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Consider Coastal Carolina

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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The Chanticleers have earned the right to be considered contenders.

It's time to take Coastal Carolina seriously. Not just as a fun story with unique traditions. Not just as the best team in the rising Sun Belt. Not just as one of the headliners in the Group of Five. Not just as a highly-ranked and now-known national name. The Chanticleers have earned the right to be considered contenders. Their play and their resume warrant them that distinction. It's time for college football to catch up.

Consider Saturday's win over BYU a statement made. Zach Wilson and the undefeated Cougars came to Conway averaging over 50 points per game in their last five contests; they left the Grand Strand with just 17. The Chanticleers rushed for 281 yards, won a dramatic pairing with a clutch tackle at the goaline and promptly became college football's second 10-0 team. In a matchup that looked and felt like a January postseason pairing, this sudden December showdown was a showcase Coastal Carolina.

The end result was a win over the 9th ranked team in the country; only Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame and Texas A&M have a higher-rated victory.

While a signature triumph for Coastal Carolina, the BYU win is not a dramatic outlier for Jamey Chadlwell's team. The Chanticleers currently have two wins over ranked competition this fall as they beat Louisiana, currently slotted  20th in the AP poll, in mid-October. For frame of reference, the Ragin' Cajuns, unbeaten outside of their loss to Coastal Carolina, defeated Big XII champion Iowa State, 9th in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, by 17 points. The Chanticleers will face Louisiana again in the Sun Belt Championship Game, with a chance for another notable win.

Coastal Carolina already also has a double-digit point victory over traditional power Appalachian State, a seven-win team who has lost only to the Chanticleers, Ragin' Cajuns and Marshall, all in the national polls. Additionally, Coastal Carolina defeated seven-win Georgia Southern by two touchdowns in a game they played without starting quarterback Grayson McCall. The Chanticleers overwhelmed yet another conference foe with a winning record, routing Georgia State 51-0. In a much improved Sun Belt, Coastal Carolina leads the league in scoring offense and scoring defense. This is a complete team.  

The profile, now with a top ten triumph, two victories over nationally-ranked opponents and the upcoming chance at a third, is quite impressive. All that, potentially, from an undefeated conference champion. It goes without saying that the Chanticleers will have to get past a very good Louisiana team once again to have any notion of a national argument later this month. Coastal Carolina topped the Ragin' Cajuns on a last second field goal in round one. That hurdle will be both high and, with a victory, historic.  

As it stands on Saturday, the Chanticleers have more wins over foes currently in the national top 25 than Notre Dame, Ohio State, Clemson, Texas A&M, Cincinnati and Florida and as many as Alabama. That does not mean that Coastal Carolina's schedule has been as difficult as those of the aforementioned, or even necessarily similar or close week-to-week; it should, however, mean that the Chanticleers at least get a look.

The program's youth, modest outside expectations, nor preconceived notions should prevent pundits from appreciating Coastal Carolina as a national player. 

Sometimes, competition starts with consideration.

What the Chanticleers did against BYU is a game-changer. It's the type of win that should elevate Coastal Carolina from being a team ranked somewhere in the middle of the national polls to one, with one more victory, that is a leading name for a New Year's Six bowl game and a legitimate one, getting a serious evaluation, for the College Football Playoff. It's clear that there remains a lot to be determined and that there are teams with near-perfect resumes at the top of the rankings, but some room should be made for the Chanticleers.

Their season simply might not be enough to get them into the final four, but it should get them into the discussion. 

Coastal Carolina is doing all it can and, creating a high-profile matchup in the middle of a week, maybe even more.  

Respect the Chanticleers. Talk about them. Evaluate them. Given all that they have done, consider them.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports