Week 9 Sun Belt Previews

Troy (1-6) at South Alabama (4-2) Oct. 24, 7:30, ESPNU 

Here’s The Deal: Just when it seemed like Troy was about to turn a corner after a decisive win over New Mexico State, pfffffffft – the air went out of the balloon. The Trojans got their doors blown off by Appalachian State 53-14 in a loss that was every bit as ugly as the final score, and now things get even tougher with three of the next four games on the road. The offense can’t score and the defense can’t stop the run – that’s a problem. 

South Alabama is on a three-game winning streak and in the thick of the Sun Belt title chase. The Jaguars slipped by Georgia State, and they need this win with three of the next four games on the road including make-or-break dates against Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State. The offense picked up the pace after the schedule eased up, and the defense has been better than the overall stats. 

What’s Going To Happen: Troy’s offense will sputter and cough as the USA defensive front hangs out in the backfield and the secondary stalls the passing game. It’s not going to be aesthetically pretty, but the Jaguars won’t have a problem. 

Prediction: South Alabama 34 … Troy 17 
Line: South Alabama -14 o/u: 54.5 
Must Watch Factor: 5: Dumb and Dumber To – 1: Manhattan Love Story … 1.5 

Georgia Southern (5-2) at Georgia State (1-6) Oct. 25, 2:00, ESPN3

Here’s The Deal: It’s the best team in the Sun Belt vs. the worst, but it could turn into a huge moment for a Georgia State team that’s playing far better this year, but still can’t get a win over anyone but Abilene Christian. Three of the Panthers’ six losses came by three points thanks to a strong passing game to offset a defense that’s not a brick wall, but is improving. 

Meanwhile, Georgia Southern has been fantastic, cranking out a four-game winning streak after losing to Georgia Tech. The Eagle offense continues to run at will, and while New Mexico State provided a bit of a push a few weeks ago, there haven’t been any problems. This starts a run of three road games in the next four, with the one big showdown coming in mid-November against Navy. This, though, shouldn’t be a problem if the Eagles play up to their abilities. 

What’s Going To Happen: The Georgia Southern ground game has been unstoppable, funning for 300 yard or more in every game but the two losses to NC State and Georgia Tech with four rushing scores in the last five games – and running for three touchdowns against Appalachian State. Georgia State will throw a bit, but it won’t have any chance to stop the machine. 

Prediction: Georgia Southern 45 … Georgia State 24 
Line: Georgia Southern -17 o/u: 66.5 
Must Watch Factor: 5: Dumb and Dumber To – 1: Manhattan Love Story … 2 

Texas State (3-3) at ULM (3-3) Oct. 25, 3:30 

Here’s The Deal: Just when it seemed like Texas State had a shot to jump into the Sun Belt title chase, it to steamrolled over by a hot Louisiana-Lafayette ground game in a 34-10 loss. Now the Bobcats have to go on the road for three of the next four and four of the next six games. Can the offense gear it back up again after a dud against the Ragin’ Cajuns? The run defense has had problems, and ULM has to take advantage. 

The Warhawks have lost two straight on the road, and they desperately need this win with four of the last five games away from home and the lone home oasis coming against Louisiana-Lafayette. The offense isn’t doing enough, but the defense has been solid enough to stay in games. 

What’s Going To Happen: If you like high-flying scoring games, this might not be for you. ULM can’t score, and both defenses should control the game. Texas State will come up with a few early scoring drives, and ULM will struggle to catch up. The Bobcats have too much offensive balance. 

Prediction: Texas State 31 … ULM 23 
Line: ULM -2.5 o/u: 53.5 
Must Watch Factor: 5: Dumb and Dumber To – 1: Manhattan Love Story … 2