1. Appalachian State (LW: 1)
Last week: Off; This week’s game: Tuesday at Arkansas St.
Honest question: Outside of UCF, could Appalachian State be the best G5 team in football?
The Mountaineers have been dominant on both sides of the ball this season and took the #8 Nittany Lions to overtime. They currently sit four spots from being ranked in the Coaches Poll, and six in the AP poll.
Appalachian State will have a national audience to themselves on Tuesday as they travel to Arkansas State. A win and a few strategic Top 25 losses could have the Mountaineers on the cusp of a national ranking.
2. Troy (Last Week: 2)
Last week: Won 37-20 vs. Georgia St.; This week’s game: Saturday at Liberty
On the first play from scrimmage, Kaleb Barker sprinted 75 yards into Panther territory. It was the perfect tone setter, that was capped with a B.J. Smith touchdown run and two more scores on the next possessions.
A 10-for-15 conversion rate on third downs kept Georgia State from ever really threatening a comeback.
However, the biggest loss of the year now belongs to Troy after the news Monday of Barker’s town ACL and finished season. Sophomore Sawyer Smith: you’re up.
The win makes it nine straight victories against Sun Belt competition.
3. Georgia Southern (LW: 3)
Last week: Won 48-13 vs. South Alabama; This week’s game: Thursday at Texas St.
The biggest turnaround story in the Sun Belt this season has to be Chad Lunsford’s squad.
Also, the best postgame celebration in the Sun Belt this season has to be Chad Lunsford’s dance.
The 2-10 (2-6 Sun Belt) season is far in the rear view window and a chance to move to 3-0 in the Sun Belt
Thought of the Week: Lunsford would look really authentic wearing that conference title belt and doing that celebration.
4. Arkansas State (LW: 4)
Last week: Off; This week’s game: Tuesday vs. Appalachian St.
The week off...er...half week off...will have the Red Wolves defense game-planning for stopping the Mountaineers balanced offense.
The key to this game, however, is not crazy or subtle: Justice Hansen.
If the reigning Sun Belt Player of the Year wants a repeat of that title, it’s games like this where he will need to step up.
Expect fireworks and lots of nerves in this one.
5. Coastal Carolina (LW: 6)
Last week: Off; This week’s game: Saturday vs. UL Monroe
The Warhawks got the better of Coastal Carolina in a 51-43 shootout last season in Monroe.
This season feels different.
That said, expect a heavy dose of Caleb Evans coming at the home team this week. If CC can establish their 17th-best-in-FBS running game, expect more offense to rule the day.
6. Georgia State (LW: 7)
Last week: Won 37-20 at Troy; This week’s game: Off
The Trojans imposed their will early and often, sprinting out to a 21-0 first quarter lead and never looking back.
A few positive signs for the Panthers: they committed zero penalties, showed some grit in the second half to keep the contest at least somewhat interesting until late and Penny Hart followed up a solid game with another and looks on track.
Arkansas State awaits a week from this Thursday.
7. UL Monroe (LW: 5)
Last week: Lost 70-21 at Ole Miss; This week’s game: Saturday at Coastal Carolina
An 0-2 start in the Sun Belt West is not a death sentence, but the Warhawks feel listless.
Yes, that was an Ole Miss roster with plenty of first and second round NFL talent, but allowing 70 points and 826 yards of offense is a problem, regardless of the opponent.
A road test against the rested Chanticleers could be the perfect spot to turn their season around.
8. Louisiana (LW: 8)
Last week: Won 42-27 at Texas St.; This week’s game: Saturday vs. New Mexico St.
When the number of games played in conference is out of balance this time of year, it’s unfair to do the “if the season ended today” thing when seeing what two teams would be in the Sun Belt title game...
...but let’s do it anyways...
Technically, Louisiana can look up at the standings and see themselves as first place in the West Division. A ruthless ground game behind Elijah Mitchell (20 carries, 191 yards, three touchdowns) and Trey Ragas (21 carries, 100 yards, touchdown) cemented a win over Texas State.
The Cajuns host former Sun Belt member New Mexico St.
9. South Alabama (LW: 9)
Last week: Lost 48-13 at Georgia Southern; This week’s game: Saturday vs. Alabama St.
Give the Jaguar defense a ton of credit for how they contained Shai Werts and the Eagle option attack.
Not something you expect to say when the opponents score 48.
Four turnovers, however, can’t ever happen against a hot offense. Three of the four came with the game still within shouting distance. The offense will need to practice ball security in an in-state matchup with Alabama State.
10. Texas State (LW: 10)
Last week: Lost 42-27 at Louisiana; This week’s game: Thursday vs. Georgia Southern
The offense sputtered in the first half, but found some rhythm in the second.
The Bobcats scored touchdowns on four straight possessions until they were stuffed deep in Louisiana territory as a last gasp, behind several scores all day long.
Tyler Vitt is starting to look a bit more comfortable in the offense, evidence by his throwing, rushing and receiving touchdowns on Saturday. Tight end Keenen Brown (four catches, 90 yards, two touchdowns) and Hutch White (11 catches and threw that touchdown to Vitt) are viable chain-movers.
Using them more may lead to some closer Sun Belt contests down the stretch.