4 Sun Belt football programs set for bowl season
Published 12:40 pm Friday, December 17, 2021
Following a historic 2021 campaign that saw three teams accumulate double-digit wins during the regular season for the first time in conference history, four Sun Belt programs will participate in Bowl Season. The Sun Belt paces all FBS conferences with a .692 bowl winning percentage since 2016.
Coastal Carolina (10-2, 6-2 Sun Belt) is headed to the Tailgreeter Cure Bowl for its second-ever bowl appearance and will be in search of its first-ever bowl victory. The Chanticleers will square off against MAC champion Northern Illinois (9-4, 6-2 MAC) at 5:00 p.m. CT on Friday, Dec. 17, in Orlando, Fla., with the game being nationally broadcast on ESPN2.
App State (10-3, 7-1 Sun Belt) will make its seventh-straight bowl appearance and will attempt to make it seven-straight bowl victories in the RoofClaim.com Boca Raton Bowl. The Sun Belt East Division champion Mountaineers will take on Conference USA East Division champion Western Kentucky (8-5, 7-1 Conference USA) at 10:00 a.m. CT on Saturday, Dec. 18, in Boca Raton, Fla.
Louisiana (12-1, 8-0 Sun Belt), which defeated App State, 24-16, in the Hercules Tires Sun Belt Football Championship Game, is bound for its fourth-straight bowl game in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. The Sun Belt champion Ragin’ Cajuns will face future conference foe Marshall (7-5, 5-3 Conference USA) at 8:15 p.m. CT on Saturday, Dec. 18, in New Orleans, La.
Georgia State (7-5, 6-2 Sun Belt) will round out the Sun Belt’s postseason lineup, with its third-straight and fifth all-time bowl appearance coming in the TaxAct Camellia Bowl. The Panthers will match up against Ball State (6-6, 4-4 MAC) at 1:30 p.m. CT on Saturday, Dec. 25, in Montgomery, Ala.
The RoofClaim.com Boca Raton Bowl, R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl and TaxAct Camellia Bowl will each be broadcast nationwide on ESPN.
For exclusive Sun Belt Football content on game days and throughout the 2021 season, follow @SunBeltFB on Twitter.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
- TAILGREETER CURE BOWL – Coastal Carolina is 1-of-4 FBS teams to be ranked among the Top 25 in both total offense (7th, 493.1 yards) and total defense (17th, 324.8 yards). The Chanticleers, who return for a second-straight appearance in the Cure Bowl, are in search of their first-ever bowl victory. Coastal Carolina’s offense is led by two-time Sun Belt Player of the Year redshirt sophomore quarterback Grayson McCall, who paces the FBS in passing efficiency (207.9), yards per pass attempt (12.12) and yards per completion (16.61). One of McCall’s key targets, senior wide receiver Javon Heiligh, already boasts the Cure Bowl record for catches (13) and receiving yards (178) from last season’s appearance. The Chanticleers will take on a Northern Illinois club that went from 0-6 in the MAC in 2020 to conference champions in 2021. The Huskies boast a ground game that ranks fifth in the nation, averaging 234.2 yards per game.
- ROOFCLAIM.COM BOCA RATON BOWL – Since making its FBS debut in 2014, App State has earned a bowl berth in each of its seven postseason-eligible seasons—an all-time record for consecutive bowl berths after moving up to the FBS level. The Mountaineers boast an FBS-best 6-0 bowl record and are the only program with no losses or ties in more than two appearances. Sun Belt East Division champion App State will square off against Conference USA East Division champion Western Kentucky in a matchup that will pit one of the nation’s top defenses against the top passing attack in the FBS. The bowl matchup is the sixth-ever meeting between the programs, with the Mountaineers claiming a 4-1 record in the prior matchups. The Hilltoppers own the nation’s top passing offense, averaging 434.6 yards per game. The Mountaineer defense—led by Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year senior linebacker D’Marco Jackson—ranks among the Top 20 nationally in tackles for loss (2nd, 109), pass efficiency defense (12th, 114.7), red zone defense (15th, 73.7 percent), scoring defense (16th, 19.3 points), total defense (18th, 325.5 yards) and rushing defense (19th, 118.8 yards).
- R+L CARRIERS NEW ORLEANS BOWL – Fresh off its first-ever outright Sun Belt Conference title, No. 23 Louisiana will make its fourth-straight bowl appearance in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. The Ragin’ Cajuns are 1-of-6 FBS programs with 12 or more wins, joining Cincinnati (13), Alabama (12), Georgia (12), Michigan (12) and UTSA (12). A victory Saturday would extend Louisiana’s program-record winning streak to 13 games and establish a new program record for most victories in a season. The Ragin’ Cajuns will face off against a future conference foe in Marshall—the first-ever meeting between the two programs. The game will be the first under head coach Michael Desormeaux, who was named the 27th head coach in program history on Sunday, Dec. 5. Desormeaux was a record-setting quarterback for Louisiana from 2005-08, earning Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year honors following his senior campaign in 2008. He has been on the Ragin’ Cajuns staff for the past six seasons and served as the Co-Offensive Coordinator during the 2021 campaign when the team won its fourth-straight Sun Belt West Division title and its first outright Sun Belt Championship in program history.
- TAXACT CAMELLIA BOWL – Georgia State is going bowling for the third-straight season and will make its first-ever appearance in the TaxAct Camellia Bowl. The Panthers have earned bowl berths four times in five seasons under head coach Shawn Elliot and five times in the past seven years. Georgia State features one of the nation’s top rushing attack at 224.5 yard per game—good for eighth in the FBS. Running backs senior Tucker Gregg and redshirt senior Jamyest Williams combined for 1,709 yards and 18 touchdowns, while redshirt junior dual-threat quarterback Darren Grainger added 548 yards on the ground and 16 touchdown passes through the air. Defensively, the Panthers have held five opponents to one offensive touchdown. Georgia State will meet Ball State for the third time in program history. The teams have split the prior two meetings, with the Panthers winning 31-19 at Ball State in 2015 and the Cardinals taking the latest matchup 31-21 at Georgia State.
WHERE TO WATCH
|Friday, Dec. 17||Coastal Carolina vs. Northern Illinois | Game Notes||5:00 p.m.||ESPN2|
|Saturday, Dec. 18||App State vs. Western Kentucky | Game Notes||10:00 a.m.||ESPN|
|Saturday, Dec. 18||No. 23 Louisiana vs. Marshall | Game Notes||8:15 p.m.||ESPN|
|Saturday, Dec. 25||Georgia State vs. Ball State | Game Notes||1:30 p.m.||ESPN|
All Times CT
For exclusive Sun Belt football content on game days and throughout the 2021 season, follow @SunBeltFB on Twitter.