Sun Belt Power Rankings: Week 6

By Jack Fitzpatrick

At this point in the Sun Belt season I think we know the teams that will be in contention for the Sun Belt east and west in just a few months. It is also fair to say that Texas State isn’t a flash in the pan and that Southern Miss has unequivocally taken the “worst team in Sun Belt” title away from Arkansas State.

This past week of action saw App State win on a walk off field goal, JMU squander another hefty lead and Texas State drop 50 on the road. OH! And Georgia State, my preseason darling, struggle against the Troy defense. Let’s get into how things stand. 

  1. James Madison (5-0, 2-0) | Last week: 31-23 W vs. South Alabama

JMU is the best team in the Sun Belt. Second half meltdowns and all. The Dukes boast one of the most efficient passing offenses in the league, QB Jordan McCloud is second in passing efficiency and is 20th in the nation in EPA/Pass. On the defensive side, JMU is anchored by the best rush defense in the nation and the secondary has taken strides to catch up, currently the secondary ranks 41st in the country in EPA allowed per pass. I think the Dukes have taken a strong hold of this number one spot for the time being. 

  1. Marshall (4-0, 1-0) | Last week: 41-35 W vs. ODU

Marshall comes in as a strong number two. They could have held on at one if the Thundering Herd’s defense could have slowed down the Monarchs a bit more. This offense though! Hanging 41 points up is a promising step in the right direction. 

  1. Troy (3-2, 1-1) | Last week: 28-7 W @ Georgia State

Troy’s defense just held one of the most electric offenses in the conference in check for 60 minutes. The Trojans allowed just 298 yards of total offense, and 105 yards on the ground. It was by far the best defensive performance for Troy on the season, and it came on the road which is always big. The offense still leaves a bit to be desired but with such a strong defense it doesn’t matter too much. 

  1. Georgia Southern (4-1, 1-0) | Last week: 38-28 W vs. Coastal

Georgia Southern is good. They are currently second in the conference in EPA margin at 0.209. This offense is averaging 0.173 EPA/Play and the defense, which was a worry coming into the season, is averaging -0.036 EPA/play, 35th in the nation. The Eagles are also 39th in the country in net points per drive with 0.68. I think this team is better than expected on offense and vastly improved on the defensive side. 

  1. South Alabama (2-3, 0-1) | Last week: 31-23 L @ JMU

South Alabama actually had a better success rate on a per play basis than JMU this past weekend. The issue? The Jaguars defense allowed some explosive plays early on and just couldn’t catch up from there. Also, not a great look for the South Alabama offense to struggle through the air against a JMU secondary that has been known to allow a lot of yards this season. 

  1. App State (3-2, 1-0) | Last week: 41-40 W @ ULM

Going to Monroe, Louisiana and coming out with a win, no matter how, is a good thing. It was also the first road win for the Mountaineers since winning at Texas A&M last season. 

  1. Georgia State (4-1, 1-1) | Last week: 28-7 L vs. Troy 

Didn’t want to drop the Panthers too far this week just due to the fact that Troy’s defense is good and they ran into a buzz saw. However, this is twice now that I rank the Panthers high and they just can’t come through. I think the Panthers are good but not sure they will be contending for the SBC East crown. 

  1. Coastal Carolina (2-3, 0-2) | Last week: 38-28 L @ Georgia Southern

Coastal might be a fraud for the second straight year. The Chanticleers won a ton of close games a year ago which helped their win loss record. This season, especially the last two weeks they haven’t inspired confidence. Currently Coastal ranks 83rd in the country in net points per drive at -0.58. However, it is 44th in the country in expected points added per game. 

  1. Texas State (4-1, 1-0) | Last week: 50-36 W @ Southern Miss 

Texas State is the best team in the conference in EPA/game. The Bobcats rank 22nd in the nation with an EPA margin of 0.257 thanks in large part to the second most efficient rushing attack in the nation. The reason Texas State is still closer to tenth than fifth is because they are 1-1 against “good” teams and have really padded their stats against bottom feeder programs. A convincing win this week on the road against Louisiana though could go a long way in pushing them up.

  1. ULM (2-2, 0-1) | Last week: 41-40 L vs. App State

Letting that game slip away hurts. Defense is an issue, the Warhawks have allowed 88 points the last two games. 

  1. ODU (2-3, 1-1) | Last week: 41-35 L vs. Marshall

ODU is a bit more feisty than expected. Doesn’t mean they are good though. 

  1. Arkansas State (3-2, 1-0) | Last week: 52-28 W @ UMass

Arkansas State went on the road and picked up a huge win over UMass. The Red Wolves have come a long way from Butch Jones crying earlier this season.

  1. Louisiana (3-2, 0-1) | Last week: 35-24 L @ Minnesota

I know it is a Big Ten school, but it is one of the worst in the conference and to lose by 11 and not look competitive is a tough L to be handed.  

  1. Southern Miss (1-4, 0-2) | Last week: 50-36 L vs. Texas State 

Southern Miss, what are you doing?! 

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