The Sun Belt enters a new era with 14 teams in their conference, as they welcome James Madison, Marshall, Old Dominion and Southern Miss. The updated East Division will feature App State, Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, James Madison, Marshall and Old Dominion. The West Division will include Arkansas State, Louisiana, Louisiana-Monroe, South Alabama, Southern Miss, Texas State and Troy.
We’ll go over a few conference games in the new-look Sun Belt you should have circled on your calendar.
Louisiana vs. UL-Monroe, Saturday, September 24th, TIME and TV TBD
The Ragin’ Cajuns continued to show in 2021 that the Sun Belt West Division runs through Lafayette. They were the only undefeated team in the conference going 8-0 with an overall 13-1 record after losing their season opener to Texas. UL-Monroe didn’t have the same results as they went 2-6 in the Sun Belt and 4-8 overall. This game is highlighted though because the Battle for the Bayou is always a close one, and former Louisiana head coach Billy Napier is now at Florida, with former co-offensive coordinator Michael Desormeaux taking over as the head coach this season.
The rivalry game was the final regular-season game for these teams in 2021. Louisiana came away with a win, but ULM scored a touchdown with 1:35 left and failed to convert the two-pointer or the onside kick to fall short of the upset. Louisiana looks like the favorite in the West Division yet again, but ULM will be looking for revenge.
The Sun Belt Championship Game was created in 2018, and Louisiana has represented the West Division in each year, including last season’s 24-16 victory over App State.
Georgia Southern vs. Georgia State, Saturday, October 8th, Time and TV TBD
Georgia State is looking like they turned over a new leaf and are taking the shape of a competent football team. They finished second in the East in 2021 with a 6-2 conference record and went 8-5 overall. Georgia Southern didn’t have the same success with a 2-6 conference record and a 3-9 overall record. That being said, no matter the state of these programs, they always seem to play each other in their rivalry dubbed “Modern Day Hate.”
The Eagles fired Chad Lunsford in September after five years, and former USC coach Clay Helton was named the new head coach in what many called an unusual move.
When these teams met in 2021, Georgia State came away with the 21-14 victory in what was a close one. With 11:19 to go in the fourth quarter, the Panthers scored their second touchdown of the game to make it 14-7. Georgia Southern took their time responding but scored with 1:39 left in the game to tie it up and make it look like it was headed for overtime. Jamyest Williams pulled his best Lee Corso impression and said “not so fast” as he scampered for a 23-yard touchdown run with 26 seconds left in regulation for the win. Modern Day Hate will continue in Week 6.
App State vs. Coastal Carolina, Thursday, November 3rd, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
The East Division of the Sun Belt has been way more competitive up top than its counterpart. A large part of that has been due to the Appalachian State Mountaineers and the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. Of the four conference championship games, these two teams have represented the East division in all four games. App State has played in three while Coastal Carolina was the 2020 representative even though the game was canceled.
The Mountaineers had a 7-1 conference record with a 10-4 overall record last season. The Chanticleers went 6-2 in the Sun Belt and finished 11-2 overall. Coastal’s losses were to Georgia State, and you guessed it, App State. Quarterback Grayson McCall will be back under center and looking to help the Chanticleers to their first Sun Belt title. McCall heads into the year with 54 passing touchdowns and six interceptions in his career.
Their 2021 game could be considered the Sun Belt game of the year. Coastal Carolina was up 14-0 at the end of the first quarter and went into halftime up 20-14 on a field goal as time expired in the half. The third quarter belonged to the Mountaineers as they scored two touchdowns to tie it up at 27 apiece as the teams headed to the fourth quarter. The final quarter of action was an absolute grind with neither team able to take the upper hand. Chandler Staton had ice in his veins as time expired and he nailed a game-winning 24-yard field goal. Don’t be shocked if this rivalry earns a snazzy new nickname soon.
Once we have the final two teams, the Sun Belt Conference Championship Game will be on Saturday, December 3rd at 3:30 p.m. ET and will be hosted by the divisional winner with the best overall conference record.