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Conference champion —so what?

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Daniel Hunt

Staff Writer

For the first year ever, the Sun Belt will hold a conference championship game to conclude the 2018 regular football season. 

Conference championships have become a standard across the NCAA. The overall record of a team means nothing for Group of 5 schools. Instead, the emphasis is put on conference wins. some intense rivalries.

 But for us Troy football fans, it is too little too late. After all, this is coming fresh off a season where the Trojans won 11 games (11-2, 7-1), but had to share a conference title with a team they did not even play, Appalachian State (9-4, 7-1). 

Despite sharing a conference title, it had zero effect on the Trojans postseason match up. Troy was eventually pitted against North Texas (9-5, 7-1) in the New Orleans R+L Carrier Bowl.

Unfortunately, this is the best game a Sun Belt team can compete in besides a New Year’s Six bowl. A typical NY6 bowl bid for a Group of 5 school would require a team to go undefeated, meaning a conference championship game can’t hurt Troy’s chances.

Imagine a scenario where two teams from the Sun Belt went undefeated. Before 2018, both teams would have been crowned co-champions. Regardless, strength of schedule ultimately holds more weight than being a conference champion.

In 2017, Florida Atlantic University brought on former Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin to be the next head football coach. Kiffin transitioned from the SEC to Conference USA flawlessly and produced a great season (11-3, 8-0).

Conference USA champions have the unique opportunity to pick which bowl they want to be in. Had FAU picked the New Orleans Bowl, the matchup would have featured two highly respected coaches. 

Unfortunately, Neal Brown versus Lane Kiffin never came to fruition. 

Instead, FAU did what any team would do. It picked the Boca Raton Bowl, the best bowl available for a Conference USA Championship winner.

This decision ended up giving both Troy and FAU less than stellar opponents. 

FAU was pitted against an Akron squad who did not even win its conference (7-7, 6-2), blowing them out by 47.

Troy also came away with the victory, and ended a successful season. But the feeling of slight disappointment never went away. 

Keep in mind, North Texas lost the Conference USA championship game to Toledo (11-3, 7-1). Toledo went on to play App State in the Dollar General Bowl, where it lost by 46 points. 

This is a perfect example of when not to look at a team’s conference record as the tell-all statistic if there is no championship game. 

It just so happens the Sun Belt was the only conference in all of college football to not have one. 

If anything, Troy showed they were a better team in every single way except in an actual football game against App State. Troy even took down No. 25 LSU in Death Valley.

There should never be a question as to which team is better when they settle it on the field. 

Due to the Trojans not getting an opportunity to play the Mountaineers, the 2017 season had room for improvement. This scenario is exactly why a championship game will be welcomed by every competitive team in the Sun Belt. 

Obviously more factors go into deciding bowl games than just a good record. Travel, marketability and revenue are the real factors in a bowl decision. 

The Sun Belt Conference Championship game won’t make a difference unless Troy goes undefeated, but that does not mean Troy fans will be satisfied without it.

Having two winners in football just doesn’t work.