2022 Sun Belt Championship Game Preview

One of the more under-the-radar conference championship games this weekend is the 2022 Sun Belt Championship Game. The contest will feature the 10-2 Troy Trojans and the 9-2 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. This will be just the fourth championship game for the conference. The previous three featured Appalachian State and Louisiana with the Mountaineers winning two. The game will be played at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Troy, Alabama. Kick-off is set for 2:30 p.m. central time on ESPN with Dave Fleming, Rod Gilmore, and Tiffany Blackmon on the call.

2022 Sun Belt Championship Game Preview

Coastal Carolina Chanticleers

While this will be the first appearance by the Chanticleers, it is not the first championship berth for the team. In 2020 they were set to play in the game against Louisiana, but the game could not be played due to the Covid-19 impact on Coastal Carolina. Because of their 8-0 conference record that season they were rewarded with the Sun Belt championship. They are looking for their second in three seasons.

Grayson McCall Status

The big question for Coastal Carolina will be if star quarterback Grayson McCall will play in the game. Early in the week head coach Jamey Chadwell said McCall was questionable to play on Saturday. The two-time Sun Belt Player of the Year has not played since injuring his foot against Appalachian State on November 3rd. He is the catalyst of the offense and was having another great season before the injury. On the season McCall has thrown for 2,314 yards with 21 touchdowns and just one interception. Jarrett Guest has got most of the snaps in the last two games passing for 262 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. In the games against Southern Miss (26-23 win) and James Madison (7-47 loss), he has a completion rate of just 46%.

If the Chanticleers are without McCall again they will need to lean on their rushing attack. Coastal Carolina averages 166.5 yards per game and ranks fifth in the conference. Leading the way are running backs C.J. Beasley and Reese White with a combined 1,115 yards and eight touchdowns.

Chanticleers Defense

The offense will need to be strong because the defense has had its struggles this season. The Chanticleers are tenth in the Sun Belt giving up 28.7 points per game, and rank 11th giving up 412.7 yards. They are the worst team in the league versus the pass but do have talented players on that side. They are led by linebackers JT Killen who leads the team with 89 tackles, and Adrian Hope is first with five and a half sacks.

Troy Trojans

It has been an incredible first season for Jon Sumrall at Troy. Coach Sumrall replaced Chip Lindsey who after three seasons could never win more than five games in a season. The Trojans this season won twice that many. It could be 11 wins if they were able to knock a hail mary pass down against Appalachian State early in the season. The Trojans are back to winning like they were used to under Neal Brown who had three consecutive ten-win seasons before leaving for West Virginia. Sumrall was an assistant to Brown from 2015-17.

Trojans elite defense

The Trojans are led by their defense that has been one of the best if not the best in the Sun Belt. They are one of the best teams in college football at getting to the quarterback. The Troy defenders have reached the passer 37 times this season which has equaled up to 247 yards lost by the opposition. Defensive end T.J. Jackson is tied for third in the conference with eight sacks, and Richard Jibunor has six this season. The leader on the defense is the FBS all-time leading tackler Carlton Martial. He leads the team with 112 tackles this season, and that is with missing some games this season. Martial is just not the leader, he is also the heart and soul of the Trojans. The Troy defense is also second in points allowed (16.8) and fourth in yards (316.8).

Just good enough offense

Offensively it has not always been pretty for the Trojans, but the unit has done what is needed to win games. Troy averages 24.6 points per game and just 124 yards on the ground. They rank fifth in the Sun Belt with 247.4 yards per game in the air though. For the first half of the season that passing total was between two quarterbacks in returning Gunnar Watson and transfer Jarret Doege. The back and forth with the signal callers came to an end in the Trojan’s 10-6 win over South Alabama on October 20th. Watson has been cemented as the guy since then. On the year he has passed for 2,387 yards and ten touchdowns. He has struggled with interceptions at times throwing ten.

Despite the run game struggling most of the season, it has come on strong in recent weeks. Leading rusher Kimani Vidal has gone over 200 yards in each of the last two games versus Louisiana-Monroe and Arkansas State. He has also reached the endzone six times in those games. The go-to target on the outside at receiver has consistently been Tez Johnson. The sophomore leads the team with 49 receptions for 764 yards and four touchdowns.

Who Wins the 2022 Sun Belt Championship Game?

With all of the questions about the status of Grayson McCall, this is a game the Troy Trojans should win. If McCall is not on the field it is hard to see the Chanticleers being able to have any success offensively. The Trojan offense should be able to move the ball and have plenty of energy from the home crowd. Troy wins the conference title 24-7.