Photo courtesy of Old Dominion athletics
Sun Belt, Fun Belt.
The conference that was considered to be the weakest conference in major college football not that long ago has now found itself scrambling to the top of the Group of 5. The Sun Belt has come out on top in conference realignment while colleague Conference USA has faltered pretty hard.
There was a time where many Power 5 teams would have their Sun Belt opponent slated as an “easy win” but that’s not the case anymore. Sun Belt teams are liable at any time to get up and whip your tail.
Week 1 offers some great opportunities for the conference to do just that. Here’s a look at the week’s top games in the conference, ranked from most to least exciting:
1. Virginia Tech at Old Dominion
Old Dominion is a new member of the Sun Belt. The Monarchs could help put the Sun Belt on the map early with a huge win over instate opponent Virginia Tech. The last time the Hokies visited Old Dominion in Norfolk, they did not have a good time, losing 49-35. Can it happen again!?
2. North Carolina at Appalachian State
The Mountaineers could easily argue that they have been the best college football program in their state of North Carolina over the past decade. Also, it is pretty awesome that in Week 1, the Sun Belt has two Atlantic Coast Conference programs visiting. Appalachian State already beat North Carolina in 2019. Would anyone really be surprised if it did it again?
3. Georgia State at South Carolina
We have seen Georgia State beat a SEC East team before when it topped Tennessee in 2019. Last season, Georgia State had Auburn on the ropes late. This will be its first matchup with South Carolina. The Panthers have built a scrappy roster and a big win could be huge for perhaps finding fans in the city of Atlanta. The schools are only three hours apart.
4. Troy at Ole Miss
Remember in 2017 when Troy waltzed into Baton Rouge and defeated LSU? Could it be an upset formula waiting to happen when the Trojans visits Ole Miss? The Rebels have some roster turnover, and will be trying to find themselves in Week 1.
5. Middle Tennessee at James Madison
James Madison has been a dominant FCS team making the move to FBS. Middle Tennessee is a former Sun Belt team that was looking for greener pastures in Conference USA and is now stuck. This is an opportunity to kick a program while it is down.
Best of the Rest
6) Louisiana-Monroe at Texas
7) Army at Coastal Carolina
8) Liberty at Southern Mississippi
9) Texas State at Nevada
10) Norfolk State at Marshall
11) Nicholls at South Alabama
12) Southeast Louisiana at Louisiana
13) Morgan State at Georgia Southern
14) Grambling State at Arkansas State