The Sun Belt Conference could not have scripted a better ending to the no-championship-game-having era with four one-loss teams heading into mid-November. While it is cupcake week and the Sun Belt’s slate of Saturday’s games are relatively weak, we could be in store for some unforeseen wackiness. Teams are still jockeying for a sixth win and are entering the final gladiator weeks. Four and five win teams are squaring up with each other with the hopes of gaining a leg up and an added payout in December. Let’s take a look at week 12 in the Sun Belt.
Louisiana-Monroe (4-5, 4-3) at Auburn (8-2, 6-1)
Spread: Auburn -36.5
Out of the three 4-5 teams in the conference, the Warhawks have by far the lowest chance of reaching six wins. The reason being is because Monroe’s remaining strength of schedule is the 28th toughest in the country and toughest in the Sun Belt according to ESPN’s FPI. After Auburn, Monroe still has Arkansas State and then a road game at Florida State. There’s always next year.
Warhawk quarterback Caleb Evans has been on fire as of late, throwing for 761 yards in the last two games and setting himself up nicely for our inaugural Sun Belt Player of the Year Award. How Monroe plays over the next few weeks will be indicative of what kind of step forward the team will take over the offseason.
Monroe doesn’t have much of a chance here, 1.1 percent to be exact according to the FPI. I know the title alludes to me bringing you an upset but c’mon, this ain’t it. As for the spread, don’t be afraid to take Monroe. The Warhawks have a lightning offense and a backdoor cover is very much in play if it comes to that.
Texas State (2-8, 1-5) at Arkansas State (5-3, 4-1)
Spread: Ark St -26.5
The Red Wolves are coming off of their yearly disappointment against South Alabama and are now among the four one-loss teams in the Sun Belt. The Bobcats, while on a two game losing streak, look a hell of a lot better than they did when this season started. The front seven is formidable and the offense is actually starting to find some rhythm. Whether or not that will continue against an angry Arkansas State squad is still up in the air.
Arkansas State is lead by quarterback Justice Hansen, who is second in the conference in passing yards and first in passing touchdowns. He leads an offense that scores a conference-high 37.8 points per game and gains over 450 yards a game. The Red Wolves offense matches up well with Texas State’s defense, which struggles with defending the pass. The Bobcats held Georgia State against the ropes last week but it was the Conner Manning-Penny Hart connection that propelled the Panthers to a 33-30 victory.
Damian Williams has come alive as of late, averaging 301.7 passing yards per game in the last three contests. His play has given the Bobcats a chance in every game recently, something Texas State isn’t used to having. To me, this is the easiest Sun Belt bet of the week. Even though the Red Wolves are more likely to come out hot than deflated, I have to respect how Texas State has played recently. Take the Bobcats against the spread.
South Alabama (4-6, 3-3) at Georgia Southern (0-9, 0-5)
Spread: USA -4.5
South Alabama just pulled a South Alabama and took down a Sun Belt stalwart in Arkansas State last week. The Jaguars even did so without star running back Xavier Johnson, who is suspended for the remainder of the season. Georgia Southern, on the other hand, is still winless through nine games.
The Eagles have improved under interim head coach Chad Lunsford, losing by an average of only two touchdowns per game since Lunsford took over. That’s certainly better than the previous six games of losing by around 23 points a game, but I guess anything is better than Tyson Summers. Lunsford will be rolling with both Shai Werts and Kado Brown at quarterback after Werts struggled against the Mountaineers last week.
As for South, quarterback Cole Garvin shredded the Red Wolves secondary to the tune of 343 passing yards while the offense as a whole tallied 340 yards. Yeah, you heard that right. The Jags ran for a whopping -3 yards. Only 12 times since 2000 has a team ran for negative yards and still won (four of those times were Rutgers and Maryland).
In order to complete a full act South Alabamaism, the Jaguars must lose this game and lose this game they will. The Jaguars run game is in shambles without Johnson and I have my doubts about Garvin repeating last week’s performance. Georgia Southern is due for a win so go ahead and make that money line bet, the football gods want this to happen.
New Mexico State (4-5, 2-3) at Louisiana-Lafayette (4-5, 3-2)
Spread: NMSU -4.5
Easily the top game of the week, both teams are in the same boat heading into Saturday. Both the Aggies and the Rajin’ Cajuns need to find two wins in the next three games to reach bowl eligibility. The winner of this game will be put in great shape while the loser will have to win its last two games to reach the postseason. For the full preview, click here.
Coastal Carolina (1-9, 0-6) at Idaho (3-6, 2-3)
Spread: Idaho -7.5
If you’ve made it this far, I commend you. If you actually have an interest in a game between two sub-.500 teams from opposite ends of the country whose programs are literally heading in opposite directions, then you should probably go outside sometime. They’ve got some great stuff out there.
The Vandals are on their last leg. Idaho can’t afford to lose again and must find a way to win out in order to reach a bowl game for the second consecutive year. In 100 years of football, Idaho has never accomplished that feat. Regardless, and even with only three wins thus far this year, Idaho has won more games in the past two years than it had in the previous five years combined. Going out with a bang is the only way a Petrino knows how to do it.
So, after not talking about the game at all and not even mentioning the Chanticleers, I’m going to tell you who to bet on and you’ll listen closely. Coastal had a great showing against Arkansas a couple of weeks ago but let’s be real, so did everyone else. The Chants were brought back to earth by Troy in a 42-17 home shellacking. The offense has a high ceiling but there are simply too many holes in the defense for Idaho quarterback Matt Linehan to take advantage of. Idaho will win by double digits.
If you agree with me and win money alongside me, you can catch me on twitter @scottiewatkinsTU. If you think I have no idea what I’m talking about or you lose money then you can argue with me @AlexFunderburke and he wi- I mean I will tell you why you are wrong.