For the third consecutive season, the Sun Belt finds itself with a team ranked in the AP Top 25 after having never had any school crack the rankings in the conference’s previous history. Troy achieved the feat in 2017 and Appalachian State was able to crack the rankings last fall. It’s Appalachian State once again riding high as the 5-0 Mountaineers enter Saturday’s home matchup with UL Monroe at No. 24 in the poll.
With one streak intact, the Mountaineers will now try to snap another.
In each of the last two seasons, Troy and App proceeded to lose their first games after attaining their ranking. The Mountaineers will be heavy favorites against the Warhawks, but that was the case in the last two upsets as well.
The game is big for UL Monroe as well. As far as the conference standings go, the tilt up in Boone is marquee not because it involves a ranked team, but because it’s a meeting of the only two Sun Belt teams that are unbeaten in league play.
There’s still a long way to go in the season, but either ULM or Appalachian State will stay on top while the other will find itself a bit more cramped in the standings.
Bird battle in ‘Boro
A pair of teams out of the East will try to boost their bowl hopes as the Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina visit the Eagles of Georgia Southern Saturday afternoon. Coastal has seen a quick start dissolve into a 3-3 mark while Georgia Southern sits at 2-3 and is trying to build off the momentum of a comeback, double-overtime victory over South Alabama Oct. 3.
The Eagles will look to repeat last year’s 41-17 trouncing of the Chanticleers in Conway. To do that, the offense needs to show vast improvement over anything it has presented so far this season.
To be sure, there have been plenty of mitigating factors in the underwhelming offensive output. Starting quarterback Shai Werts missed two-and-a-half games to injury and starting running back Logan Wright is out for at least another month. Center Jakob Cooper suffered a concussion prior to the UL Lafayette game and has been medically disqualified for the season while projected starting right tackle Brian Miller was lost for the season with a hip injury sustained during fall camp.
Coastal has had little trouble lighting up stat sheets and scoreboards - but that goes for both sides of the ball. The Chanticleer offense is much improved from last season, however the defense has been porous at times. The Georgia Southern defense kept it in the game against South Alabama and this could be a race against the clock to see if the Eagle offense ignites before Coastal’s attack breaks through.
More midweek fun
UL Monroe many lead the West Division, but the winner of Thursday’s matchup between Arkansas State and UL Lafayette in Jonesboro, Ark. will be hot on the Warhawks’ heels.
The Ragin’ Cajuns and Red Wolves have passed Sun Belt titles back and forth for much of the last decade and it was ULL that won the first West Division crown last season. The annual matchup between the two has often been a make-or-break moment for each team’s season. That will be true once again as the loser will be in big trouble in terms of winning the division. The Cajuns have a bit more breathing room in terms of bowl eligibility thanks to a 4-1 start, but a loss for the Red Wolves on Thursday would drop them below .500 with less than half their schedule remaining.
Wednesday brings about another Sun Belt matchup - albeit not as high profile.
South Alabama visits Troy in an in-state rivalry game, but both teams enter focused more on themselves than on the other sideline.
The Jaguars sit at just 1-5 on the season and are struggling in their rebuilding efforts as they seem destined to fall short of bowl eligibility for a third consecutive season. And while Appalachian State is on cruise control despite an offseason coaching change, Troy hasn’t been quite as lucky.
The Trojans dropped an early game to Southern Miss and lost a key conference clash to Arkansas State. Their last outing didn’t help matters as Missouri stormed past them in a 42-10 rout. Troy is still on track to make it to a bowl, but any more conference losses will all but eliminate them from contention in the East.