LAFAYETTE — Louisiana-Lafayette’s 34-31 win over Georgia State in Saturday’s Sun Belt Conference opener was the Ragin’ Cajuns’ seventh straight league-opening win.
It also wasn’t unusual on the first full weekend of Sun Belt play. Arkansas State and Texas State also opened Sun Belt play over the weekend, and UL-Lafayette’s next two opponents found success.
But all of those 1-0 teams are trailing in the standings thanks to Georgia Southern, which rallied from an early deficit to take a 36-28 win at New Mexico State and improve to 3-0 in its first Sun Belt season. The Eagles have five conference games remaining — and they don’t play UL-Lafayette or Arkansas State.
It doesn’t help the rest of the league’s contenders that Georgia Southern’s next three games are against Idaho, Georgia State and Troy, who are a combined 0-6 in the conference.
Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth said it’s too early to start looking at the standings, especially with four of his team’s next five opponents holding winning conference records.
“I like watching the matchups, the head-to-head and the teams that we’ve already played for common opponents,” he said. “But there’s only one team I’m concerned about, and all we can control is what we can control. But it will be interesting to see some of our matchups over the coming weeks.”
The Cajuns move into their non-traditional part of the schedule with a road game at Texas State next Tuesday, followed by a Tuesday, Oct. 21, home game against Arkansas State — a meeting of the league preseason poll’s top two teams. UL-Lafayette’s next Saturday game isn’t until Nov. 1 against South Alabama.
A look at the league standings entering this weekend:
1. Georgia Southern (4-2, 3-0)
Last week: Won at New Mexico State 36-28
This week: Hosts Idaho, 5 p.m. Saturday (ESPN3.com)
Briefly: GSU trailed 14-0 but then scored 29 unanswered points despite passing for only 18 yards. QB Kevin Ellison and Alfred Ramsby rushed for 159 and 136 yards in a 419-yard rushing attack for the Eagles’ third straight win.
T2. Arkansas State (3-2, 1-0)
Last week: Beat UL-Monroe 28-14
This week: At Georgia State, 1 p.m. Saturday (ESPN3.com)
Briefly: After a scoreless first half, ASU scored on four of five possessions in a 14-minute span. The Red Wolves had 288 rush and 284 pass yards, with improving QB Fredi Knighten running for three scores and throwing for another.
T2. Texas State (3-2, 1-0)
Last week: Beat Idaho 35-30
This week: Hosts UL-Lafayette, 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 14 (ESPN2)
Briefly: Running back Terrence Franks had two 70-yard runs and a 96-yarder for most of his 284 rushing yards — the nation’s top total last weekend — against the porous Idaho defense. Still, TSU needed an interception in the final minute to escape.
T2. UL-Lafayette (2-3, 1-0)
Last week: Beat Georgia State 34-31
This week: At Texas State, 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 14 (ESPN2)
Briefly: The Cajuns survived a bad matchup, with their porous pass defense going against the Sun Belt’s most prolific thrower, and now become the nation’s Tuesday night entertainment for two weeks with back-to-back ESPN2 contests. UL-Lafayette remains last in the nation in turnovers (one forced, 10 given) but didn’t give up the ball once against GSU, a season first.
T5. South Alabama (3-2, 2-1)
Last week: Won at Appalachian State 47-21
This week: Idle
Briefly: USA struggled offensively in its first three games but has now scored 81 points in two league games. Brandon Bridge threw for 339 yards and three scores as the Jaguars led 20-0 and 40-7 on the way to their second straight big win heading into an open date and two October home games against teams that are a combined 0-5 in the league.
T5. UL-Monroe (3-2, 2-1)
Last week: Lost at Arkansas State 28-14
This week: At Kentucky, 11 a.m. Saturday (SEC Network)
Briefly: The Warhawks had six punts and lost two fumbles on eight first-half possessions against ASU, then punted four straight times in the second half when the Wolves started clicking. ULM’s inconsistent offense had a 59-yard TD pass and didn’t score again until a game-ending drive.
7. New Mexico State (2-4, 1-1)
Last week: Lost at home to Georgia Southern 36-28
This week: At Troy, 2 p.m. Saturday (ESPN3.com)
Briefly: The Aggies’ pink jerseys may have shocked GSU enough for NMSU to post an early 14-0 lead, but New Mexico State’s defense allowed five or more touchdowns for a fourth straight week. The Aggies face a make-or-break game Saturday at Troy.
8. Troy (0-5, 0-1)
Last week: Idle
This week: Hosts New Mexico State, 2 p.m. Saturday (ESPN3.com)
Briefly: Coach Larry Blakeney announced Sunday that he will retire at the end of this season, his 24th with the Trojans. Troy won or shared five straight Sun Belt titles in the league’s infancy but is 14-27 since — and 0-5 for the first time since 1982.
T9. Georgia State (1-4, 0-2)
Last week: Lost at UL-Lafayette 34-31
This week: Hosts Arkansas State, 1 p.m. Saturday (ESPN3.com)
Briefly: The Panthers were 10-of-16 on third and fourth down against the Cajuns, but two of those misfires came on a final four-and-out in the last 70 seconds. Now, GSU has to play the other top team in the preseason league poll, Sun Belt unbeaten Arkansas State — this one at the Georgia Dome.
T9. Appalachian State (1-4, 0-2)
Last week: Lost at home to South Alabama 47-21
This week: Hosts Liberty, 2:30 p.m. Saturday (ESPN3.com)
Briefly: The struggles continue for the Mountaineers, who outside of a 66-0 win over Football Championship Subdivision foe Campbell are 0-4 and are being outscored 151-69 while losing their first two Sun Belt games by a combined 46 points. App State gave up 582 yards to USA and had three turnovers.
11. Idaho (0-5, 0-3)
Last week: Lost at Texas State 35-30
This week: at Georgia Southern, 5 p.m. Saturday (ESPN3.com)
Briefly: The Vandals scored touchdowns on four of their last six possessions to make things interesting. But Idaho, despite forcing four turnovers, didn’t take advantage of its early scoring opportunities. Now the Vandals face a 2,678-mile road trip to Statesboro, Georgia.