Get Them Duke Boys! Week 6 Lessons from the Sun Belt

NEW ORLEANS - JULY 26: Photos of th 2022 Sun Belt Conference Football Media Days at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel on July 26, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The SBC finally cracks the AP Top 25 as entropy crumbles the standings

As a citizen of the Sun Belt, I’m very happy for The Dukes of James Madison, a program that his risen from the FCS like an indestructible zombie to humble the OGs of the Sun Belt. As a citizen of Arkansas State, I sit in darkness staring blankly into space, seeing my program denied the promise of AP Top 25 glory more than a decade after it was made a mandate by the university’s athletic director.

I’m likely not alone in my woe and chagrin. The Sun Belt is not without members who have yet to crack the AP – although that sad fraternity is quickly losing membership. It’s difficult to congratulate rivals as your own program finds no end to the road to national recognition. But we congratulate nonetheless. James Madison’s #25 ranking is good for the Sun Belt, great for the Dukes, and affirmation to us all that such a thing is possible.

The Mountaineers Have Become “The Cajuns of the East.”

Many years ago, a hypothetical question we sometimes asked over cigarettes and Busch beer was “It it worth beating a top Power Five team in exchange for a SBC title?” At the time, the answer was “yes” as the Sun Belt was buried beneath the radar of national notoriety.

Times of changed, as have circumstances. Since the day Marshall defeated #8 Notre Dame and Appalachian State downed #6 Texas A&M, both programs have been cursed. The Thundering Herd immediately fell to both Bowling Green and Troy, while the Mountaineers needed a miracle to defeat Troy at home, then dropped two conference games to James Madison and Texas State (!) respectively.

Appalachian State, preseason favorites to win the East and perhaps the entire Sun Belt, has become what the Cajuns are in the West – struggling former champions. With the rise of James Madison, the Mountaineers receive a taste of what they themselves (along with Georgia Southern) dished to the Sun Belt upon their arrival: the birth of a new guard.

Southern Miss Failed a Big Test

Gauging Southern Miss is difficult. Rebounding from a poor 2021 campaign and breaking in a new coach in Will Hall, it appeared that the Golden Eagles were primed for an understandable rebuild. Yet, with a victory over Tulane and a solid showing versus a ranked Miami squad, one wondered if Southern Miss was ahead of schedule. A 27-10 loss to the Troy Trojans reaffirmed expectations, as Southern Miss continued with its offensive woes, seeing starting QB Zach Wilcke tossing three picks to that tough Trojan defense.

The Golden Eagles aren’t quite ready yet.

Well Hello There, Bobcats

The Red Wolves and Warhawks both fell short on their respective upset attempts, but the deepest underdog, Texas State, drummed the heavily favored Mountaineers 36-24 in San Marcos. What does this mean for the Bobcats? It certainly injects a much needed jolt of confidence into their veins, who has seen starting QB Layne Hatcher struggle with mixed results. But are the Bobcats contenders? Everybody is a contender in the West. Let’s see how Texas State responds next week in Troy.

Coastal Carolina’s Pact With the Devil Remains Intact

The Chanticleers are the Jim Brown of the Sun Belt, refusing to expend more energy than necessary to close out a win. Again, this was underscored by Coastal’s low energy 28-21 victory over a plucky Warhawks team. Are these narrow victories somehow a part of Jamey Chadwell’s master strategy to ultimately win the Sun Belt West? So far, it’s working. Coastal is 6-0 and will likely make its upcoming match with Old Dominion a tight game as well.