The Sun Belt had a pretty good Saturday over the weekend, despite letting two winnable games against the AAC slip away. Georgia Southern managed to cool Campbell. Appalachian State put away Charlotte. Yeah, and the conference picked up a trio of victories against the Big XII, including a nationally ranked Iowa State program
This reaction was typical:
As usual, it wasn’t a matter of the Sun Belt having better teams. The Big XII teams just weren’t prepared! They had too much on their minds! They must have played down to their competition! The footballs were filled with yak hair (of which we are allergic)!
Whatever, man. Three wins is three wins. The national voices made Iowa State a Top 25 team, and Louisiana paid them look silly. The Kansas State Wildcats were a 13 point favorite at home, and the Red Wolves weren’t having any of it. They called last year’s Coastal Carolina win over Kansas a fluke, and the Chants piled up points on Les Miles just to remind him who’s grass is greener.
Sun Belt Heat is captain now.
So how’d we do it? Sorcery? Voodoo? Blackmail? Interestingly enough, none of those things. Let me break it down for you, Sun Belt foreigners.
The Sun Belt Has Been Marshaling Strength for Some Time
The Sun Belt went through a recent period of subtraction and addition, with a number of FCS programs making the painful jump to FBS competition. Appalachian State and Georgia Southern transitioned smoothly enough, but South Bama, Texas State, Georgia State and Coastal Carolina seemed overwhelmed at times.
The growing pains are nearly gone. Georgia State put up a legendary win over Tennessee (somehow ranked #15 at the moment) last season, while South Alabama pitched this year’s first conference upset over Southern Miss. The Bobcats are 0-2 but suddenly look competent on the field, and Coastal Carolina is sneakily applying that Baseball National Champions energy into football.
The bottom of the conference is no longer a punching bag.
The Sun Belt Can Play
Listening to the Kansas State broadcast, you’d come to believe that every G5 team is comprised of 5’8″ receivers and 200lb defensive linemen. Red Wolves wide receiver Jonathan Adams was viewed as some kind of physical anomaly. What’s he doing in Jonesboro?
Thing is, the Sun Belt and the Group of Five have been eating talent share from P5 programs for awhile now. Athletes can chose to cool their talents behind Privileged Five 5-Stars, or make a big impact at a G5. Players are choosing the latter. TV deals and social media have closed the exposure gap. We have the talent. It was only a matter of time before the Sun Belt began closing escrow and drinking the coffee.
The Sun Belt Just Wants It More
That sounds a little SEC-y, but it’s true. We see your condescending attitude about the Sun Belt, and we really just wanted to pop you in the chops.
Just relax, Big XII fans and acolytes. This is something Chuck Darwin called “evolution.” You stopped growing, but we didn’t. Accept your fate.
A former notary public, Jeremy Harper is a professional writer and Chief Instigator for Storm the Castle Creative. He spends much of his free time staring blankly into space.