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Sun Belt prepares for first full week of conference play
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It doesn’t quite feel like the first week of fall in Statesboro, but just as the weather is supposed to be cooling down, the race for the Sun Belt Conference championship is ready to heat up.


A few conference games have already been played, but this Saturday marks the first full slate of Sun Belt action with four conference clashes on the docket.The Sun Belt has been hotly contested the last few years. This year figures to bring more of the same, but with an added twist.


The conference is now split into a pair of five-team divisions. The top team from each division will square off in the first ever Sun Belt championship game in December. 


Here is a look at some of the storylines running through the Sun Belt as Week 5 cranks up:



Coastal finally in Conway

With Hurricane Florence bearing down on the coasts of North and South Carolina two weeks ago, Conway, S.C. — home of Coastal Carolina — took a heavy hit and suffered immense flooding.


The Chanticleers moved a game that was scheduled for the Saturday the storm hit was moved up on the calendar and on the map. On Wednesday, Sept. 12, the Chanticleers traveled to Campbell, winning a road game originally scheduled for Conway.


From there, the entire team relocated to St. Augustine, Fla. Coastal continued to practice and overcame the adversity, beating Louisiana 30-28 last weekend. The Conway campus remains closed throughout this week, but Chanticleer players are back in town and will have a chance to make an early statement as a Sun Belt dark horse when they visit Troy on Saturday.



Mountaineers riding high

A quick look at just about any category in the Sun Belt team stats pages will reveal why Appalachian State is the odds-on favorite to win the conference title at the quarter post of the season.


The Mountaineers nearly pulled a huge upset in their season opener against a top-10 Penn State squad. Far from suffering a letdown after the near miss in Happy Valley, the Mountaineers have been lighting up the stat sheet ever since.


Appalachian rolled through Charlotte by a score of 45-9 in Week 2 before dismantling Gardner-Webb by a 72-7 margin last weekend. In those two games, sophomore quarterback Zac Thomas has gone 25-of-29 for 480 yards and four touchdowns, easing any concerns about replacing four-year starter Taylor Lamb.


The only thing that has been able to slow down the Mountaineers has been a literal act of God as Hurrican Florence washed out their Sept. 15 matchup against Southern Miss.

South Alabama will pay a visit to Boone this weekend.



Eagles look to leave mark

Every preseason poll made it clear that the prognosticators thought that Arkansas State, Troy and Appalachian State were the three teams with a chance to take home the Sun Belt title.


Georgia Southern can't complain about the lack of attention after a 2-10 mark in 2017, but the Eagles have shown plenty of sparks early on and have a chance to send a message to the rest of the league as they welcome Arkansas State to town for both teams' conference opener Saturday at Paulson Stadium.


The Eagles' search for a revived option offense has shown signs of success, but is still a work in progress. 


Head coach Chad Lunsford and offensive coordinator Bob DeBesse have been consistent in saying that the envisioned offense is much more dynamic than what has been seen so far, but that they want to see all of the building blocks of the scheme executed well before opening things up. 


That leaves a lot on the Eagle defense, which has shifted seamlessly into a new 3-4 scheme. 


Georgia Southern hopes that the third time will be the charm against Arkansas State. The Eagles have forced five turnovers from the Red Wolves in each of the last two meetings, but don't have a win to show for it.


A loss on Saturday will be a bump in the road for the building momentum in Statesboro, while a win could put the Eagles' rebuild a year ahead of schedule.