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Sun Belt Primer

By Jim Johnson
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Previewing week four in the Sun Belt conference.

Appalachian State at Old Dominion -- 3:30 PM

This feels like it has the potential to be the Sun Belt's most compelling matchup, this weekend. The Mountaineers and the Monarchs sort of mimic one another, not only in terms of talent and depth, but more or less in philosophy, as well. This game will be won and lost by the big uglies, down in the trenches. Both of these teams like to establish the running game, and winning the line of scrimmage is imperative to do that. I think that after a hard fought first half, Appalachian State will come out and impose its will upon Old Dominion, in the second half, on the legs of Marcus Cox's best performance of the season.
Prediction: 31-21 Appalachian State

Louisiana Monroe at Alabama -- 4:00 PM

Shoutout to the Warhawks for playing Georgia and Alabama in a three week span. Get that money. The goal here should be to execute as well as they can against an Alabama team that will be looking to let off some steam after last weekend. Let's just hope both teams get what they want out of this matchup and go their respective ways, injury free, before ULM's big home game against Georgia Southern in week five.
Prediction: 49-6 Alabama

Akron at Louisiana -- 7:00 PM

The Ragin' Cajuns have been one of the most prolific offenses in the Sun Belt, thus far. Defensively, Akron will be at the mercy of Lousiana's playcalling and execution. If the home team opens up the offense and plays to the fullest extent of its ability, this one could get out of hand. The Zips just don't have the team speed or depth to keep up with Lousiana's offense for four quarters.
Prediction: 38-17 Louisiana

Arkansas State at Toledo -- 7:00 PM

I don't necessarily think this game makes or breaks or breaks Arkansas State's season, but I do think it will tell us what this team is going to be. So far, the three games that the Red Wolves have played have told us a whole lot of nothing about whether or not this team is for real. I think Toledo is a solid program and Arkansas State doesn't have to win this game, but if they do, or if they're at least in it and put on a good performance, save me a seat on the bandwagon. I can't pick them just yet, I need to see it first, but this will be a very telling game.
Prediction: 31-24 Toledo

NC State at South Alabama -- 8:00 PM

South Alabama is one of my favorite teams to possibly be a dark horse contender in the Sun Belt, similar to NC State in the ACC. It wouldn't be some unfathomable upset if the Jags ended up stealing one at home, but, to me, it's more important keep yourself in a position to compete when conference play kicks off, i.e. stay healthy. If the fourth quarter rolls around and it's a one score game, sure, roll the dice and go for the win, but I don't think South Alabama has the guns to hang with NC State's rushing attack.
Prediction: 41-21 NC State

Texas State at Houston -- 8:00 PM

Take the over in this one. This matchup pits two high octane offenses against one another in a game that is sure to light up the scoreboard. Defense will be an afterthought, as it appears it has been all offseason at Texas State, who will have had to have some sort of divine intervention in the last week if they hope to stop Houston at all. I'm assuming the intervention didn't happen and Houston will have too much fire power for the Bobcats to keep up with, when it's all said and done.
Prediction: 52-34 Houston

Georgia Southern at Idaho -- 9:00 PM

The lone conference game this week will see the two teams at opposite ends ofhe preseason Sun Belt Coaches' Poll. This is the conference opener for both teams. Look for Georgia Southern to start fast and never look back. Matt Breida could see his YPC get up over ten, if Idaho's run defense continues to be as poor as it has been, and this one could get out of hand before half time.
Prediction: 44-20 Georgia Southern

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP