Once again, here are the 2022 Sun Belt standings.
And here are the APR standings with conference rank in offensive touchdowns, touchdowns allowed, and APR in parentheses. This includes conference games only with the championship game excluded.
Finally, Sun Belt teams are sorted by the difference between their actual number of wins and their expected number of wins according to APR.
Coastal Carolina was the lone Sun Belt team that saw their actual record differ significantly from their APR. The Chanticleers significantly overachieved relative to their Yards Per Play numbers as well and we went over a few reasons for that last week.
Last Over First
On October 15th, Old Dominion traveled to Conway, South Carolina to play their second game as a Sun Belt member against Coastal Carolina. The Monarchs won their Sun Belt opener three weeks prior against Arkansas State, but were just 2-3 overall. Their other victory was a memorable upset against Virginia Tech (their second victory against the Hokies in five seasons), but they dropped their other three non-conference games. Meanwhile, the Chanticleers were 6-0 overall and 3-0 in Sun Belt action and just outside the top 25 of the most recent AP Poll. Unsurprisingly, the Chanticleers were favored by double digits. Surprisingly, Blake Watson rushed for 259 yards and the Monarchs won going away 49-21. Old Dominion would not win another game the rest of the season, dropping their final six contests by more than two touchdowns per game. The Chanticleers rebounded from the shocking to defeat to win their next three games and clinch the Sun Belt East. The Chanticleers technically tied for the division title and under normal circumstances would have lost the tiebreaker to James Madison. However, the NCAA, in their infinite wisdom, deemed the Dukes ineligible for any type of postseason play as they transitioned to FBS. Therefore, the last place team in the division defeated the 'division champ'. How often does this happen at the non-BCS/Group of Five level? Not very often.
Central Michigan over Western Michigan
Western Michigan was 8-1 overall and unbeaten in the MAC when they traveled to Mount Pleasant in mid-November in 2000. The Chippewas were 1-8, having lost seven consecutive games. The Broncos turned the ball over three times and passed for less than 100 yards in a 21-17 defeat. Central Michigan was blown out by Northern Illinois in their regular season finale while the Broncos rebounded to beat Eastern Michigan and qualify for the MAC Championship Game. The Broncos were forced to play a true road game at Marshall in the title game despite finishing two games ahead of the Herd in the conference standings. Marshall won a tight game and despite a 9-3 record, there were not enough bowl spots for the Broncos and they stayed home for the holidays.
Central Michigan over Northern Illinois
The Chippewas were at it again eleven years later, handing Northern Illinois their lone conference defeat in 2011. This game came much earlier in the season and after their 48-41 victory, Central Michigan (1-1) was actually ahead of Northern Illinois (0-1) in MAC play. The Huskies would not lose again, closing the season with nine consecutive victories, including a comeback against Ohio in the MAC Championship Game. Central Michigan won just a single game the rest of the season, beating 1-11 Akron by a single point.
UNLV over Fresno State
Fresh off their first bowl appearance in more than a decade, UNLV finished 2-11 and won just a single Mountain West game in 2014. The Rebels beat Fresno State in overtime in mid-October, kicking off a three game conference skid for the Bulldogs. At 3-6, the Bulldogs rallied to win their final three league games to qualify for the second ever Mountain West Championship Game. The Bulldogs lost to Boise State to fall to 6-7, but still qualified for a bowl game where they also lost to Rice to finish 6-8 overall.
Navy over Memphis
Navy opened conference play with a 22-21 victory against Memphis. The Midshipmen beat Lehigh the following week, but went two months before their next victory. Memphis actually lost their first two conference games (Tulane) but won five of their last six to finish in a three-way tie with Houston and Tulane. It was a Rock/Paper/Scissors situation (Memphis beat Houston who beat Tulane who beat Memphis), but Memphis had the better division record so they advanced to the AAC Championship Game where they lost to UCF.
Fresno State over Hawaii
Fresno State entered the 2019 season as the two-time defending division champ. They actually began the 2019 season 2-2 in Mountain West play (4-4) overall, including a tight victory at Hawaii. The Bulldogs dropped their final four league games and finished tied with San Jose State and UNLV at the bottom of the West Division. After their loss to Fresno State dropped them to 2-3, Hawaii won their final three league games with the coup de grace coming in a winner-take-all battle with San Diego State. However, the Warriors did not put up much of a fight in the Mountain West Championship Game, losing to Boise State by three touchdowns.
Western Michigan over Kent State and Northern Illinois
Western Michigan was the 'People's Champ' of the 2021 MAC by beating both title game participants. They dominated both, beating Kent State by 33 points and Northern Illinois by 21 (in a meaningless game). The Broncos actually finished 4-4 in MAC play, but that was only good for a tie for last place in the West Division.
Old Dominion endured a lost season in 2022, but they accomplished something few other last place teams have. In addition to beating one of the conference title game representatives, they also became the only team to beat Grayson McCall in Conway.
This concludes our season recaps. Thanks for hanging with us through the first half of the offseason. We will be taking a little break, but we'll be back with some throwback YPP posts in three weeks. We'll follow that up with some First Half Point Differential recaps and a Vegas trip post. And then, it will almost be time for the season to start. Enjoy the start of your summer and check back here in late June. Thanks for reading.