Earlier this month, the Sun Belt Conference announced a new bowl tie-in with the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl, the sixth bowl tie-in with the conference. But the question is will the Sun Belt be able to fill all its bowl slots?
Right now, there are six Sun Belt teams that are 1-4 and under. So let’s pretend that Georgia Southern, Appalachian State, Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette will reach bowl eligibility. That leaves two bowl slots left.
Also, let’s just say that at 0-5, New Mexico State is not a bowl contender. The Aggies have huge problems on defense and don’t have the offensive firepower to outscore its opponents. NMSU could get a win or two to avoid the winless season, but no one in Las Cruces should be making any bowl trip plans.
So that leaves five 1-4 teams. Let’s look at them one-by-one.
First up, Idaho. Yeah, the Vandals are a real longshot to go bowling, mainly because their starting quarterback was out with an ankle injury and their defense hasn’t had a good game all season long. Idaho’s schedule isn’t too tough with road games at Troy and South Alabama, but the Vandals do have a trip to Auburn as well.
So what about Louisiana-Monroe? The Warhawks had a tough start to the season with road games at Georgia and Alabama, but a loss at Tulsa puts ULM behind the eight-ball in getting to six wins. Home games against App State and Arkansas State complicates the Warhawks’ road to six wins and a road game at Hawaii could be the closest thing ULM gets to a bowl game this year.
Georgia State lost to Liberty last week. That fact alone should automatically disqualify the Panthers from making a bowl. If beating the Flames is that big of a problem, then GSU will have a problem the rest of the way. Maybe if the Panthers can knock off Ball State next Saturday, then we’ll talk about GSU’s bowl hopes.
Troy remains an outside shot to get into the bowl mix, but if running back Brandon Burks can continue running hard, the Trojans have a good shot. Winnable games against Troy and New Mexico State are next up, but Troy will have to win three of its four games in November to be bowl eligible.
Despite Saturday’s loss to ULL, Texas State is still in bowl contention, but the chances are a lot slimmer. The Bobcats still are struggling on defense, giving up over 500 yards in their last four games. The Oct. 24 game against South Alabama is pretty-much a must-win game for Texas State to keep its bowl hopes alive.
Speaking of South Alabama, the Jaguars are in a good spot to get a bowl bid thanks to wins over San Diego State and Troy. If the Jaguars can beat Texas State, then USA is two more wins away from six wins. And with games left against Idaho and Georgia State, there’s a good chance the Jags can clinch a bowl spot before Thanksgiving. We’ll see how USA looks this Tuesday against Arkansas State.
Looking into my crystal ball, I see South Alabama clinching a bowl bid early, but as far as the five 1-4 teams are concerned, only Texas State has a chance to climb out of the cellar to get to bowl eligibility.