Sun Belt using SEC non-league slate for national exposure
The Sun Belt’s hoping to taking full advantage of 10 non-conference games against the SEC this season, even if those matchups don’t necessarily equate to victories.
‘I’m travelling through (airports) and I get multiple people talking to me about, ‘You guys were the ones that beat Arkansas.’ So I think from a branding standpoint … that’s really significant,” said Louisiana-Monroe coach Todd Berry at Sun Belt Conference Media Day on Tuesday. “No one before had ever recognized the Warhawk helmet, the Warhawk logo.”
Louisiana-Monroe’s 34-31 overtime win over then No. 8 Arkansas in 2012 was the program’s first over a ranked team since joining the FBS in 1994. It was also the Sun Belt’s first win over a Top 10 team and turned the national spotlight on quarterback Kolton Browning and the Warhawks.
The week after Louisiana-Monroe’s upset victory, the Warhawks nearly toppled Auburn at Jordan-Hare. That two-week exposure was greater than the Warhawks’ eventual appearance in the Independence Bowl that season.
This fall, ULM battles LSU, Texas A&M and Kentucky on the road, perhaps the toughest non-league schedule for any program ULM’s size, but the Warhawks aren’t the only Sun Belt team taking on the SEC:
2014 Sun Belt vs. SEC games
- Aug. 30: Idaho at Florida
- Sept. 6: Arkansas State at Tennessee
- Sept. 13: Louisiana-Monroe at LSU; Louisiana-Lafayette at Ole Miss; Mississippi State at South Alabama
- Sept. 20: Troy at Georgia
- Sept. 27: New Mexico State at LSU
- Oct. 11: Louisiana-Monroe at Kentucky
- Nov. 1: Louisiana-Monroe at Texas A&M
- Nov. 22: South Alabama at South Carolina
“Our schedule always is going to be daunting because we always have to play those money games,” Berry said. “Everybody does. We tend to play a lot of top-25 teams because they tend to pay the most money.”
The Warhawks will make nearly $1 million for their quest to Baton Rouge, but the notoriety and chance to play in front of a national television audience outweighs the monetary gain according to Berry.
Sun Belt newcomer Georgia Southern took advantage of its grand opportunity last November when the Eagles took out Florida in Gainesville. It was a black eye for the Gators, but gave the FCS program located in Statesboro, Ga., national buzz if only for a weekend.
“We win that game against Florida, and our university logo is plastered everywhere,” Georgia Southern athletic director Tom Kleinlein said. “I think that’s just an example of what happens at that level when you win those kind of games. It just launches everybody. We’ve had that happen in a number of cases. Appalachian State had the ‘Michigan moment.’ We had the ‘Florida moment.’ (ULM) had the ‘Arkansas moment.'”
Sun Belt games against power conference schools are always beneficial, but it isn’t likely an SEC Top 10 falters again this season. Of the projected elite, LSU’s 28-0 at home under Les Miles against non-league competition while South Carolina put up 69 points on Troy during Steve Spurrier’s last game against the Sun Belt in 2010.