We’ve finally reached the thick of the Sun Belt schedule and boy did it get crazy in a hurry. South Alabama upset Troy on Wednesday night and took home the Belt. With a Troy loss, the top of the Sun Belt is suddenly much more open than it was before.
Georgia State (2-2, 1-0) at Louisiana-Monroe (3-2, 3-0)
Spread: ULM -7
The Panthers are looking to turn their season around and took a step in the right direction last week with a win over Coastal Carolina. Georgia State’s task is much greater this week with a road game against the red-hot Warhawks of Monroe.
Louisiana-Monroe has found itself quickly atop the Sun Belt standings but now have the arduous task of holding that position. The Warhawks havn’t had much trouble scoring but the defense has been a major work in progress. ULM allowed 50 and 43 in its first two games and then allowed 27 against a Texas State team that was averaging 10 points per game heading into the contest.
This could be a trap game for ULM, partly because Georgia State is starting to find a rhythm on offense. After averaging 296.5 yards per game through the first two contests, the Panthers have gained 366.5 yards a game in the last two games. In those two games Georgia State scored 28 and 27 points. That’s not quite the 39.6 points the Warhawks have been scoring this year.
Georgia State is steadily improving behind quarterback Conner Manning’s uptick in production but may not have the juice to keep up with Caleb Evans and the Warhawks. Nonetheless, this is the Sun Belt and we’ve seen crazier. The Panthers are the best all-around team the Warhawks have faced in conference play thus far. I would avoid putting your money down on this one but if you did, take ULM by a hair.
Appalachian State (3-2, 2-0) at Idaho (2-3, 1-1)
Spread: App State-13
This will be the fourth meeting between these two teams and likely the last for a very long time. The Mountaineers are pitching a shutout in the series with a 3-0 advantage. Idaho is hosting Appalachian State for just the second time and could be in position to shake the Sun Belt up a little bit.
Idaho, much like other hyped Sun Belt offenses in Troy and Appalachian State, has under-performed for the most part so far. The Vandals are in the back half of the conference in total offense and quarterback Matt Linehan is completing just a smidgen over 60 percent of his passes this year. On the plus side, the defense has taken another step forward this year. Idaho is currently second in the Sun Belt in total defense. That can be mostly contributed to the stingy secondary and the 163 passing yards it allows per game.
The Mountaineers are benefiting from the reemergence of a now-fully healthy Jalin Moore at running back. Moore had himself a day last week, carrying Appalachian State to a 45-31 win over New Mexico State with 241 rushing yards. Which, by the way, is just the third most in his career. His performance was much needed with the team’s inability to move the ball through the air. The Mountaineers have had to lean on one dimension of offense in each game with inconsistencies plaguing the team. Fortunately, the Mountaineers have been able to move the football regardless of what is or isn’t working.
Appalachian State has had to fight for its conference wins and this one should be no different. Idaho possesses a dangerous offense that’s waiting to bust out and a sound defense. Though I wouldn’t take the Vandals outright, look for them to cover the spread.
New Mexico State (2-4, 0-2) at Georgia Southern (0-4, 0-1)
Spread: NMSU -7
The Aggies have fallen a couple of games under .500 and are in danger of losing five of their first seven games. Even worse, I’m starting to feel the pressure on my preseason prop bet of New Mexico State going over 3.5 wins. For the full preview of this game, click here.
Coastal Carolina (1-4, 0-2) at Arkansas State (2-2, 1-0)
Spread: Ark St -17
The Arkansas State Red Wolves are coming off the ugliest 18 point win you’ve ever seen. Arkansas State was outgained by over 100 yards, turned the ball over five times and held the football for just 21 minutes and yet was able to score 43 points in the game. Coastal Carolina, on the other hand, has fallen to a disappointing 1-4 start. Three of the Chanticleer’s four losses have been one possession games, including last week’s 27-21 loss against Georgia State.
Quarterback Justice Hansen has continued his roller coaster performances into 2017, completing less than half his pass attempts and throwing four interceptions against Georgia Southern. This coming off the heels of 570 yards and seven touchdowns to zero picks in the previous two games. Running back Warren Wand has been productive this year but has yet to carry the ball more than 14 times in a game. The team’s leading rusher has just 46 attempts but is averaging six yards a pop.
On offense, Coastal’s offense has been… interesting. The Chanticleers looked woefully one-dimensional early in the season before quarterback Tyler Keane exploded. In the first two games of the year, Coastal’s run game outgained the pass game 548-185. In the last two games, its been the pass attack that’s outgained the ground game 568-239. If head coach Jamey Chadwell can merge the two and limit the turnovers then Coastal could be in for a turnaround.
Arkansas State has a penchant for grinding out wins, whether they look good or not. The Red Wolves have lost the turnover battle in every FBS game they’ve played and are being outgained in total offense by opponents. Arkansas State should win this game, but Coastal is certainly better than its record suggests. Don’t expect the Red Wolves to win by over 17 after beating Georgia Southern by 18 last week. Take Arkansas State to win, Coastal to cover.