: Won 34-14 vs. Appalachian St.; This week’s game: Saturday at UL Monroe
Deeper than Hate, but pretty as hell for the Eagles.
Georgia Southern snapped a three-game losing streak in the rivalry, and was able to knock the
Shai Werts (14 carries, 129 yards, TD and a 57-yard touchdown pass on his one completion) orchestrating the ground game was sensational. But it was the Eagle defense that has been a consistent force all season that should get the collective game ball. They forced four turnovers, including three interceptions on consecutive Mountaineer drives.
The Eagles are now in control of the Sun Belt East. Win out and they will be playing Dec. 1 for that glorious championship belt.
2. Appalachian State (LW: 1)
Last week: Lost 34-14 at Georgia Southern; This week’s game: Saturday at Coastal Carolina
Well, that escalated quickly.
Losing Zac Thomas after only a few plays hurt. The Eagle defense suffocated quarterbacks Jacob Huesman and Peyton Derrick, who went a combined 11-for-26, 140 yards, one touchdown and four INTs.
One can wonder if Thomas and injured running back Jalin Moore were healthy if the result would have been different.
No more national ranking. No more first place. But no time for feeling bad for yourself, Mountaineer fans. They will need a win at Coastal on Saturday to keep within striking distance if Georgia Southern stumbles.
3. Troy (LW: 2)
Last week: Won 38-17 at South Alabama; This week’s game: Saturday vs. Louisiana
The Trojans were able to exact some revenge on South Alabama for their letdown last year, pulling away early in this one.
Tip of the cap to the defense, including a two-sack game from freshman Will Choloh Jr., for keeping the Jaguars off balance. Quarterback Sawyer Smith looked much more comfortable this week after the loss to Liberty, accounting for four touchdowns.
B.J., however, is their most important Smith moving forward. Running for 170 yards and a score was great.
Duplicating the effort Saturday against a hot Louisiana team will be required to post a “W”.
4. Louisiana (LW: 5)
Last week: Won 47-43 vs. Arkansas St.; This week’s game: Saturday at Troy
That’s probably the most accurate way to sum up the Cajun offensive performance against stAte, putting up 547 yards of offense.
Louisiana had touchdown scores of 64, 65 and 72 yards, respectively, in the first quarter alone.
They never every drop of that offense, including a late touchdown run by Trey Ragas to keep pace with an equally explosive Red Wolves offense.
Staying red-hot against Troy will be a tall task. If so, they will remain in first place in the Sun Belt West.
5. Coastal Carolina (LW: 8)
Last week: Won 37-34 at Georgia St.; This week’s game: Saturday vs. Appalachian St.
You can say a lot about Coastal’s bright future in the backfield.
Freshman quarterback Fred Payton and sophomore running back C.J. Marable were tremendous putting a hurt on the Panther defense this past Saturday. But it seems they are also the “now” for the high-rising Chanticleers.
Don’t underestimate how big it was to see kicker Massimo Biscardi bounce back after a tough week and sink all three field goals. Coastal plays close games and every point will be vital down he stretch.
6. Arkansas State (LW: 4)
Last week: Lost 47-43 at Louisiana; This week’s game: Saturday vs. South Alabama
The offense was there.
Five scores on the ground, including three by Marcel Murray, and two more touchdown passes by Justice Hansen kept the offense rolling.
The problems: not nearly enough stops and too many big plays (as explained in the Louisiana section) allowed.
Despite their flaws and 1-3 conference record, however, there is still a path to the Dec. 1 conference championship if they can turn this thing around.
A loss to the Jaguars Saturday, however, would all but clinch their conference fate.
7. UL Monroe (LW: 6)
Last week: Bye; This week’s game: Saturday vs. Georgia Southern
One can’t be sure if spending the off week watching the Georgia Southern triple option attack helped. Lots of notepads were needed to scheme defensively, but it will come down to execution in stopping Werts direct the Eagle offense.
Offensively, this is Caleb Evans’ turn to show who the most versatile quarterback in the Sun Belt is.
If the Warhawk offensive line can mount long, time-crunching drives and Marcus Green gives them a big play or two, Eagles beware.
8. Georgia State (LW: 7)
Last week: Lost 37-34 vs. Coastal Carolina; This week’s game: Saturday vs. Texas St.
Who needs an efficient red zone offense?
Certainly not the Panther offense this past week, who scored three of their four touchdowns from 25 yards out or more. Tra Barnett’s 161 yards and two touchdowns were great, but why only 11 carries?
A visit from the Bobcats is usually a care to what ails Sun Belt teams, but be careful. Texas State is playing better football than their record suggests.
9. South Alabama (LW: 9)
Last week: Lost 38-17 vs. Troy; This week’s game: Saturday at Arkansas St.
The Jaguar offense was good in the first half—17 points, Tra Minter running and Evan Orth finding Jordan McCray and Jamarius Way for scores.
Three turnovers, however, were costly.
The defense perked up in the second half, but couldn’t contain the big play-Trojans early.
They get a suspect Arkansas State defense on Saturday to see if both sides of the ball can put in a full 60 quality minutes.
10. Texas State (LW: 10)
Last week: Won 27-20 vs. New Mexico St.; This week’s game: Saturday at Georgia St.
Texas State’s win over the Aggies on Saturday helped the Sun Belt achieve a new milestone.
The victory gave the Sun Belt 21 non-conference regular season wins—the most ever for the conference. With two postseason wins, the Sun Belt will break the all-time record of 22—impressive for a conference that just dropped two teams.
As for the Bobcats, Willie Jones III looked explosive in his return (9-for-18, 113 yards passing, 110 yard rushing and three total TDs), which bodes well for this Saturday at Georgia State.