The Open Man is counting down to the 2018 college football season with 129 — in honor of the 129 programs participating in the Football Bowl Subdivision this year — things we love (and some we hate) about the sport. Click the 129 Things tag to see every entry.
The Sun Belt is an awesome college football conference.
That’s not necessarily to say it’s a good football conference. The league went 5-28 against other FBS conferences last year and the school’s athletic budgets are boosted by getting paid to take a beating on the road against Power 5 conference teams.
But if you like underdogs, you should love the Sun Belt. If you want Southern Football Culture without the SEC’s “It just means more” pretension, you should love the Sun Belt.
People jokingly call it the Fun Belt, but it really is fun. It’s fun that Sun Belt champ Troy can go to Death Valley and upset LSU…
then turn around and lose to a four-win South Alabama team. That’s what in-state rivalries should be about.
It’s easy to live in Georgia and become a bandwagon Bulldog. But give me the person that has had Georgia Southern season tickets since the Paul Johnson days. That’s real pride and it’s well earned.
There’s a small town charm that goes along with it all throughout the Sun Belt. Boone, Statesboro, Troy, Conway, Jonesboro. Those are just fun places to see a game, like the best minor league baseball stadiums.
Troy, Appalachian State, Arkansas State, Georgia Southern and others have all given top national programs all they could handle and more. And it’s one of the few conferences that makes sense geographically and competitively.
It’s just too bad the Sun Belt is, for all practical purposes, excluded from the real top level of college football. Imagine a 16-team playoff with every conference champion. Imagine 16th-seeded Troy or Appalachian State getting a shot at the SEC or ACC champ.
We might have to wait a long time to see a UMBC over Virginia level upset, but when it eventually happens, lookout.
Fun Belt indeed.