Kicking off Year One of divisional play, the Sun Belt had already impressed in 2018 with Appalachian State putting a scare into top ten Penn State. Week two looks to be just as impressive in its own right— with New Mexico State off to play an independent schedule, and Idaho dropping to FCS, what have we learned from the new-look, ten-team league after two weeks?
Coastal Carolina is... back?
Can a team be ‘back’ if they were never really ‘here’... at least, in the Sun Belt? After an unimpressive first year in the conference a year ago, where they finished 3-9 overall, once and future CCU coach Joe Moglia returned with a bang this year, thumping UAB this week 47-24. This was a close game last year, with the Chants losing by only a touchdown, but this year’s contest featured 27 unanswered points in the second half.
CCU had some success at the FCS level, it’s true, so is this a return to success, or a splash for the first time at the FBS level? Apparently it’s both, as even with the change in competition and conference, it looks as though Moglia’s squad hasn’t missed a step. For all the buzz around other teams in the Sun Belt East, all eyes will be on CCU in two weeks against Louisiana.
Things have turned a corner in Monroe
In Matt Viator’s third year, the Warhawks are already off to their best start yet. After starting 1-4 in 2016, and 0-2 to start last year, ULM is 2-0 after a close, hard fought 21-20 victory over Southern Miss in Hattiesburg.
The first two years of the Viator era saw back-to-back 4-8 campaigns, but now is the right time for Viator’s squad to take the next step. Avenging last year’s loss to Southern Miss is a start, but after replenishing their budget next week against Texas A&M, the Warhawks will have to put up or shut up against the gold standard in the Sun Belt these days, the Trojans of Troy.
The #FunBelt is definitively not the worst FBS conference
As pointed out in Three Things We Learned about Conference USA, the Sun Belt beat every C-USA team it played this week. The Belt was 6-3 overall in week two, including a dominant win for Appalachian State over in-state opponent Charlotte, the aforementioned beatdown of UAB by Coastal Carolina, and a surging Georgia Southern finding itself also 2-0 after a solid win against UMass.
With the rise of Appalachian State and with Troy cracking the Top 25 the season before last, the Sun Belt has been on the rise for some time, but this is the first year Conference USA has had such a huge drop-off, and with no heir apparent in the MAC this year yet, either, the hype is the Sun Belt’s to lose.