With the greatest sporting event in the Western Hemisphere now over, college football offseason content season has officially begun.
Back in late February, the Sun Belt Conference released the official 2018 football schedule and it’s time to dive into it.
This is the first season in Sun Belt history that will end in a conference championship game and the schedule reflects the new West/East divisions.
Each team plays every team in its division and then four teams from the other division. The only protected cross-division rivalry is the Battle for the Belt, Troy vs South Alabama.
- There are currently six games slated for national TV with all being weekday games. There will be at least one more guaranteed ESPN game with the conference championship game and it’s likely Troy vs Boise State will be nationally televised, bringing the total to nine games.
- Five teams will be on national TV at least twice this season while Georgia State and likely Troy will be on the ESPN network at least three times.
- Most Sun Belt teams are following the preferred non-conference scheduling format of one power five, two group of fives and an FCS opponent. However, the Louisiana schools are going a slightly different route with each team playing two SEC opponents.
- There are five teams that have all three of the SBC’s “Big Three” on their schedules (Arkansas State, Appalachian State, Troy). Of those five, Georgia State and Texas State will have the toughest time with the three. Georgia State is the only school that has to play all three on the road while the Bobcats will finish the season by playing all three consecutively.
Toughest Schedule Ranking
This ranking was created using my own highly scientific system based on a set of rules that I created. It is completely infallible and totally undisclosable.
As if playing at Mississippi State and at Alabama wasn’t tough enough, the Ragin’ Cajuns will have to play the Sun Belt’s Big Three back-to-back-to-back with two of those games coming on the road.
The season culminates in The Battle on the Bayou against Louisiana-Monroe, a series the Cajuns lead 27-25. It’ll be just the second time in the last decade that the two teams will meet in the season’s final week.
Toughest rating: 64
2. Georgia State
The Panthers have one of the tougher non-conference schedules in the Sun Belt, highlighted by back-to-back road games at North Carolina State and Memphis.
While GSU must go on the road against the Big Three as mentioned, a bye week separates the Troy and Arkansas State games and the matchup with the Red Wolves is immediately followed by two home games against Coastal Carolina and Texas State.
Toughness rating: 63.5
3. South Alabama
The Steve Campbell era will be tested quickly with a Louisiana Tech opener followed by a road trip to Oklahoma State. Following a home tilt with Texas State, the Jaguars will embark on a daunting three-game road stretch against Memphis, Appalachian State and Georgia Southern.
The biggest game on South’s schedule is a Tuesday home game against Troy in the Battle for the Belt. While the game is at home, the visitor has won this matchup the last three years.
Toughness rating: 62
4. Texas State
It’s been a slow rebuild for Everett Withers and this year’s schedule won’t be doing him any favors within the Sun Belt. No team in the conference has a tougher November as the Bobcats must face Georgia State on the road followed by three straight games against the Big Three.
Outside of the Sun Belt, Texas State’s nonconference slate is the lightest across the conference. It’s Power Five oppenent is Rutgers and the two Group of Five opponents are UTSA and New Mexico State. This would be ideal for many Sun Belt teams, just not Texas State.
Toughness rating: 61
5. Georgia Southern
The Eagles begin the Chad Lunsford era in earnest and they’ll have a pair of favorable games to open the season in South Carolina State and UMass that should help get the Georgia Southern offense into rhythm.
The Big Three are on the docket but they’re all at home and at three different spots in the schedule. The season will end with one of the Sun Belt’s finest rivalry’s with a road game against Georgia State, a game that could have bowl season implications.
Toughness rating: 60.5
Despite playing two SEC teams on the road, the Warhawk schedule is more favorable than it appears at first glance. ULM has a chance to establish itself early with Southeastern Louisiana and Southern Miss opening the season while Coastal Carolina and Texas State sit in the middle of the schedule.
Navigating November will be key for the Warhawks but it’s far from overwhelming. Games against rebuilding Georgia Southern and South Alabama set up a possible division-decider against Arkansas State before the season closes with the Lafayette game.
Toughness rating: 59.5
7. Coastal Carolina
Joe Moglia is back at the helm and will guide the Chants through a fairly balanced schedule. Coastal will not have to play any weekday games and its bye week comes directly after playing Troy.
Coastal will have to play Appalachian State and Arkansas State in back to back weeks but does have the luxury of playing both on the teal field, if that means anything.
Toughness rating: 58.5
8. Appalachian State
It’s understandable that the Sun Belt’s best teams have the easiest schedules. Not having to play against yourself is pretty nice.
After opening with Penn State, the Mountaineers have Charlotte, Southern Miss, Gardner Webb and then South Alabama to round out September. App State will play two midweek ESPN games and, if all goes well, could get a third in the season finale against Troy.
Toughness rating: 57
Troy opens the season and its new north endzone expansion with a monster of an opener with Boise State heading into town. Two weeks later, Troy will look to give Nebraska the LSU treatment. In October, Troy will be on ESPN twice-Georgia State and at South Alabama- with an interesting game at Liberty sandwiched in between those games.
The Trojans have three games against three rebuilds in November before the season capper at Appalachian State. Troy won’t have to play Arkansas State during the regular season but a major rematch from last year’s December contest could be in the cards.
Toughness rating: 56
10. Arkansas State
Arkansas State has been given the easiest schedule in the Sun Belt according to my formula. The Red Wolves will have to play Alabama but the rest of the nonconference slate is filled with Southeastern Missouri, Tulsa and UNLV.
The most interesting part of the schedule comes right in the middle with cross-division games against Georgia State and Appalachian State. November is fairly light but the ULM game could be pivotal in the West division race.
Toughness rating: 54