The season has entered its fourth quarter, but it’s still to early to call
We kind of know who’s out, right? Arkansas State, ULM, and Texas State are all but cooked in the SBC West. The SBC East is still a bit of a shootout, though odds are grim for Marshall. That leaves ten programs with a slim-to-realistic shot at tasting the nectar of sweet championship victory. A crowded race for sure, but the culling begins in Week 10.
Thursday, November 3
Appalachian State at Coastal Carolina, 6:30 PM, ESPN
Yup, the Sun Belt gets the flagship ESPN broadcast on Thursday night for a game that either settles the East (more or less) or opens the door to everyone else in the division. Coastal’s victory over Marshall last week was a Reader’s Digest version of the Chanticleer season – coasting with minimum effort for a less-than-convincing win. Meanwhile, the Mountaineers have rediscovered their bloodlust after sacrificing Robert Morris to the great god Pan. We can’t think of the last time Appalachian State engaged in a win-or-die game (that wasn’t against Louisiana), but this is absolutely a must win game for Appalachian St.
Vegas Says: -3 Mountaineers
Howlraiser Says: This will be the sixth out of seven home games for Coastal, and the Chants are certainly tough in Conway. However, one would think that both head coach Shawn Clark and starting QB Chase Brice recognizes what’s at stake this Thursday evening and will find the gear necessary to leave the coast with a win.
Saturday, November 5
Marshall at Old Dominion, 1:00 P.M., ESPN Plus
A battle of Sun Belt newbies, the Monarchs will need a victory over the mercurial Thundering Herd if they’re to remain within striking distance of Coastal Carolina in the SBC East. Old Dominion never seemed to have a grip on Georgia State, who ran a whopping 50 times on the Monarchs for 223 yards. On the flip-end, Marshall gave up 21 first-quarter points to Coastal last week, then held the Chants to a field goal for the game’s remainder.
Vegas Says: -3 Thundering Herd
Howlraiser Says: Unless your ranked opponent like Notre Dame and James Madison, the Thundering Herd doesn’t seem too interested winning games. Unless the AP suddenly has a love connection with the Monarchs before Saturday, look for ODU to rebound and remain relevant – at least for another week.
Georgia State at Southern Miss, 2:00 P.M., ESPN Plus
The Panthers have already wrecked one Sun Belt Southern, so why not collect the set? Georgia State shrugged off the Monarchs’ stout red zone defense easily enough last week, and will test themselves again against Golden Eagles’ “Nasty Boys” defense on Saturday. Hattiesburg has been good to Southern Miss, who is playing with extraordinary confidence after piling up three consecutive wins.
Vegas Says: -2 Golden Eagles
Howlraiser Says: Betting against Southern Miss has likely drained the coffers of many an experienced gambler these recent weeks. Will Hall’s bunch are playing way above their heads, and it will be interesting to see of the good-fortune continues to roll against Shawn Elliot and the Panthers. Honestly, I have no pick here. I’m helpless!
South Alabama at Georgia Southern, 3:00 P.M., ESPN Plus
The Jaguars looked unstoppable against the offensively challenged Red Wolves on Saturday, but now South Bama gets Clay Helton and his gunslinger Kyle Vantrease in Statesboro. South Alabama has yet to face an offense as explosive as Georgia Southerns’, the SBC’s top ranked and the 11th in the nation. But the pressure to keep up with front-running Troy may be enough motivation for Kane Womack and his 15th ranked defense to shut the Eagles down.
Vegas Says: -4 Jaguars
Howlraiser Says: Vegas really likes the SBC visitors this week. Carter Bradley and Jalen Wayne have had remarkable chemistry this season for South Alabama, and running back Ladanian Webb enters the game the reigning SBC Offensive Player of the Week. That said, Statesboro is a very tough place for visitors. Take the Eagles with the points.
Troy at Louisiana, 4:00 P.M., ESPN Plus
The Cajuns looked to be ready to make noise after bodying Marshall and Arkansas State, but Louisiana hasn’t risen to the challenge when facing programs of a higher caliber. The Troy Trojans are definitely a high caliber program, bearing a defense so stingy it shames Ebenezer Scrooge. Cajuns Field is no picnic ground, but we doubt that Jon Sumerall is in the mood for chicken and Capri Suns.
Vegas Says: -6 Troy
Howlraiser Says: The Cajuns can be cagey, and these two programs have traded haymakers for decades. However, Troy seems destined to win the SBC West this season, while Louisiana seems fated to watching the steam seep from what was once the strongest program in the conference.
Texas State at ULM, 4:00 P.M., ESPN 3
Somebody is emerging from Malone Stadium with two conference victories and a jolt of confidence heading into 2023. The Bobcats have endured two narrow defeats since shaking Appalachian State’s faith in reality, scoring only 14 points in both losses. ULM, the Sun Belt’s lovable losers, have lost four straight since pulling the curtain back on Louisiana and has taken progressively more brutal beatings before taking a BYE breather last week.
Vegas Says: -1 Warhawks
Howlraiser Says: Vegas gives ULM the Malone nod, and maybe it’s deserved. The Texas State offense hasn’t done much to support a defense that has kept the Bobcats in games, but without reward. Meanwhile, scoring points has not been the Warhawks’ issue. Go ahead and take that generous point and roll with ULM.
James Madison and Louisville, 6:30 P.M., ESPN U
Jimmy Mads lost two games and a Top 25 ranking before staggering into a much needed bye. Now it appears that Coach Cignetti is all business in his pursuit to take down the Cardinals.