| March 22, 2018

Ben’s Sun Belt Conference Picks

September 18, 2015

Georgia State at No. 12 Oregon (-48.5), 11 a.m., Pac 12 Network

It took the Panthers two seasons and one game to get their first win over an FBS opponent last week against New Mexico State. For the first time ever, Georgia State (1-1, 1-0) is in first place in the Sun Belt Conference standings.

But it is going to be a little longer before GSU gets its first winning streak since joining the FBS, as the mighty No. 12 Oregon Ducks (1-1) come in as a whopping 48.5-point favorite. Oregon is fresh off a narrow loss to No. 4 Michigan State and will use the Panthers as a punching bag to get ready for their next tough matchup. This one could be uglier than Idaho-USC.

My prediction: No. 12 Oregon 59, GSU 7

Troy at No. 24 Wisconsin (-35), 12:30 p.m., Big 10 Network

Troy (1-1) had a solid and surprising win over a very talented FCS school in Charleston Southern last week to get to .500. That is definitely not going to happen this week against a much tougher Wisconsin Badgers team. After Wisconsin (1-1) lost to No. 2 Alabama on kickoff week, it blew out Miami (OH) 58-0 last week. Expect more of the same Saturday.

My prediction: No. 24 Wisconsin 56, Troy 3.

The Citadel at Georgia Southern, 3 p.m., ESPN3

Even without standout quarterback Kevin Ellison, Georgia Southern (1-1) rebounded from its weekone loss with a convincing win over Western Michigan Saturday.

Now The Citadel (2-0) comes in to face Ellison, who returns from his two-game suspension. The 2014 All-Sun Belt second team quarterback rushed for 1,096 yards and 12 touchdowns last year and will join the already lethal GSU rushing attack. The Citadel won’t stand a chance against GSU as the FCS school just does not match up talent wise.

My prediction: Georgia Southern 43, The Citadel 10.

Missouri State at Arkansas State, 4 p.m., ESPN3

A narrow loss to No. 22 Missouri surprised the entire nationSaturday, but Arkansas State (0-2) couldn’t pull the shocker. After two straight losses to ranked opponents, the Red Wolves have a great chance to get on track this week against a weaker FCS opponent in Missouri State (1-1).

The Bears already lost to Memphis earlier this year by 56 points, a team that Arkansas State is near in talent level. Don’t expect this one to be close.

My prediction: Arkansas State 45, Missouri State 14.

Southern Miss at Texas State (-2), 4 p.m., ESPN3

Arguably the most intriguing Sun Belt matchup this week is Southern Miss (1-1) and Texas State (1-1). Both have losses to very talented teams in Mississippi State and Florida State, respectively. Both also have a blowout win over two FCS schools and have almost identical stats offensively. But Texas State’s defense has been questionable this year and gave up 24 points to Prairie View A&M. Considering that fact, Southern Miss sneaks out with a win.

My prediction: Southern Miss 34, Texas State 27.

South Alabama at San Diego State (-15.5), 5 p.m.

San Diego State (1-1) was exposed in an ugly loss at California last week, but South Alabama (1-1) hasn’t looked as good as expected so far this season. It is coming off a 48-9 loss to Nebraska.

South Alabama certainly has the talent to beat San Diego State, but the Aztecs have more across the board and will have their home fans behind them. If San Diego State doesn’t give the Jaguars chances and avoids turnovers, they should roll.

My prediction: San Diego State 31, South Alabama 20.

Texas-El Paso (-4) at New Mexico State, 5 p.m., ESPN3

It was an ugly loss to Georgia State last week, but New Mexico State (0-2) will look to turn it around against its rival UTEP (0-2) Saturday.

The Aggies’ offense looked outstanding against GSU behind 445 passing yards from Tyler Rogers and 206 yards receiving and two touchdowns from Tyrain Taylor.

UTEP has not been able to see how it fares against the same level of competition, seeing as it was blown out by Arkansas and Texas Tech.

New Mexico State is a team UTEP can beat. But after what the NMSU offense showed, they’re capable against poor defenses. The Aggies really need, and will get, a win here.

My prediction: New Mexico State 38, UTEP 37.

Ben Evensen can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu or on Twitter @BenE_VN

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