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Top 5 Most Likely Sun Belt-P5 Upsets in the 2019 Season

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The Sun Belt will start the season with two opportunities to knock off Power 5 competition.

NCAA Football: Troy at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

The question seems to no longer be, “Will it happen?”

History has started to now ask, “Who will it be this year?”

In 2016, it was Mississippi State.

In 2017, it was LSU.

Last year, it was Nebraska.

The Sun Belt Conference has annually slayed a Power 5 dragon. The Sun Belt has 13 games scheduled against Power-5 foes in 2019, with several intriguing early-season matchups on tap.

Here is a look at the five most likely Sun Belt victories over their more heralded opponents...

5. ULM at Florida St.

When: Sept. 7

The Warhawks have two shots at P5 teams (Iowa State Sept. 21), but the Seminoles, incredibly, seem like the easier prey.

Florida State had a very public crash in 2018 and is 12-13 over the past two seasons. The Seminoles play Boise State in Jacksonville for the season opener one week prior. A loss to the Broncos could spurn some of those “here we go again” head games among the players.

The Warhawks will need to find a way to contain a promising Florida State pass rush and keep their offense on the sidelines to have a shot.

If the upset happens, it’s because...

Caleb Evans.

The explosive senior quarterback will be behind an experienced offensive line. If they buy Evans enough time, they could put some points up against a team that will surely be lacking in confidence after a shaky 2018 campaign.

If the defense can limit big plays and help the Seminoles settle for field goals, nails shall be bitten.

4. Georgia Southern at LSU

When: Aug. 31

The Eagles made great strides in 2018.

Taking this step would be the ultimate confidence boost.

As noted earlier, LSU has walked into the Sun Belt bear trap before against Troy. They also have to travel to Austin to play at Texas the following week, so this season opener could be an actual classic trap game.

Georgia Southern is also visiting Minnesota two games later, but giving Chad Lunsford an entire offseason to prepare for LSU gives this upset more of a chance.

If the upset happens, it’s because...

Style.

LSU has speed on defense, but preparing for the Georgia Southern offensive attack is a lot harder in cleats than on film. The Eagle option offense attacks from many angles.

Shai Werts and Wesley Kennedy will need to be at their best.

In the secondary, Kindle Vildor and Monquavion Brinson will need to stymie any big plays.

3. Troy at Missouri

When: Oct. 5

Much of this contest will hinge on how Missouri quarterback Kelly Bryant adjusts to life in the SEC. The Trojan defense will need to stay disciplined early and force the Clemson transfer to get impatient.

Troy quarterback Caleb Barker and running back BJ Smith are incredibly efficient. The big question is how well everyone adjusts to new head coach Bill Lindsey’s system.

This prediction could have been even higher, but considering the Tigers will be coming off an open week and do not have any SEC heavyweights directly around this contest, the chance they overlook Troy are much lower.

If the upset happens, it’s because...

Experience.

The Trojans have put the last two Power-5 pelts on the wall. They will not be intimidated walking into the tigers’ den in early October.

They must get production in the passing game to keep the Tiger defense honest. The defensive experience will also be necessary to keep the Trojans close come crunch time.

2. Louisiana vs. Mississippi St.

When: Aug. 31

This is the only contest for Sun Belt teams against P5 opponents not played as a true road game. The Ragin’ Cajuns will battle the Bulldogs in New Orleans in the season opener at the Superdome.

The Bulldogs will be beginning life after starter Nick Fitzgerald. There will be early season hiccups to expect.

Yes, the Bulldogs did dismiss Louisiana last season, 56-10 with relative ease, but the Sun Belt West Division champs got better and better as the season chugged along.

If Billy Napier can turn some of that momentum over to 2019, the game expects to be much, much closer.

If the upset happens, it’s because...

The running game gets rolling.

The three-headed running back monster of Trey Ragas, Elijah Mitchell and Raymond Calais may just be the deepest running back trio in all of the Group of 5 teams.

If they can churn out first downs (and perhaps if many fans pack the neutral site venue), the Bulldogs could be in for a surprise.

1. Appalachian State at North Carolina

When: Sept. 21

After an overtime loss last season at Penn State, expect Appalachian State to be highly motivated to finish this one on top.

The Tar Heels have a tough schedule prior to their meeting with Boone’s finest, and have the unenviable task of hosting Clemson the following week. North Carolina will likely still be breaking in a freshman quarterback and could very well have a confidence-shattering 0-3 record by Sept. 21 after a dismal 2-9 record in 2018.

Oh, and Appalachian State is good. Really good.

The Mountaineer backfield of Zac Thomas and Darrynton Evans is ready for a monster 2019 season and the receiving corps only loses one contributor from last year, including standout wideout Corey Sutton, who found the end zone 11 times last season.

If the upset happens, it’s because...

The Mountaineers are just better.

Yes, that’s right.

Maybe that means this is not actually much of an upset. Regardless, if the Appalachian State defensive front steps up, a veteran and quality secondary will be waiting to pounce on any and all mistakes.

If and when it happens, don’t feel bad Tar Heel fans. App St. may just be the best team in the entire state of North Carolina.