Too Hot to Manhandle: What we learned about the Sun Belt in Week 4

The Sun Belt narrative has begun to swerve off-script

Quite frankly, we should have seen the signs from Thursday night’s game between Coastal Carolina and Georgia State – a meeting between two Sun Belt programs that have underwhelmed. Even though the Chanticleers entered the match 3-0, they were only a 2-point favorite to the 0-3 Panthers, a preseason darling who was thought to be vastly under-performing.

Coastal scored on the first play of the opening drive. Less than five minutes later, the Chants were up 14-0. By the end of the evening, Coastal Carolina was 4-0 and a 41-24 victor over Georgia State, the only Sun Belt program without a win. Some believed that Coastal, who had lost stars to the NFL draft and started a QB recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, was not longer a Sun Belt East contender. Thursday proved us wrong.

The 2022 Cajuns are, Indeed, Not Your 2021 Cajuns

Last season, Luisiana under Billy Napier was both an offensive and defensive force, led by an experienced quarterback and bearing 4-star talent on the roster. This year, the Cajuns are rotating their QBs, have yet to see a 100-yard rushing game from RB Chris Smith, and have lost to Rice and ULM, considered by most to be the weakest program in the Sun Belt. While many outside the Sun Belt considered Louisiana to be position to repeat as conference champs, it was clear to close closer to the SBC that Mike Desormeaux was working with imperfect clay. The road to the SBC West no longer goes through Lafayette.

South Alabama is the Power in the West (for now)

Troy is stout (having handed Marshall with another post Notre Dame loss) and Southern Miss has had its moments, but nobody looks stronger right now than the 3-1 South Alabama Jaguars, who made Louisiana Tech look absolutely sad on Saturday. The Jaguars were one blown sneak play against UCLA from being a perfect 4-0, and strong-armed transfer quarterback Carter Bradley has already thrown for more than 1,000 yards and ten passing touchdowns. The Jaguars are legit, and the schedule is primed for an undefeated Jags run.

Who Can Stop the Dukes Reign of Terror?

With Appalachian State up 28-10 at the half, I wittily aimed this dumb tweet at the James Madison Dukes:

Not only was it guilty of lamely referencing a movie from the 1990s, it seemed to completely ignore James Madison’s penchant for making fools of its critics. Jimmy Mads would shut out the Mountaineers in the second half while putting up 22 unanswered points for a 32-28 win. Now the Dukes, Old Dominion and Coastal have a head start on an SBC championship – for which James Madison isn’t even eligible. The Sun Belt East looks to be just as wide open as the West.

So What’s Going On, Marshall?

Since shocking #8 Notre Dame in Week 2, the Thunder Herd has lost to Bowling Green and most recently Troy (who should have beaten Appalachian State, too). Marshall’s offense (out-gained 418-169) looked terrible against Troy, with quarterback Henry Colombi throwing for only 49 yards in the 16-7 loss. What’s up with The Herd? Rasheen Ali is still MIA, but the Herd came in with the nation’s sixth-ranked rushing offense at 263.3 per game until running into the Trojans. Something stinks in Huntington, and I’m pretty sure it’s the football.