The race for the Sun Belt title continues to heat up as Troy and Arkansas State barrel down a collision course for each other and Appalachian State hangs onto to its perfect Sun Belt record by a string. The Trojans were able to hold off Idaho late last night to remain in the hunt for the crown. Idaho, on the other hand, drops to 3-6 and must win out to see a bowl game in its final season at the FBS level.
New Mexico State at Texas State
Spread: NMSU -10
The Aggies are in danger mode now with a 3-5 record heading into the final quarter of the season. The remaining schedule is somewhat soft and it starts with this week’s game at Texas State. The Bobcats are 2-6 and coming off a win over fellow cellar-dweller Coastal Carolina.
Everette Withers’ team is playing for experience and have shown signs of a brighter future. A win over New Mexico State would give them a major confidence boost for the rest of November. Texas State just had its best offensive outing of the year against Coastal, tallying up over 500 yards of offense.
Quarterback Damian Williams had a season high 269 passing yards and completed 71.1 percent of his passes. Four different running backs combined for 198 of the team’s 238 rushing yards. Expect the Bobcats to stay on the ground this week against an Aggie defense that ranks eighth in the Sun Belt against the run.
New Mexico State has looked like a team on the edge of doing something big all season long. Now, it must simply stay alive. The Aggies will have to go vertical on offense against a Bobcat defense that has struggled against the pass.
Texas State has steadily improved and was able to nab a conference win last week. However, New Mexico State is the best three win team in the Sun Belt so expect the Aggies to win. As for the spread, the Bobcats field an underrated defense and New Mexico State is prone to falling into slumps throughout games. On the flip side, Texas State is highly inconsistent with the football. Just stay away from this one.
Appalachian State at Louisiana-Monroe
Spread: App St -9.5
The Mountaineers are coming off a loss to one of the country’s worst teams in UMASS. On the bright side, Appalachian State remains unbeaten in Sun Belt play. That could change on Saturday, though, when it travels to Monroe to take on the Warhawks.
Louisiana-Monroe has fallen apart as of late, losing three in a row to drop to 3-5. With the toughest remaining schedule in the conference, its bowl hopes are all but gone. Nonetheless, Appalachian State has played down to nearly every team its been favored to beat and the Warhawks still have some fight in them.
ULM’s offense has plateaued at 23 points lately despite Caleb Evans impressive play. The defense hasn’t played well all season and its caught up to the Warhawks. Five of the six Sun Belt teams that ULM has played had their best conference performance offensively against the Warhawks. They’ve basically been the Sun Belt’s punching bag.
The machine that is App State faltered in a fairly ugly game that ended in overtime last week. The two teams combined for 22 penalties and seven turnovers in the contest. The Mountaineers will need to cut down on the mistakes before getting into a shootout with ULM.
App State is a near double-digit favorite in this one but take it from me: never bet on an App State involved game.
Georgia State at Georgia Southern
Spread: Georgia St -4
One of the Sun Belt’s premier rivalries will be on display this week as Georgia State looks to reach five wins against a recharged Georgia Southern squad that is still looking for its first victory of 2017. You can get a full preview of this game right here.
Louisiana-Lafayette at South Alabama
Spread: USA -5.5
Both teams are among the many three-win teams in the Sun Belt and are both 2-2 in conference play. A Rajin’ Cajun win will pull them to .500 while dropping South to 3-6. This early November contest is a pivotal one for each teams postseason hopes.
Lafayette appeared to have found some answers defensively for a couple of weeks before Arkansas State dropped 47 on them on a Thursday night. The Cajuns have given up an astounding 38 touchdowns through just seven games. The crazy thing is that isn’t even the worst mark in the conference.
South Alabama has only found offensive success against Louisiana-Monroe, a good sign for the Jaguars considering Lafayette is as bad if not worse than the Warhawks. The Jags certainly have the talent at wide receiver and running back but have lacked decent quarterback play all year long.
Cajun quarterback Andre Nunez may be the X factor in this one. If he finds a rhythm against a Jags defense that ranks ninth in pass defense then Lafayette should pull away in this one. Take the Cajuns.
Coastal Carolina at Arkansas
Spread: Ark -23
Well, this could get ugly. Coastal Carolina is still recovering after taking a beating from Texas State. Never thought you’d hear that sentence, did you? The Hogs gave a new swag to them after mounting the largest comeback in school history in a 38-37 win over Ole Miss.
The Chanticleers still lack much of an offensive identity. They’ll use multiple quarterbacks and play pass-heavy one game and then lean on running back Osharmar Abercrombie the next. Perhaps that will be an advantage this week, but perhaps not.
Coastal has been absolutely porous on defense, giving up 27 to Texas State last week and 37.9 per game for the season. Arkansas’ problems all start on the offensive line and unfortunately for Coastal, the Chants aren’t the greatest at getting into the backfield. They average 4.5 tackles for loss per game which is 113th in the nation.
Arkansas has found its most success whenever it finds a defensive line it can beat up on. When that happens, it’s hard to slow down the run game. Case in point: three different running backs split last week’s carries and together had 192 yards. I typically stay away from large spreads unless I truly believe the underdog will cover. I do not believe.