There’s a lot of uncertainty around college football right now as it looks like the landscape of the sport is forever changing. Texas and Oklahoma are joining the SEC. USC and UCLA are joining the Big 10. It looks like we’re headed toward two super conferences that will be the top tier, and then there’s just everyone else.
Change is inherently scary, but nothing is really changing because college football already has a super conference: The Sun Belt.
Saturday featured several massive and completely unforeseen upsets that all came at the hand of the same conference. Not only that, but the same division: The Sun Belt East. The Sun Belt West has yet to start pulling their weight, and as of now, I couldn’t care less about them. Whoever wins that division will be smote in the conference championship game by the representative from the physically, mentally, and spiritually superior East.
Marshall won at Notre Dame, Appalachian State showed that their recruiting class should’ve been ranked best in the nation by defeating Texas A&M, and Georgia Southern carried out the execution (or mercy killing) of Scott Frost’s Nebraska tenure, leading to his firing. Not only that, but Old Dominion beat Virginia Tech a week ago for the second time in five years, and Georgia State narrowly lost to North Carolina (as did App. State a week ago).
This division also has JMU, a team that is new to the FBS, but was a perennial national championship contender in FCS, and Coastal Carolina, who’ve lost three games in the past two years, which included an undefeated regular season in 2020.
So now that we’ve established that this division is currently the best in college football, what are the chances that one of these teams will represent the group of five in a New Year’s Six bowl?
Typical contenders Houston and Cincinnati have each lost already, so their chances aren’t looking great. The two most likely teams appear to be Air Force of the Mountain West and BYU which is independent.
Air Force is favored in every game this season, and if they’re able to run the table, would likely be the selection. BYU beat a Top 10 team as well this weekend, beating then-number 9 Baylor.
BYU actually has quite the interesting schedule, full of competition inferior to the Sun Belt, such as the Pac-12, Mountain West, and SEC. This week they play at Oregon where they’re a slight underdog. Then in October they play at Notre Dame followed by a home game against Arkansas.
I think if there’s any justice in the world, and BYU loses at Notre Dame, then Marshall should soar above them in the rankings because they were able to get the job done. Appalachian State vs. Marshall on November 12th would also be flexed to the primetime slot on ABC.
They say that in the NFL, it’s like playing against Alabama every week. Well that’s certainly true for this division. The talent in the Sun Belt East is clearly superior to any of the teams BYU or Air Force will play, so unfortunately I think they’re going to eat themselves alive as one battle between titans leaves both teams exhausted for the next one, ensuring there is no singular dominant team.
So who is going to end up winning the Sun Belt East, AKA the national championship? My prediction is Appalachian State. They’ve shown that they can win a defensive struggle as they did 17-14 over Texas A&M, and that they can put up tons of points when needed in their narrow 64-62 loss to North Carolina.