Sun Belt football has had its one shining moments against the SEC. ULM drop-kicked Arkansas in Little Rock in 2012 (fourteen seasons previously, the Warhawks had given Nick Saban and Alabama a loss). Georgia State, a 25-point underdog, shocked Tennessee at Knoxville in 2019. Georgia Southern flabbergated Florida 26-20 and ESPN called it the worst loss in school history. Heck, why not include the 1993 Arkansas State Indians, who tied Mississippi State? Sure, it’s pre-Belt era, but I need to feel good about this article.
The reality is, for every victory the Sun Belt has over SEC football, the SEC has more than 10 against the Sun Belt. Of the 165 games the SEC has played versus the Sun Belt, I count just five played at Sun Belt venues (curiously, three of those game played by Mississippi State). It means more in the SEC, but that doesn’t stop them from loading the dice.
Why do I care? Consider this: the Sun Belt plays the SEC far more than any Privileged Five conference. A normal human-being would glance at these numbers and assume that there is a jolly-good rivalry at play. After all, the Sun Belt has only played its natural peer rival, Conference USA, just 107 times.
Does the SEC consider the Sun Belt its rival? I’m kinda thinking no. Ask an SEC fan that question, and they’d like say something painfully pompous, like “our only rival is the violent convergence of spacetime and cosmic entropy.” Still, for the sake of journalism, I went ahead and asked an SEC fan:
How does the Sun Belt/ SEC Rivalry Look in 2021?
Because the SEC is clever and crafty, it finds itself at home (as usual) facing five Sun Belt programs who aren’t the conference’s strongest.
|September 18||Ga. Southern||Arkansas|
|September 25||Georgia St.||Auburn|
|November 20||S. Bama||Tennesee|
It doesn’t look great. For example, the Warhawks are an early 27.5 dog to Kentucky. However, one can envision Georgia Southern, even in a year where it may be rebuilding, creating triple-option problems for Arkansas. Furthermore, Georgia State has already punished the Vols for underestimating the Panthers, and history tells us that new Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin is prone to overlooking opponents. Kane Womack, the new head coach at South Alabama, seems like a guy who’d have his squad ready for a dejected Tennessee, who will likely be out of any football conversations by November 20.
Not great, but not terrible. In fact, 2021 looks to be a solid entry into the heated, seething, varicose Sun Belt/sec rivalry.
PHOTO CREDIT: Mine, dawg