Upset Saturday in the Sun Belt? Two Upset Specials to Look Out For

Last week was chaos week across college football. Highly ranked and favored teams from the upper echelon of FBS football down to the depths of the C-USA were either taken to the wire or beaten outright.

The Sun Belt did not escape the reach of chaos, either, as Troy was upset on the road against Liberty and Louisiana-Monroe nabbed the West Division’s first cross-division win when the Warhawks took down Coastal Carolina.

Eris isn’t quite done with the Sun Belt, though.

Every week in the conference is Trap Week, helping earn it the FunBelt moniker. Saturday presents another opportunity for weirdness to ensue.

Where the lightning strikes within the Sun Belt slate is still unknown.

There are two games, however, that stand out as quietly interesting contests. The outcome of each game has already been etched into stone by many, leaving only the pageantry of the events to play out.

This won’t be the case, though. A pair of home crowds 767 miles apart could be in for quite a surprise.

Appalachian State vs Louisiana-Lafayette

The Mountaineers are rolling. Ever since nearly beating Penn St on the road, Appalachian St has yet to allow a team to hit double digits on the scoreboard. The Mountaineer defense has only allowed two touchdowns in the past four games.

That’s a hell of a stat, but unfortunately for the folks in Boone, the invading Cajuns are going to trample over that number behind a fierce three-horse stable.

I’m putting App St on high upset alert.

The three games immediately following the Penn St loss were against Charlotte, Gardner-Webb and South Alabama. They were impressively dominant wins but came against teams that aren’t exactly packing some heat on offense.

The trouncing of Arkansas State was impressive, but the Red Wolves hadn’t put together a decent outing from their offense until the Thursday night win over Georgia State.

The Rajin’ Cajuns bring to North Carolina a threat that only the Mississippi St Bulldogs have quelled. One that not even the Crimson Tide could slow down.

An utterly explosive ground attack.

Led by Trey Ragas, Elijah Mitchell and Raymond Calais, ULL has ran circles around just about everyone it’s come across. The Cajuns have three games in which they amassed more than 300 rushing yards. That’s tied for most in the Sun Belt with Georgia Southern, the team that literally does nothing but run the ball.

Last week against New Mexico St, the Cajuns were extremely balanced on offense. This lead to 759 yards and 66 points.

They’re proficient in extending drives and finishing in the redzone. This makes ULL a dangerous team against anybody it plays.

ULL isn’t exactly bringing a top-notch defense with it on the road, though. The Cajuns must find a way to slow down Zac Thomas and the Mountaineers own prolific run game.

The key to minimizing Thomas’ impact is pressure. The Cajuns struggle in the secondary, but Thomas does not force the issue and will throw the ball away or take the sack when pressured.

Billy Napier is going to need his defense to get aggressive and keep the Cajuns in the game.

 

Louisiana-Monroe vs Texas State

The other Louisiana school will be staying home this week and host the 1-5 Bobcats. Texas St has a whopping three conference wins since 2015. Everette Withers’ squad may very well make it four against the Warhawks.

Louisiana-Monroe is coming off of a convincing and much needed win against Coastal Carolina. The last thing the Warhawks need to do is squander it.

However, Texas St might just be ULM’s perfect storm.

The Bobcats have been a thorn in the Warhawk’s side for a minute. One of Texas St’s three conference wins in the last three years is a 16-3 victory over ULM in 2015. In 2016, Texas St fell just six points short and last year had one of its better offensive showings of the season in a 45-27 loss.

The Bobcats’ key this year is strong front seven play accompanied by a breakout game from the offense.

As bad as Texas St is, it actually fields a strong run defense led by one of the top linebacker groups in the Sun Belt.

There are a few things that make ULM dangerous on offense: a slippery Evans, occasional burst from running back Derrick Gore and the uber-talented Marcus Green.

Shut down Evans’ ability to make plays with his feet and keep Gore from giving the Warhawks balance and you’ve got the recipe for stopping ULM.

Containing Green will be more important in a difference facet of the game. Texas St is not good in close game situations.

The Bobcats have crumbled in tight battles with UTSA, South Alabama and Georgia Southern already this year. The last thing Texas St needs is for Green to make a difference on special teams.

Green has a punt return touchdown this year and has five total return touchdowns in his career.

Offensively, Texas St has the talent to score but not-so-though-out playcalling has held it back.

The Bobcats may have found the answer at quarterback in freshman Tyler Vitt. They’ve also got an incredibly athletic tight end in Keenan Brown to work with.

Vitt has been the primary quarterback in the last three games for Texas St. In that span, Brown has 16 receptions and three touchdowns compared to 10 receptions and one score the previous three games.

As for the playcalling thing, Texas St has a new man on duty. Quarterbacks coach Bud Elliot will take over as the play caller for running backs coach Zak Kuhr.

Of the two potential upsets I’ve presented here, I’m more confident in the latter. Nonetheless, don’t be surprised if either happen.

 

 

 

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