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Three things we learned from the Sun Belt in Week 8

There’s still rage left in the Ragin’ Cajuns, Georgia Southern returns to dominance, and the Mountaineers put the AP in Appalachian.

NCAA Football: Appalachian State at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

The Mountaineers have their work cut out for them

For the first time in school history, Appalachian State entered the AP Poll this week, checking in at Number 25. There are no shortage of articles out there praising the long, strange arc of the Mountaineers, from their FCS titles to their defeat of a ranked Michigan squad in 2007, so we won’t pile on to that this week.

But in 2018, Scott Satterfield’s team is breaking new ground, as surely cracking the poll as a Sun Belt team is, let’s say, difficult. But Appalachian State is showing how it’s done, becoming only the second Sun Belt team to be ranked since the conference started FBS play in 2001 (Troy was ranked for one week in 2016).

The Mountaineers aren’t just winning, but dominating, and the pollsters took notice, as we pointed out last week. But to remain there, and to climb, they must defeat Georgia Southern on the road this Thursday. The Eagles are 6-1 (3-0) and where the Mountaineers can boast that their single loss was in OT to Penn State, here come the Eagles, their lone loss a 38-7 contest to higher-ranked Clemson.

That game will be the first of three road games, as the Mountaineers don’t get to enjoy their success at home until Nov. 17, when they host Georgia State.

The Ragin’ Cajuns just keep getting better

As all things this week must be Mountaineer-related, apparently, things are looking good for the Ragin’ Cajuns and first-year head coach Billy Napier.

The Cajuns are currently 3-4 (1-2), but there has been a lot of improvement this year and the team is well-positioned to improve over Napier’s tenure. Last week we pointed out no team other than Penn State had scored double digits against the Mountaineers— well, the Ragin’ Cajuns did just that, battling for what can only be considered a close contest, losing valiantly 27-17.

Ultimately, Louisiana-Lafayette is much better than their record would indicate. Of their four losses, two were against ranked teams (Alabama and Mississippi State), one was to Appalachian State this week, and the fourth was a two-point heartbreaker to Coastal Carolina in week three. Considering CCU is also the only loss UAB has suffered (currently 6-1, 3-0 in C-USA), the Ragin’ Cajuns can hold their heads high, as this team will get to showcase those very same talents against Arkansas State next week, with the Sun Belt West title still very much within their reach.

A tale of two Georgias

While the Mountaineers have been grabbing all the headlines, Georgia Southern has very quietly climbed to 6-1 (3-0), their highest win total since 2015. After a two-win season a year ago, the Eagles had much to atone for, and now it appears they have returned to their former dominance.

Georgia State, on the other hand, is the polar opposite. After going 7-5 a year ago and reaching a bowl game, the Panthers suddenly find themselves at 2-5 (1-2) and facing a very unpredictable Coastal Carolina team next week.

Georgia is rich with football talent, and to see two such disparate teams is jarring, particularly with the traditional success of the Power Five teams in the state. Shawn Elliott will need to bounce back quickly if he wants to stick around, but with remaining games against CCU, Louisiana-Lafayette, Appalachian State, and Georgia Southern, it’s not too early for the Panthers to start looking ahead to 2019.