Last year, #SunBeltHeat was a miserable 13 and 34, with nine of those wins coming at the expense of the FCS. Just two weeks into the 2016 season, the Sun Belt is 9-10 against OOC foes, with four of those wins against G5 and P5 opponents. Were it not for some unfortunate booting from Appalachian State against Tennessee, and some “It just wasn’t meant to be” applied to Troy against Clemson, the Sun Belt would be the hottest conference in college football. And the most dangerous.
The Sun Belt’s only winless programs went bowling in 2015: Georgia State and Arkansas State. How about shoveling a little coal for The Heat, Panthers and Red Wolves? They will be first in line in Week 3, when the Sun Belt will need all the coal it can pitch with 6 of 7 OOC match-ups on the road, and three against ranked opponents. Of course, I merely raise these concerns out of polite consideration to the chilly laymen who do not benefit from #SunBeltHeat.
Remember, #SunBeltHeat is derived by the following top secret formula that was developed by sports scientists and sorcerers in a secret laboratory beneath the Mercedes Benz Superdome:
P5 Condescension x ESPN3 + Righteous Fury / “Any given Saturday” = #SUNBELTHEAT
As always, #SunBeltHeat can only be administered to non-Sun Belt opponents and is programmed to become self-aware sometime in the 32nd century.
Arkansas State vs. Utah State, September 16th, 8:00 PM CST, CBSSN
Chance for winning (ESPN FPI): 26.7%
Let’s be honest: Arkansas State kinda sucks a big bag of carrot sticks right now. The offense is a 3-and-out machine, the defense is treating tackling like it’s optional, and A-State has been outscored this season 24-82. However, before this uneven performance against Auburn compels us to give up on the defending Sun Belt Champs, bear in mind that A) Gus and his Tigers benefited from some crazy luck on Saturday, 2) the Red Wolves starting QB is just now finding rhythm with the offense, and 3) anywhere from 12 to 17 Red Wolves were barely recovered from the flu by game time. This match-up against Utah State, whom Coach Anderson beat during his first year in Jonesboro, looks like a great bounce-back game. THE BRUTAL THROTTLING YOU ENDURED BY SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WILL FEEL LIKE A PLEASANT BREEZE COMPARED TO A FURNACE BLAST OF #SUNBELTHEAT, AGGIES!
Sun Belt Heat Index: 50% with 0% chance of projectile vomit
Adjusted Chance for Winning: 76.7%
Georgia State vs. #9 Wisconsin, September 17th, 11:00 AM CST, BTN
Chance for winning (ESPN FPI): 1.6%
Both Arkansas State and Georgia State sauntered into 2016 feeling cocky about its defense, but the Panthers head into a top-tier Big 10 game having just surrendered 48 points to the high-flying Falcons of Air Force. More alarming for the Panthers: Trent Miles’ offense managed only 6 first downs against Air Force, none on the ground. Kendrick Dorn led the Georgia State “rushing attack” with a microscopic 15 yards on five attempts. Connor Manning continued to struggle as well, averaging about five-and-a-half yards per completion and earning a grim 33.1 QBR (a dip from his 40.4 QBR against Ball St.). Now the Panthers get a taste of the #9 Wisconsin Badgers, who humiliated LSU in Week 1 before crushing Akron in Week 2. Perhaps a combination of “Looking Ahead to Michigan State” plus a double-dose of #SunBeltHeat is all the advantage Trent Miles needs? WE’RE GONNA GO WITH THAT!
Sun Belt Heat Index: 90% because “panthers have all the anthers!”
Adjusted Chance for Winning: 91.6%
#25 Miami vs. Appalachian State, September 17th, 11:00 AM CST, ESPN
Chance for winning (ESPN FPI): 36%
Lo, the Mountaineers were but a couple accurate kicks from destroying the Tennessee Volunteers’ professional status forever. Now head coach Scott Satterfied gets a second chance to close escrow on an AP Top 25 team when #25 Miami wanders into the misty mountaintops of Boone. Appalachian State delivered the business-only win against Old Dominion in Week 2, thanks to 3 first-half touchdowns from the bone-breaking abilities of Marcus Cox, whose claim to being the Sun Belt’s best rusher continues to receive fresh cement. The Hurricanes aren’t Old Dominion, tho, and they proved it BY PUTTING THE THUMP ON FAU. Wait a second. Is this some kind of typo? Did the AP really put Miami into the Top 25 for beating FAU? Are we just out of Power 5 teams to placate?
Sun Belt Heat Index: 250% minus 100% for having no AP votes because FAU isn’t on the schedule, I guess?
Adjusted Chance for Winning: 186%
Idaho vs. Washington State, September 17th, 1:00 PM CST, PAC 12 Network
Chance for winning (ESPN FPI): 5.5%
Idaho was unable to ride the momentum of its magical victory over Montana State to upset #18 Washington, but so what? Paul Petrino and his secret counsel of schedule makers managed to squeeze in the lessor Washingtonian, the Cougars, in Week 3. So clever! “We got whooped!” said Petrino after falling 59-14 to the Huskies. But (wink!) we know the Vandals got “whooped with a purpose,” concealing all the good stuff for Washington State, who received a solid Group of Five gut punch from Boise State in Week 2 on top of a punishing FCS humiliation from Eastern Washington in Week 1. If Matt Linehan can do better than the 26.6 QBR he recorded against the Huskies, and if Paul Petrino can convert his napalm temper into clean-burning #SunBeltHeat, Washington State could be the Power Five’s next Sun Belt victim. Bwaa-HA!
Sun Belt Heat Index: 94.5% if somebody from Moscow-Pullman Daily News can make Paul angry by Saturday
Adjusted Chance for Winning: 100%
New Mexico State vs. Kentucky, September 17th, 3:00 PM CST, SEC Network
Chance for winning (ESPN FPI): 11.9%
Yes, New Mexico STATE! Yes! Well done, Aggies, delivering a “So You Thought You Belonged in the Big XII?” flying elbow to your Mountain West rival New Mexico. Now you’re a respectable thirty-TWO and seventy against the Lobos, who must stare darkly into the abyss of madness as you hoist the New Mexico Victory Cactus high overhead. (NOTE: I’m just assuming you guys get a victory cactus; no research, just gut.) Now you get Kentucky (pronounced Ken-TUCK-eee by the great Daniel Day Lewis), who played a solid half against Southern Miss before graciously allowing the Golden Eagles to destroy them in Week 1. A throttling at the hands of Florida has only deepened the Wildcats’ dismay, setting the stage for a second New Mexico State upset, who has yet to see the mighty Larry Rose III suit up. Win this game, Aggies, and smirk in the general direction of Coastal Carolina.
Sun Belt Heat Index: 60% because the Wildcats are terrible and you are not that terrible despite that loss to UTEP
Adjusted Chance for Winning: 71.9%
Troy vs Southern Mississippi, September 17th, 6:00 PM CST, NO VIEWING AVAILABLE
Chance for winning (ESPN FPI): 38.5%
Ho, hum, all Troy did in Week 2 was make the Clemson Tigers question their very existence, taking the #2 team in the nation to the final whistle and compelling Heisman candidate Deshaun Watson to apologize to his fans. Now the Trojans and Neal Brown get a crack at a Southern Miss team who not only crushed Savannah State last week (hey, good work, you savage bully), but also opened the season by generously reminding Kentucky fans that basketball season is only two months away. Golden Eagle signal caller Nick Mullins is having an okay season so far (5 TDs and a QB rating of 171.5), but then again, so is Troy’s Brandon Silvers (4 TDs, 53% completions, 133.3 QB rating). With legit Sun Belt Beast Jordan Chunn setting the stage, “Silvers and the Trojans” should have a victory over Southern Miss and a new hit single by the end of the game.
Sun Belt Heat Index: 65%, my cut as agent and manager for the new pop sensation “Silvers and the Trojans.”
Adjusted Chance for Winning: 103.5%
Texas State vs. #24 Arkansas, September 17th, 6:30 PM CST, SEC Network
Chance for winning (ESPN FPI): 4.6%
Perhaps no one was more surprised about Texas State’s marathon victory over Ohio than Texas State, picked to finish at the bottom of the Sun Belt as new head coach Everett Withers re-claws the Bobcats. But here’s the thing we all kinda forgot: Bobcat QB Tyler Jones is good. The senior was an insane 44-55 against Ohio throwing for over 400 yards and 4 scores. Can Jones do the same against an Arkansas secondary that isn’t great? Maybe. Can the Texas State defense penetrate a Razorback offensive line that weighs at least 50 Russell Crowes? Why not? The Bobcats have the Heat, don’t they? Because Texas State was enjoying a nice siesta in Week 2, the Razorback staff has the Ohio game and zip to study. Meanwhile, the Hogs delivered everything it owned in narrow wins against Louisiana Tech and TCU. Look for Wizard Withers to use a mixture of #SunBeltHeat science and sorcery to upend Arkansas.
Sun Belt Heat Index: 95% plus .4% because #SunBeltHeat science and sorcery is an exact science. And sorcery.
Adjusted Chance for Winning: 100%
Games in the Sun Belt for which beautiful #SunBeltHeat is not required
ULM vs Georgia Southern, September 17th, 5:oo PM CST, ESPN 3
South Alabama vs. Louisiana, September 17th, 6:00 PM CST, ESPN 3