Week nine in the Sun Belt will answer several questions as the race for the conference crown begins heating up. Georgia State inched closer to bowl eligibility with a 21-13 Thursday night win over South Alabama that wasn’t as close as the score suggests. On Saturday, the top of the conference will be challenged while the bottom will see a battle for the 10th spot in our power ranking.
Appalachian State (5-2, 4-0) at UMASS (1-6)
Spread: App St -4.5
The Mountaineers were able to hold off Coastal Carolina last week 37-29 in a game that Appalachian State got off to a hot start but found itself down 19-17 at the half. The Mountaineers capitalized on a Chanticleer fumble and put the game out of reach with a Malik Williams touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Star running back Jalin Moore sat out several games due to injury but finally played a pair of games in October as a fully healthy back. Unfortunately, Moore went down again last week and missed the second half. The Mountaineers, who are also without Terrance Upshaw, then turned to the aforementioned Williams. Williams responded with 72 yards on 15 carries for two touchdowns. Moore should be available to Scott Satterfield but its certainly good to know you’ve got another capable back to deploy.
Quarterback Taylor Lamb had his first 400 yard game of his career in last week’s win but will likely spend the majority of his time handing the ball off or tucking it in himself against a UMASS defense that ranks 92nd nationally in run defense.
Appalachian State has shown a tendency to play to the level of its opponent this season. The Mountaineers should have beaten Wake Forest but came up one point short yet barely escaped Texas State and Coastal Carolina. Perhaps that’s why the spread is shockingly low. UMASS just notched its first win over Georgia Southern but appears to be at a physical disadvantage this week. Take the Mountaineers but if you don’t believe me, take it from our betting expert here.
Georgia Southern (0-6, 0-2) at Troy (5-2, 2-1)
Spread: Troy -26
Troy is coming off a much needed bounce back win over Georgia State while Georgia Southern is set to begin its new life following the dismissal of Tyson Summers. Check out the full preview, here.
Louisiana-Monroe (3-4, 3-2) at Idaho (2-5, 1-2)
Spread: Idaho -3
The Warhawks are stumbling after a hot 3-0 start out of the Sun Belt gates. Now their bowl chances are in jeopardy with a tough remaining schedule that features a missing 12th game.. for now. Idaho has seemingly regressed back to its usual spot as one of the bottom 20 teams in the country and are in dire need of a second conference victory.
Louisiana-Monroe took a surprising loss to Georgia State before falling to South Alabama last week. The Warhawks have begun to run out of gas offensively and the defensive issues are becoming even more glaring without the offense winning the shootouts. To open conference play, ULM gave up 50, 43 and then 27 to a bad Texas State team yet won all three games. Sooner or later playing that like that just won’t fly. Now saddled with back to back losses, the Warhawks face a must win against Idaho with Appalachian State, Auburn and Arkansas State still ahead.
The Vandals are in a similar spot but have a much easier path to six wins ahead of them. If Idaho continues to play below where it was last season, it won’t be able to win the four of five it needs to. Nonetheless, football is played one game at a time.
The Warhawks two conference losses came against the first two teams they played who were in the top half in the Sun Belt in scoring defense. Idaho is not quite there. In fact, the Vandals are just outside at seventh but there is a sizable gap between Idaho (31.7 PPG), New Mexico State (6th, 31.4 PPG) and fifth place South Alabama at 25.8 points per game. Idaho could be in for an uptick in offensive production but expect ULM to leave the Gem State with a win.
Texas State (1-6, 0-3) at Coastal Carolina (1-6, 0-4)
Spread: Coastal -8
One of these teams is going to get their first conference victory of the season and second win overall. Texas State’s struggles have been expected but it has shown plenty of potential for its future so far. It is surprising, however, that the Chanticleers have won only one game this year.
Each team won its first game of the year before embarking on a six game losing streak. The Bobcats and Chants have been on a collision course of destiny and the two finally meet in what will be a little-known brawl at the literal bottom of FBS-level football. Both teams have struggled defensively with Coastal being especially bad. At least with Texas State there are noticeable bright spots such as linebackers Bryan London and Frankie Griffin.
Offensively, Coastal is much better off despite playing with almost zero identity. Quarterback Tyler Keane returned fully healthy last week and had over 330 yards while star running back Osharmar Abercrombie had just 11 carries. Regardless of how the plays are called, the Chants don’t have much trouble picking up yardage.
On the other side, Texas State has had very few silver linings in its offense. The Bobcats are scoring just 15.5 points per game against conference opponents and when faced with the Sun Belt’s second worst scoring defense in Louisiana-Lafayette, Texas State scored a whopping seven points. Expect Coastal to pull slowly away in this one and cover the spread.
Arkansas State (4-2, 3-0) at New Mexico State (3-4, 1-2)
Spread: Ark St -3
The Red Wolves are rolling but could be on upset watch this week as a hungry New Mexico State squad makes its way to Jonesboro. For the full preview, click here.