NOTICE: The views expressed in The Vermilion’s opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect those of The Vermilion staff or of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
There is no denying that Louisiana has become a top contender for not only the Sun Belt but for out of conference teams as well. With ranking in both the Associated Press Poll and the Coaches Poll, Louisiana continues to make big headlines as Coach Billy Napier and Levi Lewis lead the team. When discussing the Sun Belt Conference teams, Louisiana may be No. 1 with Coastal Carolina and Appalachian State following.
Louisiana has won three consecutive west division titles in the Sun Belt and had an opportunity to take the Sun Belt championship title. Due to COVID-19 complications with Coastal Carolina, the program sits without a title, hurting that conversation. With that being said, the Sun Belt has only had three championship games that started in 2018. Louisiana has won the West division all three years. It deserves mentioning that the only other two teams that have been involved were Appalachian State and Coastal Carolina. With Louisiana holding the west division on lock for three years in a row and having starters come back from last year’s triumphant season, things are looking good for the program.
The west division appears to be unmatched against Louisiana as they were the only team to have a positive record. A possible team to watch for would be Arkansas State as their starting Quarterback, Layne Hatcher, who, according to the Arkansas State Football Roster, “Ranked among the top 44 players in the nation for yards per pass attempt (4th, 10.61)”.
With this being said, the team still lacks offense with ball protection and defense as they allowed 37.2 points per game, according to Athlon Sports.
The East Division has contenders such as Coastal Carolina and Appalachian State. Coastal Carolina is the only other Sun Belt team that is ranked besides Louisiana. Coming off of a historic season, they achieved their first undefeated season last year.
The Chanticleers remain a top contender for the Sun Belt Championship. Their offense is impressive as their quarterback, Grayson McCall, was fifth in the nation in passer rating (184.3), according to Sports Illustrated. The offense also has elite receivers such as Jaivon Heiligh (998-yard, 10 touchdowns). With 10 of 11 starters returning to defense, Louisiana and Coastal are looking good on defense as Louisiana’s defensive line returns all players from their 2020 season.
With Appalachian State’s three losses coming from Marshal, Coastal Carolina, and Louisiana, too many games were lost for them to be a contender last year. With that said, they were the third best team in the Sun Belt last year. Their offense is one not to discard as their line allowed 265 rushing yards per game- sixth in the nation, according to College Football News. With a regular season matchup occurring on Oct. 12, defense is key. Appalachian State does have a new quarterback to watch for as Chase Brice is first up to replace Zac Thomas.
Despite Louisiana and Coastal Carolina being ranked, a regular season matchup is out of the picture this year. What could be the best Sun Belt conference game of the year must wait until the two teams meet up to officially duke it out for the championship.
- Caleb Williams