Week 2 was probably not a joyous occasion if you’re into college football betting. It was also pretty rough for Nebraska fans, Notre Dame fans, and Texas A&M fans.
Even Alabama fans got a little sweaty.
You know who had a great time?
Everyone’s new favorite conference: The Sun Belt.
Respect the Belt
1. Marshall (2-0)
Last Week: Won at Notre Dame, 26-21; Next Week: at Bowling Green
There are a lot of astounding details underpinning Marshall’s epic win in South Bend on Saturday, including the fact that it’s just the second program win over an opponent ranked in the top 10.
The most astounding isn’t one individual stat, though – it’s just the general vibe that you got watching the game. Marshall didn’t get a timely pick or a lucky bounce; they genuinely outplayed Notre Dame in Indiana.
Notre Dame might crumble from here under first-year head coach Marcus Freeman. But even the Irish have a forgettable season, who cares? This is a win they’ll (rightfully) talk about in Huntington for generations.
Michigan played in the Citrus Bowl in 2007; it’s not like we all forgot about the App State game.
And speaking of the 2007 Wolverines, the Irish loss to Marshall goes in a neat bucket. Notre Dame is just the third team this century to start the season in the AP top five and start the season 0-2.
2. App State (1-1)
Last Week: Won at Texas A&M, 17-14; Next Week: Troy
Marshall gets the nod over App State because its win in South Bend gets much more respect from the analytics.
Still, let’s not get carried away here. App State’s win at an SEC school is huge for the Mountaineers and maybe even bigger for the conference, as the new-look Fun Belt quickly transformed into the Stun Belt in just two weeks.
App State is no stranger to pulling monstrous upsets, as the aforementioned Wolverines fans can tell you, but even Mountaineers fans must be feeling some pretty wild emotional swings right now. They opened the season with two intense games against P5 opponents, and now Boone will host ESPN’s College GameDay this weekend for their Sun Belt opener.
If you’re a long-time fan of college football, you know that roller coasters like this almost always have a downbeat eventually. Whether that comes this week against Troy or later in the season is an open question.
For now, though, App State fans should enjoy the A&M win and the GameDay festivities. Speaking from personal experience – it’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun.
3. Georgia Southern
Last Week: Won at Nebraska, 45-42; Next Week: at UAB
Georgia Southern’s Big Ten road win in Lincoln might be enough to lead the conference on most weeks; here, it barely gets top billing at all.
But don’t sleep on the Eagles (2-0), who have put 104 points on the board through the first two weeks of the season and host both App State and Marshall in November. They’re also the team that definitively got Scott Frost fired at Nebraska. So there’s that.
Undefeated but Unimpressive
4. Louisiana (2-0)
Last Week: Beat Eastern Michigan, 49-21; Next Week: at Rice
You wouldn’t know it if you only caught the final score, but Louisiana trailed Eastern Michigan 14-0 at halftime before finally waking up after the break. Such slow starts will cost the reigning champs in conference play. Their cross-divisional trip to Marshall is exactly one month away.
5. Coastal Carolina (2-0)
Last Week: Beat Gardner-Webb, 31-27; Next Week: Buffalo
There’s no shame in coming away with a close win, but Coastal’s tight affair with Gardner-Webb this weekend definitely stood out in contrast to some of the other eye-popping results this weekend.
Coastal is breaking in a lot of new pieces around preseason Offensive Player of the Year Grayson McCall, so there are obviously going to be growing pains. But with the conference (and particularly the eastern division) leveling up so dramatically this year, Coastal is on notice.
If the Chants can’t put away an iffy FCS squad until the final minutes of the game, conference play could be a bigger struggle than we first anticipated.
Call Me In a Week or Two
6. James Madison (2-0)
Last Week: Beat Norfolk State, 63-7; Next Week: Bye
James Madison did exactly what it was supposed to do against Norfolk State, blowing away its former FCS peer, 63-7.
But… who cares? Norfolk State is bad.
JMU remains one of the most interesting Sun Belt commodities because it’s all potential energy at this point. However, until we see them play this well in a game that matters, there’s only so much to be excited about. For now, it’s all speculation. We’ll start to get some answers in Boone on Sept. 24.
More on Madison: 3 Observations From JMU’s Week 2 Win
7. South Alabama (2-0)
Last Week: Won at Central Michigan, 38-24; Next Week: at UCLA
While the Sun Belt East (rightfully) has gobbled up many of the headlines through the first two weeks, South Alabama has quietly handled its business. I mean, a two-touchdown win at Central Michigan isn’t exactly a top resume line, but it’s not nothing.
A strong showing at UCLA this Saturday should give us our best assessment of the Jaguars in a very winnable western division.
8. Troy (1-1)
Last Week: Beat Alabama A&M, 38-17; Next Week: at Appalachian State
Troy is probably the team about which I feel I know the least. The Trojans led a bad Alabama A&M squad 31-3 in the fourth quarter before allowing a pair of garbage TDs; they also played Ole Miss really well for about 40 minutes.
I don’t expect them to win in Boone this weekend, but at least the data point might point me in the right direction.
9. Georgia State (0-2)
Last Week: Lost at North Carolina, 35-28; Next Week: Charlotte
Panthers +7.5. Kaching! The football odds market can be a lucrative place if you’re paying close attention to G5 conferences.
Online sports betting aside, Sun Belt contenders should sleep on Georgia State at their own peril. The east is probably too tough for Georgia State to win, but as it showed this weekend, it’s certainly good enough to play good teams tight to the end.
10. Southern Miss (0-2)
Last Week: Lost at Miami, 30-7; Next Week: Northwestern State
Southern Miss showed up ready to play in Miami this past weekend, and they put the fear of God into Hurricanes fans throughout the entire half.
Miami pulled ahead in the final seconds of the opening frame and shut the Golden Eagles out after halftime, ending the upset bid. But Southern Miss is another one of those teams that can beat you if you don’t put your best game out on the field.
USM remains a legitimate darkhorse in the Sun Belt West.
11. Old Dominion (1-1)
Last Week: Lost at East Carolina, 39-21; Next Week: at Virginia
I was pretty pessimistic in writing about Old Dominion last week after it won a messy game against Virginia Tech, pointing out that East Carolina was a double-digit favorite against the Monarchs for a reason. And what do you know? The Pirates covered the number.
That said, I actually thought ODU put up a pretty good fight and deserved some praise for its showing in Greenville. Ali Jennings’ early third-quarter touchdown pulled the Monarchs within two, 16-14, and they stayed in it until ECU broke their back with a late flurry of 23 straight points.
ODU’s offensive limitations are going to be a key reason why it struggles against tougher competition this year, but the defense might keep it in games against better teams.
A Long Way To Go
12. Arkansas State (1-1)
Last Week: Lost at Ohio State, 45-12; Next Week: at Memphis
There’s not a huge volume of positives to find in a 45-12 loss in Columbus, but there is this: a whole lot of teams get smacked around by the Buckeyes far worse than Arkansas State did.
13. Louisiana-Monroe (1-1)
Last Week: Beat Nicholls, 35-7; Next Week: at Alabama
So far, Nicholls has spent its September getting absolutely drilled by Sun Belt teams. It’s been outscored 83-14 by South Alabama and ULM.
14. Texas State (1-1)
Last Week: Beat Florida International, 41-12; Next Week: at Baylor
The Bobcats piled on the points late to earn their first win of the season, but remember – FIU needed a 2-point overtime gambit to get past Bryant in Week 1. That Nevada loss still stinks out loud.
Chase Kiddy is a staff writer for The Roar by BetMGM. If you liked this, you might also like his explanation of what happened to Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman.