Troy is the best in the East... for now
It all came down to November, as Troy’s early-season loss to Boise State had them as more of an afterthought to the (until recently) undefeated Georgia Southern and Appalachian State.
But then the last few weeks happened: Appalachian State fell to the Eagles. The Eagles, on the verge of a national ranking, lost to ULM. And now the Eagles have lost a second week in a row, to a Troy Trojans team that suddenly, and for the first time this season, is in sole possession of the Sun Belt East, with a 6-0 record in conference play.
As any long-time fan will tell you, the transitive property wins mean nothing in football. But for at least this week, we can suppose that Eagles over Mountaineers, and Trojans over Eagles = Trojans over Mountaineers. Time will tell, but it will be a photo finish, particularly with Troy head coach Neal Brown, and all these recent Power Five coaching vacancies.
ULM might be bowling...
The West is far from decided, but the ULM Warhawks’ win over Georgia Southern a week ago and now South Alabama finds them suddenly at 6-4 (4-2) to retain first place in their division. A bowl game appearance would be their second in school history, as their time as an FBS member dates all the way back to the formation of the Sun Belt in 2001.
The Eagles were arguably the hardest team left on ULM’s schedule, with remaining games against Arkansas State and Louisiana. Winning either puts the Warhawks in a guaranteed slot (the New Orleans Bowl would more than welcome the folks from Monroe), and winning both would tie them for their best record in program history, 8-5 (accomplished in 2012).
The win against Georgia Southern was a big deal, and proof of the huge strides Matt Viator has taken in his time in Monroe, not just in his tenure, but this season (the Warhawks lost to Georgia State back in September, by a LOT).
For all the struggles this program and university have had with their athletics, they’re on the verge of finally getting that showcase in front of a national audience.
... and Coastal Carolina might not
We had big hopes for the Chanticleers this season, with the return of Joe Moglia and their first full-strength FBS season. But after ten games, the Chants sit at 5-5, barely an improvement over their 3-9 campaign last season.
CCU’s final two games are Georgia Southern at home, and on the road against South Alabama. This seems a likely split, and being 6-6 without winning their division could be a long shot for a bowl in this conference.
Despite having an exciting team, it seems the Chants will have to wait another year to make waves at the FBS level, or at least in the conference. Their Sun Belt losses this year have been to Troy, ULM, Appalachian State, and Arkansas State, all the best in the conference this year— and all projected for bowl games— so for a new addition this actually isn’t a bad showing.
Out of all the non-bowl teams in the SBC this year, the Chanticleers managed to be the best of them, leaving them with one final and difficult mountain to climb next year. It may have seemed like a futile campaign in 2018. but we’re more excited than ever for what they’ll bring to the table next year.