from former Greensboro News and Record sportswriter and reporter Tony Barnhart/”Mr. College Football”, at SI/TMG Sports…..
Did Sun Belt Success Open The Door (slightly) For The Group Of Five?
Keith Gill, the Commissioner of the Sun Belt Conference, decided to watch last Saturday’s games at home in New Orleans
Gill was set up with his flat screen TV, his laptop and his I-pad. Three of his teams had Noon ET starts.
“It was a good setup for me,” said the former running back at Duke. “I can be a little loud.”
Before the day was over Gill got REAL loud:
**–Louisiana-Lafayette, an 11 ½-point underdog at No. 23 Iowa State, not only won, it dominated 31-14. It was the first-ever road win against a Top 25 team for the Ragin’ Cajuns.
**–Arkansas State, a 10 1/2-point underdog at Kansas State, won 35-31.
**–That night Coastal Carolina, a touchdown underdog at Kansas, won 38-23. It was the second straight year that the Chanticleers had beaten the Jayhawks on the road.
When the new Associated Press Top 25 rankings were released on Sunday, the Sun Belt had two ranked teams (No. 19 Louisiana-Lafayette, No. 24 Appalachian State) for the first time in history.
“The Sun Belt has been playing good football for a long time,” said Gill, who became commissioner in 2019. “But now, given all that has happened, more people have been able to see us.”
With the Big Ten and Pac-12 not playing (so far) and because of postponed games due to the virus, some television windows have opened up that otherwise would not have been available to the Sun Belt.
Example: After ESPN finished College Gameday at Noon on Saturday, it carried that large audience straight to Louisiana-Lafayette at Iowa State.
After FOX finished with its Big Noon Kickoff pre-game show it was supposed to go to Louisiana Tech at Baylor. But that game had been postponed on Tuesday due to the impact of the COVID virus and Hurricane Laura. It was replaced by Arkansas State at Kansas State, which was originally scheduled for 3:30 p.m.
“It was tremendous exposure for our conference and then we won the games,” said Gill.
Louisiana-Lafayette coach Billy Napier said you could not put a dollar figure on the benefits of last Saturday’s exposure for the Sun Belt.
“It’s priceless,” said Napier, in his third season as head coach. “I hope we’re going to get more of these opportunities. I’m very excited for our league.”
FIVE TO WATCH FROM THE GROUP OF FIVE
Group of Five teams that are currently ranked. Key remaining games included.
No. 13 Cincinnati: Sept. 26 vs. Army; Oct. 31 vs. Memphis; Nov. 21 at UCF
No. 14 UCF: Saturday at Georgia Tech; Oct. 17 at Memphis; Nov. 21 vs. Cincinnati
No. 16 Memphis: Oct. 17 vs. UCF; Oct. 31 vs. Cincinnati
No. 19 Louisiana-Lafayette: Oct. 7 at Appalachian State
Nov. 24 Appalachian State: Oct. 7 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
CLICK HERE to read more of this article from SI/TMG Sports, with Tony Barnhart….