Sun Belt on the rise

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Every year, college football fans debate endlessly over which conference is the superior conference.

For the past few years, the SEC has been a cut above the rest, winning three straight national championships and preparing to have Alabama play for a fourth.

The Big 12 is generally accepted as the SEC’s only real challenge to the claim of America’s best conference, with the Big 10, Big East, ACC and Pac-10 left to sort out spots two through six.

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Then, there are the “other” conferences, the non-BCS so-called “mid-major” conferences.

Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West Conference, the Western Athletic Conference and of course, the Sun Belt Conference, are the five conferences that vie for BCS at-large spots every year.

The Mountain West has proven to be the top mid-major conference, as TCU, Brigham Young and Utah have all been impressive over the past few years.

It’s probably a toss-up between the MAC and the WAC after that, as each league has strong teams at the top with fodder at the bottom.

That leaves Conference USA and the Sun Belt, with most people agreeing that the Sun Belt is the cellar dweller when it comes to conference supremacy.

However, is that really accurate?

Let’s look at the two conferences.

The Sun Belt has four bowl eligible teams this year, while Conference USA has five.

Both conferences have two teams with nine wins or more. However, Conference USA has a championship game, which gave East Carolina the opportunity to win a ninth game.

Both Middle Tennessee and Troy won nine games prior to any postseason play.

Now, I will grant that Houston has been more impressive than either Troy or Middle Tennessee this season, but I honestly believe the Trojans could take down C-USA champion East Carolina on a neutral field.

Yes, the Sun Belt has been at the bottom of college football pretty much since its inception.

However, the gap between the Sun Belt and the rest has been narrowing for some time now. If the Blue Raiders and Trojans come up with wins this bowl season, consider that gap officially closed.

Nick Duke is a sports writer for The Messenger, and he can be reached at or on Twitter at Messenger_Nick