1. Troy (Last Week: 1)
Last week: Won 35-27 at UL Monroe; This week’s game: Saturday vs. Coastal Carolina
A 28-point second quarter was the difference Saturday, as the Trojans went up 35-7 at halftime and held on at the end for their first conference win. More importantly, Troy did what they could not do last year: follow a huge Power 5 win with another win.
A missed field goal and an inability to get off the field on several Warhawk drives are a bit worrisome. Marcus Jones played the hero, intercepting Caleb Evans in the end zone with under two minutes to play to preserve the win.
Coupled with Appalachian State’s dominant performance this weekend, consider the gap between #1 and #2 razor thin.
2. Appalachian State (LW: 2)
Last week: Won 72-7 vs. Gardner Webb; This week’s game: Saturday vs. South Alabama
In no doubt what was a strong response after being dropped from the top of these very rankings last week to the #2 spot, the Mountaineers steamrolled Gardner Webb.
Appalachian State put 52 first half points on the board before cruise control for the latter part of the game. Jalin Moore and D’Andre Hicks combined for 269 yards and three touchdowns on the ground on only 19 carries.
The defense held their opponents to 160 total yards. They get a revamped South Alabama offense at home this Saturday.
3. Arkansas State (LW: 3)
Last week: Won 27-20 vs. UNLV; This week’s game: Saturday at Georgia Southern
Even the name “Runnin’ Rebels” was a dead giveaway. UNLV runs and runs the ball behind Armani Rogers.
The Red Wolves had their share of difficulties slowing down the run, but made the stops at the end when needed. A Darreon Jackson interception and William Bradley-King sack on UNLV’s final two possessions was crucial.
Running back Marcel Murray made the most of his eight carries (95 yards), including a 39-yard burst to the end zone early in the fourth to stAte retake the lead.
4. UL Monroe (LW: 4)
Last week: Lost 35-27 vs. Troy; This week’s game: Saturday at Georgia St.
The Warhawks could not have scripted a better first sequence:
- A sack of Kaleb Barker on the first play from scrimmage as part of a three-and-out
- A methodical, 13-play, 73-yard drive capped by a Derrick Gore touchdown run
The next hour or so went south. The defense allowed Troy to find the end zone on their next five possessions and the offense stalled out time after time.
An impressive second half comeback, however, salvaged their spot in this week’s rankings.
5. Georgia Southern (LW: 5)
Last week: Off; This week’s game: Saturday vs. Arkansas St.
The option-happy Eagles had to be excited to see how UNLV was able to expose some of the Red Wolves’ flaws against the run.
If Shai Werts can follow some of that same blueprint, an upset, especially with the home crowd behind them, is looking like a much better possibility one week later.
As for the defense: stay aggressive early. Repeat.
6. Coastal Carolina (LW: 8)
Last week: Won 30-28 at Louisiana; Saturday at Troy
Chanticleer Fever is here, folks.
Marcus Outlow ran for 98 yards and two touchdowns. And play of the week had to be the double reverse flea flicker that had Bryce Carpenter find Isaiah Likely for a fourth quarter touchdown that gave Coastal some breathing room.
This Saturday comes the first major conference roadblock, as Coastal travels to Troy. With a 1-0 conference record, an upset win against Troy would actually put the Chanticleers in first place by themselves in the Sun Belt’s East Division.
You can start the Joe Moglia for Coach of the Year campaign if that happens.
7. Louisiana (LW: 6)
Last week: Lost 30-28 vs. Coastal Carolina; This week’s game: Saturday at Alabama
The offense looked lethargic in the first half. The running game got going in the second, with touchdown runs by Elijah Mitchell, Trey Ragas and Raymond Calais.
The defense had opportunities on Coastal’s final drive, but failed to stop them on 3rd and 10 and then had a stop on 3rd and 1 officially go null and void when they were called for offsides on the play.
A visit to play #1 Alabama is not exactly a healthy elixir for an ailing team, but does present a chance to reset before the thick of conference play begins.
8. South Alabama (LW: 9)
Last week: Lost 52-35 at Memphis; This week’s game: Saturday at Appalachian St.
The Jaguars hung with the explosive Tigers for most of their road contest, before Memphis ultimately pulled away.
I liked the decision to go for it on 4th and 2 deep in Memphis territory late in the third quarter, down four points. Tra Minter was stopped and Memphis never looked back. Hard to blame South Alabama for trying to fight fire with fire.
Evan Orth looked strong under center (24-for-32, 360 yards, three touchdowns, 0 INTs). The offense will need to look and play even stronger when they visit Boone on Saturday.
9. Georgia State (LW: 7)
Last week: Lost 34-15 vs. Western Michigan; This week’s game: Saturday @ UL Monroe
These Panthers are not the ninth-best team in the Sun Belt.
I know it. I believe you know it.
But it’s getting harder and harder to keep them above this slot in the rankings.
Two of the three first half turnovers proved costly against the Broncos this past weekend. The defense gave up two big plays in the second half, and then allowed Western Michigan to bleed the clock with a 15-play, 10-plus-minute drive.
A trip to Warhawk Country gives Georgia State a chance to prove they belong further up this list.
10. Texas State (LW: 10)
Last week: Lost 25-21 at UT-San Antonio; This week’s game: Off
The defense was good.
When you discount the fumble return for touchdown in the first quarter and the safety scored by the Roadrunners towards the end of the game, you are left with a Bobcat defense that only allowed 16 points.
However, missed opportunities on offense cost them a chance in the I-35 Showdown. It didn’t help that their best playmaker, quarterback Willie Jones III was knocked out of the game early.
The margin for error will be slim for Texas State heading into conference play in two weeks. A week off will help prepare freshman Tyler Vitt, who was decent in relief on Saturday, in case he needs to step in for Jones again.