Divisional play has finally arrived in the Sun Belt. The two divisions will meet up over conference championship weekend and a true champion will be determined. The question now, in early summer, is who will those teams be?
In this series, I’ll dive into each team from the Wild West and try to make the best case for each team to represent the division in December. We’ll start with the one team absolutely nobody else will include in the division race discussion: Texas State.
The Bobcats have gone 2-10 in each of Everett Withers’ first two seasons at the helm. Texas State did improve in league play last season, however, taking down Coastal Carolina for its only conference win thus far in the Withers era.
As the current Oregon State of the Sun Belt, how can a case be made for the Bobcats in a sneaky good West division?
For starters, Texas State has been very young the past two seasons. The Bobcats did have veterans manning the field general position with Tyler Jones in 2016 and stopgap Damian Williams last year. Those quarterbacks were surrounded by youth, though, and weren’t particularly effective.
This year, the keys to the show are presumably being handed over to Willlie Jones III. Jones brings a level of excitement that neither of his predecessors did. A dual threat, the rising sophomore averaged over five yards a carry against teams over .500 last season.
He’ll have a deep group of running backs behind him, as well, as last year’s unexpected Stedman Mayberry departure forced several backs into action.
The trio of Anthony Taylor, Anthony Smith and Robert Brown combined for over 1,300 all-purpose yards last season and the return of a deep offensive line will only improve those numbers.
With an established ground game, an experienced line and a quick-footed quarterback, the Bobcats have a clear identity on offense.
Defensively, Texas State will still have a strong linebacker group with one of the conference’s top linebackers Bryan London II returning to anchor the unit.
Stopping the run was the team’s strong point on defense last year and the team’s most disruptive player, linebacker Frankie Griffin, is back to cause more havoc in the backfield.
In the secondary, the good news is that it really can’t get that much worse. Texas State recorded a whopping zero interceptions in 2017, the only team in the country to accomplish the feat, and had the second worst pass defense in the Sun Belt.
Withers signed five defensive backs in the last recruiting cycle and returns the bulk of his secondary in 2018. Plus, six of the Bobcats’ eight conference opponents are currently still working out their quarterback situations.
There are a multitude of 50/50 games for Texas State on this year’s schedule. If the Bobcats learn to close out games early, they could sneak into the division race by late November. 7-5, 4-4
There are a multitude of 50/50 games for Texas State on this year’s schedule. If the Bobcats don’t figure it out quick, they could be in for another long season. 2-10, 1-7