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Sun Belt Power Rankings: Week 2

By Jack Fitzpatrick

What a wild Week 1 it was.

Georgia State got things going on Thursday night by almost losing to Rhode Island, but thanks to a whacky and terrible first down call the Panthers avoided an FCS loss. 

From there it got weirder.

App State had to bench its QB to avoid losing to an FCS school, so did JMU. Marshall’s offense struggled to score 21 against an FCS school too! Meanwhile, Texas State upset Baylor!

Honestly the top of the rankings didn’t see a ton of shake up since they all looked questionable at times. However, outside the Top 4, nearly every team moved.

  1. South Alabama | Last week: 37-17 loss to No. 24 Tulane

No change here for South Alabama. Despite the loss, I still think it showed flashes of good play. Cliche incoming here, the game was a lot closer than the final score may indicate. Defensively though, there are some questions. If they have another shaky defensive showing they may fall a bit. 

  1. JMU | Last week: 38-3 win vs. FCS Bucknell

This was a weird game. Alonza Barnett, a redshirt freshman, got his first career start and only completed three of 11 passes for fifteen yards. Two of those three completions came back-to-back, so a bit of an iffy showing. Jordan McCloud, the redshirt senior from Arizona, came in and led a scoring drive on three of his four possessions. That performance led him to be named QB1 vs. UVA this Saturday.

At the end of the day, JMU’s calling card of defense showed up and held Bucknell to zero touchdowns and just three points that came before the end of the half. Defense is what will propel JMU to another great season and it showed out, especially in the second half. That defense is the reason they are second in this week’s power rankings. 

  1. Troy | Last week: 48-30 win vs. FCS SFA 

I couldn’t drop the Trojans too much since it was a win, and they hung 48 points up! Granted their passing attack left a bit to be desired, only throwing for 198 yards but their rushing attack was lethal. Troy rushed for 342 yards on 8.1 yards per carry! We all expected this Troy defense to be good this year, much like it was in 2022. Letting SFA hang 30 on you is a bit interesting and why they stayed at three this week. 

  1. Coastal Carolina | Last week: 27-13 loss vs. UCLA

Coastal traveled across the country to play UCLA this past weekend. They didn’t play horribly and the defense held UCLA to 27 points. I think with all factors considered this team is still a top program in the Sun Belt this year. 

  1. App State | Last week: 45-24 win vs. Gardner-Webb

It is no longer the Burger show it appears in Boone, North Carolina. Ryan Burger went 7-11 for 73 yards and one touchdown. He was benched in the first half after the Mountaineers offense struggled to get anything going and Gardner-Webb held the lead. Joey Aguilar came in and threw for 174 yards on 11-13 passing and 4 touchdowns. If App’s offense continues to look how they did with Aguilar as the signal caller they have the potential to be a solid Sun Belt East team this season and make up for the 6-6 campaign a year ago. 

  1. Texas State | Last week: 42-31 win vs. Baylor

Wow! Texas State beat Baylor for the first time in program history in head coach GJ Kinne’s first game at the FBS level. The wide open attack Texas State deployed lived up to the hype and hung 42 points on a Big 12 team.

Kinne in the offseason added 53 transfers to his roster, and in a Deion Sanders type of way, came out in Week 1 and shocked the country with a massive win against a Big 12 team. Texas State, behind that historic performance, catapulted up the rankings and really proved me wrong. This is going to be a dark horse contender to win the Sun Belt West in Kinne’s first year. Texas State may have finally nailed a coaching hire! 

  1. Marshall | Last week: 21-17 win vs. FCS Albany

App State didn’t lose any points for a closer than expected win over Gardner-Webb, nor did JMU. So why does Marshall fall a few spots for its four point win over Albany? Because that offense was a liability last year and the offense appears to be an even bigger liability this year. 

  1. Georgia Southern | Last week: 34-0 win vs. FCS The Citadel 

Georgia Southern didn’t have a defense at times last year. This year? A Week 1 shutout. That is good! Albeit, The Citadel’s coach was literally saying his team was trash. 

I am taking the positive out of this game and moving Georgia Southern up one spot. If they have a somewhat competent defense this season, it can be a good squad.  

  1. Louisiana | Last week: 38-13 win vs. FCS Northwestern State

The Ragin’ Cajuns had 429 yards of offense against Northwestern State and held the Demons to under 200 yards. That is a good week 1 showing from a Louisiana team that went 6-7 last year. 

  1. Southern Miss |Last week: 40-14 win vs. FCS Alcorn State 

Good showing out of a Southern Miss team that was picked to finish fourth in the Sun Belt West and had the 8th most preseason points in the coaches poll. They have a gauntlet coming up, at Florida State and then home against Tulane, both ranked opponents. If they have good showings they can really make a name for themselves heading into Sun Belt play on Sept. 23 vs. Arkansas State. 

  1. Georgia State | Last week: 42-35 win vs. FCS Rhode Island

The Panthers made me look foolish! And for that they fall to near the bottom of the rankings. This offense is still electric and the backfield duo of QB Darren Grainger and RB Marcus Carroll has the potential to gain the most yards in the Sun Belt. This defense though is abysmal! They aren’t great at covering receivers, the Panthers defense struggles to tackle and Rhode Island dominated the line of scrimmage. The only thing that Georgia State does well on defense is allowing the other team to score! 

  1. ULM | Last week: 17-13 win vs. Army

Close gritty win over a bad Army team is always a good way to start the season for a ULM Warhawks team that went 4-8 a season ago and hadn’t won a season opener since 2019 vs. Grambling State. 

  1. ODU | Last week: 36-17 loss to Virginia Tech 

Only reason they aren’t last is because they didn’t lose by 73. 

  1. Arkansas State | Last week: 73-0 loss to No. 18 Oklahoma  

73-0. Need I say more? 

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