We’re halfway through the season, which means it’s time for The Midseason State of the Sun Belt Address. Now is when we reach deep and ask ourselves, where is this relationship going? After Georgia Southern’s 24-35 loss to Georgia Tech last week, the Sun Belt fell to 15-22 with 6 out-of-conference games left. The Sun Belt won’t break .500 this year, but the conference is already two wins ahead of last year’s 13-34 effort.
Is the Sun Belt better, worse, or treading water?
RealTime RPI currently ranks the Sun Belt the 8th best conference, ahead of the MAC and CUSA. Last year, the Sun Belt finished 9th. The Jeff Sagarin Rating, which breaks conferences out by divisions, has the Sun Belt ranked 18th, between Conference USA East and CUSA West, and just ahead of the MAC East. The Sun Belt finished 19th last year. Colley Rankings ranks the Sun Belt 9th, ahead of CUSA. After Week 7, two Sun Belt teams crack the Top 50 (Troy and Appalachian State) in the USAToday computer composite rankings.
How about less sophisticated measurements? The Sun Belt has endured one loss to the FCS (thanks Arkansas State!). But so has the Big 12 and ACC. The Big 10 has twice as many FCS losses, and the MAC has 4. Success against the FCS isn’t sexy, but it’s necessary. But how does the Sun Belt measure head-to-head against the other conferences? I made a chart!
|Conference||W||L||Best Win||Noble Defeat||Embarassing Loss|
|MW||3||3||South Alabama 43, #19 San Diego St. 24||Arkansas St. 20, Utah St. 34||Louisiana 10, Boise St. 45|
|MAC||2||3||Appalachian St. 45, Akron 38||Georgia St. 21, Ball St. 31||Arkansas St. 10, Toledo 31|
|CUSA||2||1||Troy 37, Southern Miss 31||NA||New Mexico St 22, UTEP 38|
|AAC||0||2||NA||Louisiana 39, Tulane 41||Texas State 3, Houston 64|
|SEC||1||5||South Alabama 21, Mississippi St. 20||Appalachain St. 13, Tennessee 20||Texas State 3, Arkansas 42|
|ACC||0||3||NA||Troy 24, Clemson 30||Appalachian St 10, Miami 45|
|PAC 12||0||2||NA||NA||Idaho 6, Washington St. 56|
|Big 12||0||1||NA||NA||ULM 17, Oklahoma 59|
|Big 10||0||1||NA||Georgia St. 17, Wisconsin 23||NA|
|FCS||7||1||NA||NA||Arkansas St. 23, Central Arkansas 28|
The Sun Belt is a respectable 7-9 versus peer conferences, a hearty 7-1 versus the FCS, and a disappointing 1-11 versus Power Five opposition. The conference has six more opportunities to improve these numbers in the second half of the season.
So is #SunBeltHeat getting hotter or what?
We not exactly seeing watershed improvement here (admittedly, I thought we’d see more dramatic improvement), but the Sun Belt is gradually elevating its quality of play. This in spite of featuring 3 new head coaches, two lame-duck programs, and two teams that weren’t even playing the sport of football ten years ago. Yes, it would have been nice had Georgia State and Arkansas State, a combined 0-7 in OOC play, contributed some #SunBeltHeat. And those Noble Losses are haunting indeed. But the Sun Belt isn’t leaping ahead of the AAC overnight. Patience!
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 Super Dome:
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.
Tennessee Martin vs Georgia State, October 22, 2:30 PM CST, ESPN3
Chance for winning (ESPN FPI): 75.5%
Not to be confused with the more fun-loving Tennessee Steve or the sexy-but-dangerous Tennessee Kevin, Tennessee Martin is 4-3 and is currently sharing the peak of the Ohio Valley Conference with Eastern Illinois. It may concern Georgia State to know that TM can score. Discounting the Skyhawks’ opening 28-7 loss to Cincinnati, Tennessee Martin is posting 44 points per game, largely on the cannon arm of signal caller Troy Cook who leads the FCS’ 27th ranked passing attack. UT-Martin collected some votes in the last FCS poll, too, which makes the Skyhawks more legit FCS competition the most of the Sun Belt has seen in 2016. All this leads to one question: So? YOUR FCS SKILLS WILT BEFORE THE POWER OF #SUNBELTHEAT! PREPARE FOR THE MOST INTENSE ATOM VIBRATION OF YOUR LIFE, MARTIN! The Skyhawks rank 70th in the FCS for defending the pass, which should allow for the Sun Belt’s leading receiver Robert Smith to have a banner afternoon in the Georgia Dome.
Sun Belt Heat Index: 7%, plus an additional 1,000,000% if a Georgia State fan arrives to the Georgia Dome dressed like “Tennessee Martin Short.”
Adjusted Chance for Winning: 82.5%
ULM vs New Mexico, October 22, 8:00 PM CST, NO TV AVAILABLE
Chance for winning (ESPN FPI): 15.4%
Darth Viator and his imperial Warhawks are coming off a victory over Texas State, a total domination unseen since Hoth. (Honestly, did the Rebels put up any fight outside of knocking over two AT-ATs? And did this thing even work?) Now ULM gets New Mexico, who already endured a blast of #SunBeltHeat from New Mexico State. The 3-3 Lobos, ranked 127th for passing, aren’t exactly lighting it up through the air. Like
most all lobos, New Mexico does their damage on the ground with a toothy rushing attack that is piling up 357 yards per game. Wow. Good thing the Warhawks are great at stopping the run! Nix that. They’re terrible at stopping the run, allowing 268 yards per contest. TOO BAD YOU CAN’T OUTRUN #SUNBELT HEAT, NEW MEXICO! YOU’RE FACING THE 5TH MOST POTENT OFFENSE IN THE SUN BELT, LO-BROS! BURN!
Sun Belt Heat Index: 100% – 15.4% for the unauthorized use of “Lo-Bros.”
Adjusted Chance for Winning: 100%
Games in the Sun Belt for which beautiful #SUNBELTHEAT is not required
Troy v South Alabama, October 20th, 6:30 PM CST, ESPNU
Idaho v Appalachian State, October 22nd, 2:30 PM CST, ESPN3
Louisiana v Texas State, October 22nd, 6:00 PM CST, ESPN3
Georgia Southern v New Mexico State, October 22nd, 7:00 PM CST, ESPN3
Arkansas State is taking the week off