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September 24, 2008

Week 5 Sun Belt Power Poll

Week Four showed us that Arkansas State has a firm grip on the top spot in the conference, while Troy proved it has not gone away either.

The Sun Belt title could be decided in the last week of the season again this year, causing the title race to be as fun and exciting as it has been in years past.

The top four teams remain the same, but there is plenty of action in the bottom tier as well.

Louisiana-Lafayette's Ragin Cajuns are banging on the ceiling trying to get invited to the party while their Louisiana counterparts in Monroe are trying to stay away from the "my date's in the bathroom" excuse.

The Sun Belt is shaping up to be one of the more exciting title chases in college football this year.

That said, here's the Week 5 Power Poll:

Week 5 Sun Belt schedule: Florida Atlantic at Middle Tennessee*, Florida International at Toledo, Troy at Oklahoma State, North Texas at Rice, UL-Lafayette at Kansas State, Arkansas State at Memphis.

WEEK 5 SUN BELT POWER POLL

1] Arkansas State (3-1, 1-0 SBC)
The skinny: It's tough to say Arkansas State came out of nowhere to have the best team in the Sun Belt. The program has won the conference before and fielded several talented teams. However, I don't think anyone outside of Jonesboro expected the Red Wolves to have this type of dominance early in the season.

Next: Saturday at Memphis. ASU looks to steamroll this Conference USA rival and continue making its case as the league favorite to represent the Sun Belt at the New Orleans Bowl.

2] Troy (2-1, 1-0 SBC) 2 spots
The skinny: What was expected to be a blowout loss at Ohio State almost turned into the biggest non-conference win in Sun Belt history. Boris Lee and the Troy defense reminded everyone that they are for real and are willing and able to line up with just about any team in the country.

Next: Saturday at Oklahoma State. The Cowboys are eager to get revenge on a Trojan team that embarrassed them last season. The only problem is that Troy has improved since last year and if its defense can force Oklahoma State to throw the ball, it will just be more of the same.

3] Middle Tennessee (1-3, 0-2 SBC)
The skinny: Middle Tennessee ran into a buzz saw against Arkansas State at the worst possible time. Rick Stockstill's team still has the talent to warrant the third spot in the Power Poll, but the Blue Raiders will have to turn around their league play fortunes if they want to avoid a slide.

Next: Tuesday, 9/30 vs. Florida Atlantic. The Blue Raiders have lost to the top two teams in the Sun Belt already, but still harbor hopes of reaching bowl eligibility. The Blackout Game against the Owls is going to show MT fans whether they need to keep their December calendars clear or not.

4] Florida Atlantic (1-3, 0-0 SBC) 2 spots
The skinny: Rusty Smith and company have the talent to run the Sun Belt gauntlet and shoot themselves right back up the Power Poll. However, they need to find some defensive players in a hurry. Difficult schedule or not, giving up 140 points in just four games does not bode well for the squad.

Next: Tuesday, 9/30 at Middle Tennessee. The Owls need a win in Murfreesboro in the worst way, even just to get over the mental hump that seems to be developing with this team. It should be a good slugfest that either team could win on a big time national stage.

5] Louisiana-Lafayette (1-2, 0-0 SBC)
The skinny: The Ragin' Cajuns finally picked up their first win against a Kent State team that seemed overmatched for four quarters. ULL running back Tyrell Fenroy racked up 194 yards in the win and built upon last week's 20-17 loss at Illinois.

Next: Saturday at Kansas State. The Wildcats have already dismantled one Sun Belt opponent this year to the tune of 45-6. That could cause them to go ahead and look past the Cajuns. If I had to choose one, I'd pick this game as my upset special of the week.

6] Louisiana-Monroe (1-3, 0-0 SBC)
The skinny: The Warhawks gave Tulane a really impressive game, but that is the kind of game they have to win if they want to keep pace with the top tier of the conference. ULM needs a big spark to keep from sliding further down and joining the bottom feeders of the league.

Next: Bye week. The Warhawks have a week to work on a game plan for their big rivalry clash against Louisiana-Lafayette, which is shaping up as a must win for both.

7] Florida International (0-3, 0-0 SBC) 1 spot
The skinny: The Golden Panthers opened their new on campus stadium in style by putting a scare into South Florida before falling 17-9. I don't know how they did it, because the numbers certainly indicate that this should never have been much of a game. I guess even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.

Next: Saturday at Toledo. The champagne has not even dried on the christening of FIU's new stadium, which is currently unnamed, and already the Golden Panthers are off on another road trip. The Rockets enter this game coming off a tough overtime loss with Fresno State. That doesn't bode well for FIU.

8] North Texas (0-3, 0-0 SBC) 1 spot
The skinny: The Mean Green had the week off. Hopefully for UNT faithful they spent the week trying to figure out how to score some points. They have been held to six points or less in two of their first three games.

Next: Saturday at Rice. This game could be interesting because the Owls could be starting to believe some of the hype already surrounding them. UNT has the potential to sneak up and bite an opponent if they aren't careful.

Current Sun Belt standings: Troy (1-0), ASU (1-0), ULM (0-0), ULL (0-0), FIU (0-0), NT (0-0), FAU (0-0), MT (0-2)



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