1. Appalachian State (Last Week: 2)
Last week: Won 23-7 at Coastal Carolina; This week’s game: Saturday at Texas St.
And just like that, the Mountaineers are back in it.
Appalachian State got back to playing Appalachian State defense and did their part to keep the Chanticleers off the scoreboard (Coastal only got a pick-six in the way of points).
Darrynton Evans had 159 yards and a score and continues to look like a back who can carry an offense most of the way.
Evans will need to be on point as a rejuvenated Bobcats squad awaits this Saturday.
2. Georgia Southern (LW: 1)
Last week: Lost 44-25 at UL Monroe; This week’s game: Saturday vs. Troy
Another week, another conference frontrunner gets flattened.
Caleb Evans played the part of the steamroller, as the Warhawks got ahead early and hit on big play after big play.
The Eagles could only muster 216 yards of total offense and looked like a team caught flat.
The loss makes Saturday’s contest against Troy now a must-win to stay in conference race.
3. Troy (LW: 3)
Last week: Won 26-16 vs. Louisiana; This week’s game: Saturday at Georgia Southern
For Troy to reach the Dec. 1 title game, they will need balance on offense.
Having Damion Willis explode for 10 catches, 213 yards and a touchdown is a great sign for Sawyer Smith, who is solid, but will need his receiving corps to step up.
The defense bottled the Ragin’ offense all day and then interceptions by Kyler Knudsen and Melvin Tyus put the game away.
The newest Sun Belt Game of the Year now is set for Saturday as the Trojans attempt to follow Monroe’s blueprint and beat Georgia Southern.
4. UL Monroe (LW: 7)
Last week: Won 44-25 vs. Georgia Southern; This week’s game: Saturday at South Alabama
There is a lot of praise to heap on the Warhawks this week.
Caleb Evans was sensational. Derrick Gore ran with purpose. Marcus Green did nothing but score on big plays. R.J. Turner and Markis McCray were solid.
Most of the praise, however should be split between an offensive line that allowed these playmakers to shine and a defense that forced five sacks (very difficult to do against a triple option-happy team) and held Shai Werts to 10 yards rushing.
Lastly, give praise to the coaching staff behind Matt Viator for getting these guys prepared.
5. Louisiana (LW: 4)
Last week: Lost 26-16 at Troy; This week’s game: Saturday vs. Georgia St.
After a lackluster first half, you have to love how Louisiana responded.
A healthy dose of Trey Ragas, who was featured prominently on the first two drives, scored two straight TDs, pulling the Cajuns back in the game.
Hard to ignore the hole they put themselves in during the first half.
“Must-win” is a touch too strong of a phrase this Saturday, but a loss to the Panthers is wildly damaging to their Dec. 1 title game prospects.
6. Arkansas State (LW: 6)
Last week: Won 38-14 vs. South Alabama; This week’s game: Saturday at Coastal Carolina
It was a slow start, but the offense finally found their rhythm and soundly put away the Jaguars.
Justice Hansen did his thing (a 332 yards, three touchdowns thing).
Defense did theirs (only 249 yards allowed and keeping South Alabama to 3-for-16 on third downs).
stAte is still very much alive in the Sun Belt West, if Saturday they can beat…
7. Coastal Carolina (LW: 5)
Last week: Lost 23-7 vs. Appalachian St.; This week’s game: Saturday vs. Arkansas St.
The defense was fine.
The offense was nowhere to be seen.
Coastal could only produce 178 total yards of offense and a single first down all afternoon against the Mountaineers.
If they can find that offense against stAte, they could clinch bowl eligibility this weekend.
8. Texas State (LW: 10)
Last week: Lost 40-31 at Georgia St.; This week’s game: Saturday vs. Appalachian St.
They played competitive football for about month without a conference victory.
Finally, Everett Withers and Co. broke through, getting 325 yards passing and two touchdowns from Willie Jones III to win on the road against the Panthers.
Texas State looks like a legit uncomfortable spoiler down the stretch.
And then ignore the part where a refocused Appalachian State comes to town next week.
9. Georgia State (LW: 8)
Last week: Lost 40-31 vs. Texas St.; This week’s game: Saturday at Louisiana
The Panthers seemed to leave their defense in the locker room at halftime.
Texas State came and gashed them in the third quarter after recovering a Penny Hart fumbled punt. The Bobcats would score touchdowns on four of their next five drives to put the game away.
A chance to impact the conference still remains, as they can spoil the Cajuns pursuit of a Sun Belt West championship this Saturday.
10. South Alabama (LW: 9)
Last week: Lost 38-14 at Arkansas St.; This week’s game: Saturday vs. UL Monroe
The Jaguar defense was good early.
Nigel Lawrence (17 tackles) and Bull Barge (13 tackles, and clearly the frontrunner for Sun Belt Name of the Year) seemed to be everywhere.
The offense had one nice long scoring drive per half, but was MIA for the rest of the game.
The good news? They play the Sun Belt “It” team UL Monroe. Whoever has assumed that mantle has now officially lost three straight games.