Sun Belt Week 3: How Bad Was It?

Well hooray for Appalachian State. Their open date may have saved the league a perfectly awful 0-11 weekend. The win-loss numbers were terrible but what do they really mean?

The Sun Belt won’t be sending out press releases touting how great Saturday was but was it really THAT bad?

If you grade performance by expectations, the week wasn’t a complete disaster. The easiest measure of expectations is the betting line. Play within less than 7 points of the line, you probably were pretty close to the reasonable expectation for the game. Play 7 or more points better you probably exceeded expectations and if you play 7 or more points worse, it has to be deemed a disappointing outing.

Under this measure, it wasn’t the flame-out the W-L record suggests but it still featured half the league performing worse than expected.

Georgia Southern lost late to Georgia Tech as the Eagles do their tour of the ACC. Georgia Tech escaped with a late 42-38 win. What was the expectation? Georgia Tech was favored by 22 points.

Georgia Southern exceeded expectations, that’s not a bad thing. The Eagles were the only team to exceed expectations.

Some schools did what they were expected to do. Four teams had a weekend that went about the way you should have expected.

ULM lost 31-0 at LSU. The Warhawks had beaten Wake Forest, likely the ACC’s worst team and had beaten Idaho a school expected to be in the bottom half of the Sun Belt. They are replacing one of the most dynamic QB’s in school history. The odds makers eyeballed it and picked LSU as 31 point favorite. In other words, they nailed it. The game turned out exactly as expected in the final margin.

Texas State lost by 14 at home against Navy. The Midshipmen had won at Temple and played Ohio State reasonably well. Texas State had a scrimmage against UAPB. Vegas tabbed Navy as a 12 ½ point favorite. In other words, they thought Navy was roughly two TD’s better and that was how it turned out. Navy won by the expected two TD’s.

Georgia State finally won a game this year after going zero for 2013 and the Air Force Academy. The Falcons had beaten Nichols State and lost Wyoming. Compared to Georgia State’s win over FCS Abilene and loss at New Mexico State, the odds makers tabbed Air Force as a 12 point favorite. Georgia State basically played as expected even though they covered the spread.

Arkansas State was tabbed as a 17 point underdog (under wolf?) to Miami. Yeah AState arguably left 7 points on the table with missed kicks and points here and there but what matters in this analysis is how did AState perform vs. expectations. The Red Wolves lost by 21, four points worse than the expectation but reasonably within the range of expectations.

It wasn’t all as expected though. Half the teams failed to live up to the expectations.

South Alabama got their first sellout hosting SEC member Mississippi State. USA had one game under their belt, a road win over MAC member Kent State. After the expected easy win over Southern Miss and a closer than expected game against UAB, the thinking was that the Bulldogs wouldn’t run the young but rapidly improving USA program off the field. Mississippi State was installed as a 15.5 point favorite but they had an easier time winning 35-3. The Jaguars played two touchdowns and a field goal worse than what the line had suggested.

Louisiana was the easy no-brainer pick to be best in the Sun Belt. Louisiana returned much of last year’s co-champion team and Broadway gave the Cajuns more experience at QB. Facing Ole Miss, the Rebels were tabbed as 27 point favorites on the heels of the Cajuns home face plant against Louisiana Tech. Even with that accounted for the Cajuns lost 56-15, playing two touchdowns worse than expected.

Idaho fell to MAC member Western Michigan by 12 points at home. Idaho was actually a 2 ½ point favorite. The Vandals played two touchdowns worse than expected.

New Mexico State co-leads the Sun Belt 1-0 and came in 2-0, UTEP was 1-1 winning close against New Mexico and losing close to Texas Tech. The Miners were favored by 10 ½ points and they won by 18. NMSU ended playing 7 ½ points worse than expected, just enough to nudge them into the disappointing side of the ledger sheet.

Troy. What can we say for Troy other than “Larry thanks for what you did those early years to make this a better league, enjoy your impending retirement from coaching.” Abilene was 0-2 on the year losing to Georgia State and Northern Arizona and while they went 6-5 last year they only fully FCS team they beat was Prairie View. While the major casinos don’t set a line on FBS vs. FCS games, there is no way around it on this one, the Trojans under-performed any reasonable expectation.