What Did We Learn From Our First Week of Sun Belt Football?

Well, we’ve finally got our first full week of football under our belts, so what did we actually learn from all this football that took place?

Slow Starters Everywhere

A number of offenses took a lot longer than we’d like to get rolling. Texas State, Troy, South Alabama and Coastal Carolina were outscored by a combined 104-17 in the first half.

Of course, nearly getting shut out by Rutgers and needing to storm back against Louisiana Tech at home is not the same as facing South Carolina on the road, but most of the conference might not be quite as ready as we thought to shock the world.

Appalachian State is the best team?

Troy laid an absolute egg against Boise State at home, getting burnt repeatedly over the top by the same plays and players. The offense had its moments, but Boise had about as many big drives as Troy had big plays.

Arkansas State was at home against FCS Southeast Missouri State and didn’t start putting the game away until the second half.

Meanwhile, App State nearly pulled off an upset before they ran out of gas in Happy Valley, but the fact remains that at least on paper, the Mountaineers nearly won what was easily their hardest game of the season. The rest of the Sun Belt should be concerned.

The bottom of the conference might not change as much as we thought

Georgia Southern took a good long while to get rolling against South Carolina State, especially when it came to protecting Shai Werts. There was definitely a lot more option-y action but it was not necessarily a return to roots like many might have hoped.

Texas State’s fourth and fifth offensive plays were a 16-yard pass and a 22-yard rush, but they only managed 176 total yards for the game. The defense had some strong moments, with three total interceptions on the day.

Two of those came in the second half from Kordell Rogers, one of which he returned for a touchdown, and the other of which… the Bobcats fumbled right back two plays later for a Rutgers defensive touchdown.

Coastal Carolina got 9 of their 15 points and 134 of their 243 yards in fourth-quarter garbage-time drives of a game they were trailing 42-6 at the time, and while we expected to see them lose and/or struggle against South Carolina, there weren’t a ton of positives to take away.

Too much hype too soon?

Louisiana-Monroe and Georgia State both required come-from-behind performances in order to win home openers against FCS opponents.

Georgia State’s defense played well, and their offense struggled against a legitimately good defense from a preseason top-five FCS program, so I think a win is a win there.

For the Warhawks? They might be even more of a “hoping to win a bunch of shootouts” team than I thought. Southeast Louisiana is definitely known for their offense, but if ULM is going to have that much trouble in this game, a number of other games just got a lot more challenging.

Should be an interesting year in Mobile, Al

Steve Campbell went for it on his very first fourth-and-short of the season, followed up his first touchdown with a successful onside kick, and was a whisker away from turning a 13-0 deficit into a 14-13 lead in the span of about five plays.

In the second half, the Jaguars forced two interceptions, but preceded those drives with turnovers of their own. This game was a wild one, and if Campbell intends to be this kind of risk taker in general, there should be a lot more wild ones to come.

What to look for next week

Week 2 isn’t going to tell us a whole lot, I don’t think.

Arkansas State, South Alabama and Georgia State are all likely going to hit the road and experience various forms of getting dominated.

Troy will stay home to take out their frustrations on Florida A&M, while App State will do the same on the road against Charlotte. If we’re lucky Texas State will do the same against Texas Southern.

So what’s left that’s interesting?

Georgia Southern will host UMass and we’ll learn a lot about where the Eagles are at as a team. UMass is two games into their season and have done the destroying against Duquesne while getting destroyed at Boston College.

Georgia Southern is very much between those two teams in a lot of ways, so a lopsided result would be very telling in either direction. What will the defense do against a more potent offense, and how will the offense handle a better (but more pass-oriented) defense?

Coastal Carolina will host UAB, and while the Blazers are a less formidable opponent than South Carolina, they will need to find some consistency and efficiency on offense in order to hang in this game.

Louisiana-Monroe will dip over to Hattiesburg to face off against Southern Miss, and will probably try to win another shootout. The Warhawks should be nothing if not entertaining this season.

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