Order Restored In the Sun Belt- Appalachian St. vs Louisiana
The Sun Belt Conference created the east and west divisions and added a championship game for football in 2018. Since then, Louisiana has won the west division every year and Appalachian State has won the east three out of four years.
In the debut championship game in 2018, the 11-2 Mountaineers beat the 7-7 Ragin' Cajuns 30-19 in Boone, North Carolina.
In 2019, we saw a rematch between the two squads, but this time, each team had improved. The Mountaineers were 13-1 in 2019, and they were ranked in the top 25 of the AP polls. Louisiana experienced a big jump in year two under head coach Billy Napier, improving to 11-3 overall that season.
The Ragin' Cajuns only had one loss in conference play during the 2019 regular season, and it came against the Mountaineers with a 17-7 loss at home. Because App State's only loss was against Georgia Southern, a team that went 5-3 in the Sun Belt east, that game at Cajun Field was the deciding factor in where the conference championship game would be played.
Once again, it was in Boone, and, once again, the Mountaineers prevailed 45-38 after an incredible Louisiana comeback bid fell short.
With that loss, the Ragin' Cajuns football team fell to 0-8 all time against App State, but 2019 was the start of a special run for Napier's Louisiana squad.
The Sun Belt coaches poll in 2020 pinned Louisiana as the preseason favorites out of the West, and, shockingly enough, they picked App State to win the East.
Things didn't go exactly as planned, however. The Ragin' Cajuns had another phenomenal season, winning 10 of their 11 games and going 7-1 in conference play. This included the program's first victory against App State, when they won 24-21 in Boone during the regular season.
However, the Cajuns weren't the only team in conference play to take down the Mountaineers. Coastal Carolina, who was picked last in that same preseason coaches poll exploded onto the scene in 2020, winning all eight of their conference games. This included a 30-27 win against Louisiana at Cajun Field on a game-winning field goal.
It was the Cajuns only loss of the entire season, and, after the Chanticleers beat the Mountaineers 34-23 in Conway, South Carolina, they were scheduled to host the conference championship game.
Coastal, who was undefeated at the time, was ranked 12th in the country, while Louisiana was ranked 19th. The Cajuns had an opportunity to avenge their one loss in an otherwise incredible season. It was set to be the most anticipated game in Sun Belt Conference history. However, the game was canceled due to COVID-19 issues in the Coastal Carolina program.
The two teams were named co-champions by Sun Belt commissioner Keith Gill, devastating many Louisiana fans and players.
Coastal celebrated with the trophy on their field, and tensions between the two teams and fanbases became even more heated.
For the 2021 season, the Ragin' Cajuns were once again picked by the coaches poll to win the Sun Belt west, while the east had Coastal and App State tied at the top.
After losing their first game of the season to Texas, Louisiana has rattled off a school-record 11 straight wins, including a regular-season sweep of Sun Belt Conference play for the first time in program history. Included in those eight conference wins was a 41-13 drumming of App State at Cajun Field.
The Mountaineers bounced back the next week, handing Coastal Carolina their first loss of the 2021 season with a 30-27 victory in Boone.
That win gave App State the tie-breaker over the Chanticleers, but it wouldn't be necessary because Coastal lost to the Georgia State Panthers 42-20. App State sealed the east, and the Panthers took second place with the Chanticleers falling to third in the divisional standings.
App State took advantage of their opportunity to reclaim dominance in the east and finished the season with six straight wins where they out-scored their opponents 240-86.
All of this sets up the fourth year of the Sun Belt Conference Championship Game to include the third matchup between Louisiana and App State.
The Mountaineers are looking to avenge their double-digit loss to the Cajuns earlier this season and improve to 3-0 historically in the championship game.
Meanwhile, Louisiana, who will be playing their final game under coach Napier, looks to pick up their first conference championship victory after the opportunity was taken from them last year. They're looking for their third straight win against the Mountaineers, and this year, the championship game is in Lafayette.
App State is currently favored on the road over the 24th ranked Cajuns by three points, but fans of the conference should know one thing.
The battle that the fans at Cajun Field will watch on Dec. 4 at 2:30 p.m. is the culmination of four years of excellence, and the two best programs in the Sun Belt will be on display once again to determine the undisputed kings of the conference.