What we learned: Sun Belt Week 1

James Madison and Old Dominion enter the chat like sailors bursting into a saloon.

The Sun Belt delivered a solid if not overly spectacular opening salvo to start the 2022 season, finishing 7-7. What are the takeaways? I’ll give you mine, even if you didn’t ask.

If You Can’t Win, Lose Entertainingly

Appalachian State’s defense, which may prove to be the Mountaineer’s Achilles Heel in weeks to follow, didn’t have enough juice to support an offense that put up an incredible 40 points in the fourth quarter. North Carolina won 63-61 while piling up 560 yards of offensive on Appalachian State, but the national storyline was the wild atmosphere in Boone, giving fans a burst of Sun Belt they won’t soon forget.

The Sun Belt Crushed the FCS

You’re supposed to beat your FCS opponent. However, the Sun Belt was without mercy in Week 1, going a clean 5-0 against FCS opponents while never surrendering more than 7 points per opponent. Only Louisiana provided a semblance of struggle, with the SBC Champs dispatching SE Louisiana 24-7. Overall, the Sun Belt outscored the FCS 220-20 in Week 1.

James Madison Proved The Dukes Belong

Do the Dukes have FBS size, strength and depth? Middle Tennessee thinks so after enduring a thorough 44-7 drumming underscored by six passing touchdowns from James Madison quarterback Todd Centeio. If there was any doubt that James Madison belonged in the FBS, those misgivings were obliterated.

Texas State Disappoints Again

Southern Miss failing to close out Liberty in a 4OT marathon against the Flames was disappointing, but not as woven with chagrin as the Bobcats’ joyless 38-14 loss to Nevada. Jake Spavital may never find the winning ingredient in San Marcos.

Old Dominion Did Good (but are they good?)

It’s not fair to find any blemishes on the Monarchs’ 20-17 victory over Virginia Tech, but Old Dominion certainly needs more offense from starting QB Hayden Wolf (14/35, 165 yards, 0 TDs) if they want to compete in the Sun Belt East. Still, it was a spectacular optics win for the Sun Belt, and a solid start for Old Dominion entering a new conference.

Panthers and Trojans Get a Pass

Panther’s quarterback Darren Grainger struggled mightily agains the Cock Commander defense, completing only seven of 29 passes for 111 yards, one TD and a pick. Still, Georgia State kept the score close until the second half, when South Carolina outscored the Panthers 23-7. Meanwhile, the Trojans never seemed to look comfortable against Ole Miss, not finding the end zone until the fourth quarter when Gunnar Watson connected with RaJae’ Johnson to bring the Trojans to a final score of 28-10. While both results were disappointing, both are move-on games away from home from sold SEC opponents.

Texas is Back (at Thwarting Schools from Louisiana)

The Vegas line was 38 in the Longhorns’ favor, but the Warhawks weren’t up to defending that. ULM finally found the end zone with 3:30 remaining in the fourth, narrowing the score 10 to 52. The Warhawks weren’t entirely stifled. The offense managed a dozen first downs, and the defense snagged a pick, but overall it was an inglorious defeat for the Warhawks and head coach Terry Bowden.