This Week in Sun Belt Football

BlueRaiderZone.com takes a look at this week's upcoming Sun Belt schedule.

It may feel like the dog days of summer outside, but it's about time to start the coolest season around, the college football season. All 9 Sun Belt schools (our weekly update includes future SBC participant Western Kentucky) will be in action this week. Traditionally the opening week of Sun Belt football includes several "money" games and this week is no different.

Tulsa at Louisiana-Monroe (ULM) - Thursday August 30, 6 p.m. (CST)

The Tulsa Golden Hurricane visit Malone Stadium on Thursday August 30. This is a game that will be televised nationally on ESPN2. Tulsa is coming off an 8-5 season, including an appearance in the Bell Helicopters Armed Forces Bowl where they suffered a loss at the hands of Utah.

Head Coach Charlie Weatherbie looks to start the Warkhawks off on the right foot by registering an out-of-conference win. The Warhawks finished the 2006 campaign 4-8, but 3 of those wins came in the last 4 weeks, making the Warhawks one of the hottest teams in the Sun Belt.

Florida International at Penn State- Saturday September 1, 11 a.m. (CST)

The Mario Cristobal era opens for Florida International on the road in University Park, PA. The FIU Golden Panthers take on the Nittany Lions from Penn State. The game is slated to be shown on the Big Ten Network.

The Nittany Lions are coming off a 9-4 season, including a win over Tennessee in the Outback Bowl. FIU comes into this game winless since the end of the 2005 season.

This will be Cristobal's first game as a head coach, while Penn State's Joe Paterno will be coaching his 42nd season as a head coach. His all-time record is 363-121-3.

Sun Belt Game of the Week
Middle Tennessee at Florida Atlantic – Saturday September 1, 3 p.m. (CST)

In the only Sun Belt Conference game this week, the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee travel to Lockhart Stadium to face the Owls of Florida Atlantic. The winner will take a leg up in the race for New Orleans.

The Blue Raiders are coming off a 7-6 (6-1) season, including a loss to Central Michigan in the Motor City Bowl. The Owls finished 2006 season at 5-7 (4-3).

These teams have faced each other 4 times in previous years. The series is tied 2-2.

Western Kentucky at Florida - Saturday September 1

The Hilltoppers from Western Kentucky will travel to the Sunshine state to take on the defending National Champion Florida Gators. This game is the first for the Hilltoppers since announcing a planned move to D-1A.

The Hilltoppers schedule consists of 6 D-1A opponents and 6 D-1AA opponents as they make the transition to D-1A. The Hilltoppers are not considered a part of the Sun Belt conference in football and they will not become a member until the 2009 season.

Troy at Arkansas- Saturday September 1, 6 p.m. (CST)

The Troy Trojans travel to Fayetteville, Arkansas to take on the Razorbacks from the Southeastern Conference. There are no plans for this game to be televised.

Arkansas is coming off a 10-4 campaign in 2006 and a SEC West championship. They opened the season with a loss to Southern Cal, reeled off 10 straight wins, then closed the season with 3 losses. Those 3 losses include a regular season loss to LSU, a loss to Florida in the SEC Championship game, and a loss to Wisconsin in the Florida Citrus Bowl. They do have the services of RB Darren McFadden, a Heisman Trophy front-runner.

Troy is going into Fayetteville as the defending Sun Belt champions and winners of the New Orleans Bowl. They finished the season 8-5 (6-1) and won 7 of their last 8 games. They will be relying heavily on the 2006 Sun Belt Player of the Year Omar Haugabook.

Louisiana at South Carolina – Saturday Sept 1, 6 p.m. (CST)

The Ragin Cajuns of Louisiana will travel to Columbia to take on the South Carolina Gamecocks. The game can be viewed on CSS-PPV.

The Gamecocks were 8-5 last season and defeated Houston in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. They are coached by Steve Spurrier.

The Cajuns were 6-6 (3-4) in 2006. One of their wins was at Houston where the Cajuns upset the Cougars 31-28. The Cajuns are coached by Rickey Bustle.

North Texas at Oklahoma - Saturday, September 1, 6 p.m. (CST)

North Texas will travel to Norman, Oklahoma to take on the Sooners. This game marks the first collegiate head coaching contest for North Texas' Todd Dodge. After a successful high school career, the Mean Green hired Todd Dodge to replace Darrell Dickey.

The Sooners finish 2006 at 11-3. Two of their three losses made national headlines. The first was what many perceived to be a botched call by the refs in their loss against Oregon. The second was an overtime loss to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl. Both of these losses were by one point.

North Texas struggled in 2006 finishing the season 3-9 (2-7), thus the reason for the hiring of Todd Dodge.

Arkansas State at Texas – Saturday September 1

Arkansas State travels to Austin, Texas to face the Longhorns. The Longhorns are one year removed from the National Championship. In 2006 the Longhorns went 10-3 and played in the Alamo Bowl.

Arkansas State went 6-6 (4-3). Their record included out-of-conference wins against Army and Memphis.

At this time there are no plans for this game to be televised.

Tidbits

Then there were none: When North Texas starts their game against Oklahoma, it will signify the end of an era. No original head coach from the Sun Belt is still coaching in the conference. Darrell Dickey of North Texas was the last original left in the league.

The schedule gets tougher: 28 of the 40 out-of-conference games that Sun Belt teams play will be against teams that participated in a bowl game last year.

Spreading the wealth: 6 of the 8 current Sun Belt teams have won at least a share of the Sun Belt title. Only newcomers FIU and FAU have yet to claim this honor.


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