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Sun Belt Weekend Primer

By Southern Pigskin Staff
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Appalachian State and Georgia Southern are prepared for their first conference games as members of the Sun Belt.

Troy at #13 Georgia:

This is going to be a tough game for the 0-3 Troy Trojans, as they face a very talented football powerhouse in the Georgia Bulldogs. Georgia lost last week, dropping to 1-1. However, if the Bulldogs stay healthy, many fans believe they still have a great chance of winning the SEC East. Todd Gurley is an incredibly good football player. He already has 329 yards rushing and four touchdowns under his belt after only two games. Hutson Mason (red-shirt senior quarterback) has proven throughout the first two games that he can pick up right where Aaron Murray left off in leading this Bulldog football team. The only promising player for the Trojans is their freshman quarterback, Brandon Silvers. Silvers has already thrown for 509 yards, but he alone can not carry his team to a win this Saturday in Athens.

Prediction: 45-3 Georgia

Texas State at Illinois:

Illinois is coming off of a rough loss last week, when it lost 44-19 to Washington. While the Fighting Illini may just be a middle-of-the-road team in a struggling Big 10, there are things to be happy about in Champaign. Quarterback Wes Lunt has already thrown for an astounding 971 yards and nine touchdowns, and Illinois is off to a better start at 2-1 than both its 2012 and 2013 seasons. Texas State lost last week to a talented Navy football program to drop to 1-1. While this game still goes down as a loss for the Bobcats, it should be seen as impressive, and a step forward to be able to hang with a strong Navy team. Quarterback Tyler Jones is off to a great start for the Bobcats, with 509 passing yards and five touchdowns in his first two games. While this matchup will be closer than expected, it will go down in the books as a win for Illinois.

Prediction: 34-21 Illinois

Georgia State at Washington:

This game is easily predictable. The cold, hard facts are that Washington is a strong 3-0 Pac-12 team that, frankly, should be ranked, and Georgia State is a 1-2 Sun Belt team that is coming off of a winless 2013 season. Washington has an explosive offense, led by quarterback Cyler Miles and freshman running back Lavon Coleman. Georgia State also has an outstanding quarterback in Nick Arbuckle. Arbuckle has 1,121 yards passing in three games. He also passed for more than 400 yards last week against a good Air Force team. While Arbuckle will still be the shining star on the Panthers offense this weekend, don’t expect the same numbers in what will be a loss against Washington.

Prediction: 45-13 Washington

Appalachian State at Southern Mississippi:

It is really hard to tell how talented this Appalachian State team is. Week One, the Mountaineers endured a 52-14 beating from Michigan. The following week the Mountaineers beat a college football unknown in Campbell by a score of 66-0. Appalachian State has two solid rushers in Marcus Cox and Terrance Upshaw, who split carries. Southern Miss also has not had any games that really show where it stands this year. The Golden Eagles' two losses came against two strong SEC teams, in Mississippi State and Alabama, where they lost 49-0 and 52-12 respectively. Southern Mississippi’s strongest attribute lies in quarterback Nick Mullens, who has thrown for 627 yards so far. This matchup is a hard one to predict, but I will have to pick Appalachian State.

Prediction: 24-17 Appalachian State

Idaho at Ohio:

Idaho’s first two games were close games that were very back and forth. While, as of now, the Vandals stand at 0-2, they shouldn’t be completely discredited in the Sun Belt. Quarterback Matt Linehan has had a successful year so far in terms of numbers, with 686 passing yards and six touchdowns. Ohio stands in the same boat as Idaho. While the Bobcats are 1-2, they haven’t truly figured things out yet. Although the Bobcats finally settled in on a starting quarterback, the second-string quarterback, J.D. Sprague, has seen significant playing time as well. As soon as Ohio figures everything out in the backfield, the Bobcats should go back to being a contender in the MAC.

Prediction: 24-14 Ohio

Utah State at Arkansas State:

Initially, I see this matchup as being a close one. Both of these two programs frequently flirt around .500. Utah State is 2-0, and has seen impressive performances from wide receiver Jojo Natson. He has rushed for 125 yards on 11 attempts and has 155 yards receiving. The star for Arkansas State is quarterback Fredi Knighten, who has thrown for 602 yards and has rushed for an extra 163. The one mutual opponent that both of these teams has faced is Tennessee. Utah State lost by a score of 38-7, and Arkansas State lost by a score of 34-19. The prediction for this game is semi-based upon these teams' performances against a tough SEC opponent in Tennessee.

Prediction: 34-24 Arkansas State

Georgia Southern at South Alabama:

Georgia Southern is a good football team. The Eagles stand at a disappointing 1-2 right now, but those two losses came in close games against strong ACC teams. Quarterback Kevin Ellison is a talented dual-threat leader of the option. Ellison already has 415 yards passing and 231 yards rushing. South Alabama is a team that is harder to read. The Jaguars won their first game against a struggling Kent State team and lost to a strong Mississippi State football team the next week. South Alabama has talent to work with in quarterback Brandon Bridge. However, no players on this Jaguar roster have numbers that seem to stick out. This game should be a good conference matchup to truly see where these teams stand.

Prediction: 35-24 Georgia Southern

New Mexico at New Mexico State:

This in-state matchup has the ability to be a close one. New Mexico has portrayed weak offensive numbers so far, with their most impressive player being quarterback Cole Gautsche, who has rushed for 184 yards. The Lobos are 0-2, but they are looking to get their first win this Saturday, and that is not out of the question. New Mexico State, meanwhile, is off to a good start at 2-0. The Aggies have themselves a strong quarterback in Tyler Rogers, who has already thrown for 723 yards and seven touchdowns. New Mexico State suffered its first loss last week by 18 points to UTEP. This week, the Aggies look to get back on their winning track, and they will.

Prediction: 21-17 New Mexico State

Louisiana at Boise State:

Louisiana is truly off to a disappointing start. After being projected to win the Sun Belt, the Ragin’ Cajuns have lost their last two games in blowout fashion. Star quarterback Terrence Broadway has been under-performing, throwing four touchdowns and six interceptions in his first three games. Boise State is a talented team again this year. The Broncos had a rough start in a 35-13 loss to Ole Miss, but they have bounced back in two straight wins since then. Quarterback Grant Hedrick has thrown for 849 yards already this season, and this number will go up significantly on Saturday against a struggling Louisiana defense.

Prediction: 35-14 Boise State

The Sun Belt Weekend Primer was written by Jackson Schroeder.