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Know thy enemy, part 1

Getting to know the contenders of the Sun Belt Converence


July 15, 2014

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    Since Georgia Southern is the new kid on the block, let’s spend the next few weeks getting to know our new neighbors in the Sun Belt. We’ll profile each of the 12 other member institutions over the next three weeks and discuss basic information, strengths, weaknesses and potential new rivalries. Let’s get started, shall we?

The University of Idaho: Moscow, Idaho
Enrollment: 12,312
Nickname: Vandals


    Idaho is a football-only member of the Sun Belt Conference, but I’m honestly not sure why. The Vandals have won a total of four games over the last three seasons, so they certainly weren’t invited to add football prestige. And it’s not like they fit the geographic footprint of the Sun Belt either. Moscow, Idaho is just a short 2,619 mile drive from Statesboro. In fact, the University of Idaho campus is less than ten miles from Washington State University.
    Last season, the Vandals played football as an independent and finished with a 1-11 record. Their lone win was a 26-24 homecoming victory over Temple. They did play three Sun Belt opponents and lost to all three—Arkansas State (48-24), Texas State (37-21) and New Mexico State (24-16). Georgia Southern will host Idaho for Homecoming 2014 on October 11.

New Mexico State University: Las Cruces, New Mexico
Enrollment: 18,497
Nickname: Aggies


    New Mexico State, like the University of Idaho, is also a conference member in football only. It’s a good thing, too, because travel costs to get to these two schools would be outrageous if all sports had to go out there every year. Las Cruces, New Mexico is about a thousand miles closer to Statesboro than Idaho, but that’s still not exactly a day trip.
    The Aggies are also not known for recent success on the football field. Last season, they were 2-10 with wins over Abilene Christian and the aforementioned Idaho Vandals. However, last season was an improvement over 2012, when they were 1-11.
    Georgia Southern has never played a full FBS schedule, so I don’t feel like I should say anything negative just yet … but I will anyway. These football-only members don’t seem to be very good at football. Georgia Southern travels to New Mexico State on October 4.

Texas State University: San Marcos, Texas
Enrollment: 35,000
Nickname: Bobcats


    With 35,000 students, Texas State is the largest institution in the Sun Belt. And if you have been around Georgia Southern for a while, you probably remember the Bobcats. The Eagles traveled to San Marcos in the 2005 FCS playoffs and blew a big halftime lead to fall by a score of 50-35. Head Coach Mike Sewak was let go following that devastating loss and Southern didn’t make the playoffs again until 2010. I guess you could say there’s a score to settle for Eagle football, and Georgia Southern will get its shot in a return trip to San Marcos on November 8.
    The Bobcats have also had some recent success in a few sports in which Georgia Southern is strong as well —so this could be a pretty good rivalry brewing. Texas State won the 2013 Sun Belt volleyball championship and they also won the 2009 and 2011 Southland Conference volleyball titles. Texas State softball won the 2012 Southland championship and its baseball team took home the 2011 title. I can certainly see this becoming a fun rivalry in several sports.

University of Texas-Arlington: Arlington, Texas
Enrollment: 33,788
Nickname: Mavericks


    Like Texas State, UT-Arlington is a former member of the Southland Conference. They joined the Sun Belt in 2013. Although UT-Arlington doesn’t have football, they will be a contender in plenty of other sports.
    The Mavericks’ men’s basketball team finished the 2011-2012 basketball season with an impressive 24-9 record and a berth in the NIT. However, their combined record over the last two seasons is a more down-to-earth 34-31. Their baseball team won 33 games in 2014 and advanced to the Sun Belt tournament championship, where they lost to UL Lafayette 6-5.
Arlington volleyball also finished as the Sun Belt runner-up. Georgia Southern’s first encounter with the Mavericks as conference opponents will be October 24 in a volleyball matchup in Arlington.

    Next week, we’ll continue our journey through the Sun Belt as we get to know the Louisiana and Arkansas schools.

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