The season has officially begun for the Sun Belt conference. While week one can never be a true indicator of how the rest of the season is going to go, we still saw plenty of exciting football.
Some teams faced early tests against P5 competition with mixed results. While Old Dominion gave the home crowd a night that they won’t soon forget, Troy suffered an 18-point loss at #21 Ole Miss. Georgia State and UL Monroe also both opened with P5 road losses that weren’t particularly close by the end. Appalachian State came so so close to taking down North Carolina in Boone, but they were just short in a crazy 63-61 finish.
On the flip side, Arkansas State, Louisiana, Georgia Southern, South Alabama, and Marshall cruised to victories over FCS opponents.
Then, you have the G5-on-G5 matchups, where we can arguably glean the most insight. James Madison dominated Middle Tennessee in the Dukes’ first FBS game. Coastal Carolina outlasted a tough Army team in Conway. Texas State’s offense committed way too many errors in a loss to Nevada. Finally, Southern Miss fell to Liberty in one of the only multiple overtime games that didn’t get much attention this weekend.
Here are three notable takeaways from this past weekend’s Sun Belt action.
Old Dominion Is Better Than People Thought
The Old Dominion Monarchs picked up their second win ever over a P5 opponent on Friday when they downed Virginia Tech 20-17 in front of a sold out crowd. Truly, a historic moment for the program.
Sure, Virginia Tech is a program in the midst of a huge rebuild. But, you have to give Ricky Rahne credit. He has instilled a confidence in this program from the moment he came to campus. Even though the Monarchs were picked to finish last in the SBC East, this team knew they were ready to surprise some people off the back of the momentum from last year’s regular season finish.
There’s still plenty to learn for redshirt sophomore QB Hayden Wolff, who almost had a critical fumble in the waning moments before a review revealed his knee hit the ground first. Plus, ODU’s facilities team might want to get those elevators serviced - or not.
Virginia Tech at Old Dominion is delayed because coaches are stuck in an elevator. pic.twitter.com/MBWxcsdASb— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) September 3, 2022
All in all, the Monarchs have the talent and the coaching to overachieve in the SBC, however you want to interpret that.
Grayson McCall Is Still That Dude
I mean, we had a feeling, but Saturday was definitive proof. All of McCall’s skills were on display in the Chanticleers 38-28 victory over Army. McCall completed 12 of 17 passes for 174 yards, three touchdowns, and a QBR of 91.5. McCall also ran for a touchdown and looked as effective as ever in the RPO.
Grayson McCall can place it. pic.twitter.com/Hq0suZoBUX— Seaside Joe: Daily Seahawks Newsletter (@seasidejoenews) September 4, 2022
Grayson McCall is a wizard pic.twitter.com/4LQpU6EdfZ— Seaside Joe: Daily Seahawks Newsletter (@seasidejoenews) September 4, 2022
On paper, Coastal Carolina should not have much issue with the majority of their opponents this year. It probably won’t be until they go up against Marshall and Appalachian State that they face defenses that can cause some issues for them. Since an option offense depends so heavily on reading the edge, teams need a particularly strong player at those spots to contend well.
With this victory against Army, AP All-American edge Andre Carter II was held to just three tackles on the night. Due to McCall’s abilities to make those split second decisions, as well as his offensive line’s prowess, the Chanticleers are clearly in a good spot.
Carter Bradley Fits In Well At South Alabama
Son of Las Vegas Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, Carter Bradley transferred to South Alabama from Toledo in the offseason. Bradley was never consistently “the guy” at Toledo, but he has a new opportunity in Mobile. He got off to a good start on Saturday completing 17 of 25 for 260 yards and three touchdowns, plus a rushing touchdown. This was one of the best stat lines of his college career.
This could be a big year for South Alabama. While replacing Jake Bentley and Jalen Tolbert from a production perspective will be tough, they might just have the tools to do it.
Bradley looking comfortable in the quarterback role, even if it was against an FCS opponent, has to add more confidence to Jags fans who want to see their team take a run at the Sun Belt West crown. They’ll need all their playmakers as comfortable as possible to take that spot from Louisiana.