When it comes to how conferences are ranked, the Sun Belt is without a doubt the consensus pick as the worst. A big reason for that, is they struggle to keep the teams that develop into a quality program
Over the years we have seen the likes of Middle Tennessee, Western Kentucky, North Texas, FAU and FIU all jump to C-USA. Not only are they losing their top programs, but they got no choice but to fill the void with FCS teams.
With all that said, if you are an action junkie, you are going to want to take some time to get to know the 10 teams that make up this conference. That’s because so many of the conference games are played during the week and many times they will be the only games on the board for Tuesday and Wednesday action.
Sun Belt College Football Preview & Predictions
Last year you could argue that the Sun Belt was actually better than the MAC. You had two really legit teams in Appalachian State and Troy, who not only dominated the competition in the conference (both went 7-1), they proved they could hang with the big boys.
The Mountaineers took Penn State to the wire in Week 1 (lost 45-38), while Troy not off a Power 5 team for a second straight year. They took down LSU in 2017 and last year upset Nebraska.
Last year the conference went to two divisions and had their first conference title. Appalachian State defeated Louisiana 30-19.
Part of the problem was the 3 best teams were in the save division with Troy, App St and Georgia Southern. Those 3 teams won a combined 31 games. The other 8 teams in the conference won a whopping 34.
Below I give out my projected records for all 10 teams and how they will finish in the standings of each division. You can check out my 2019 college football predictions page to see who I have winning every conference.
2019 Sun Belt Projected Standings, Rankings & Betting Odds
|Pos.||Team||Conf||Overall||Sun Belt Odds|
As you can see from the odds in the table above, Appalachian State is the clear favorite to win the Sun Belt. It’s easy to see why given they are 41-11 over the last 4 seasons and will have 16 starters back, including the league’s top returning QB in junior Zac Thomas.
My big concern is the loss of head coach Scott Satterfield, who is now at Louisville. I tend to value coaching a little more in these smaller conferences. Coaching can make all the difference with these programs, as they aren’t getting a bunch of 4* and 5* recruits. They have to develop their players and have a scheme that works.
I’m not saying I don’t think Appalachian State will be any good, but they got a tough schedule and their most important game is on the road against Troy.
With that said, I got the same concerns with the Trojans, who lost head coach Neal Brown to West Virginia. Troy also has a lot coming back, including a talented senior QB in Kaleb Barker. I also liked that they are trying to keep the same defensive scheme that has worked so well, as LB coach Brandon Hall got promoted to DC.
All the talk about the Trojans and Mountaineers, don’t sleep on Georgia Southern. The Eagles went back to their roots with the option attack and went 10-3 after going 2-10 in 2017. They were the only team to beat App State in league play and did so convincingly 34-14.
Talent wise the Eagles are right there with the top two, but the problem is they have to play both teams on the road. They also have to go to Arkansas State, who is the favorite in the West.
Not a lot is expected out of Georgia State and Coastal Carolina, but these are definitely two candidates to surprise and maybe flirt with a bowl.
Panthers got some talented kids and will be in year three under head coach Sean Elliot. Coastal Carolina flirted with a bowl last year in the first season under head coach Jamey Chadwell and will have 15 starters back.
|Pos.||Team||Conf||Overall||Sun Belt Odds|
I’m going to take the obvious choice here and go with Arkansas State and it’s more of a respect that I have for head coach Blake Anderson. The Red Wolves have posted 8 straight winning seasons and are 31-8 in Sun Belt play since Anderson took the job.
With that said, this might be the year they struggle to maintain those standards. It all comes down to the play they get at QB, as they lose one of their all-time best passers in Justice Hansen.
The Ragin’ Cajuns would by favorite team to dethrone the Red Wolves in the West. Louisiana just had the best recruiting class of any team in the conference and are coming off a 7 win season with a defense that gave up nearly 35 ppg. They got 15 starters coming back and should be better on both sides.
ULM is another team that has to be thinking they got a shot. The Warhawks went 4-4 in league play last year with two of those losses by a touchdown or less. They return 15 starters and will have an experienced signal caller in senior Caleb Evans (27 career starts).
Texas State is another Sun Belt team that will be debuting a new head coach. Jake Spavital was hired to try and get the Bobcats to respectability. Texas State has won 3 or fewer games in each of the last 4 seasons. So while they have a league-best 19 returning starters, chances are they will struggle to compete.
Similar story with South Alabama, though the Jaguars are hoping to see some improvement in year two under head coach Steve Campbell. This is a team that will be a much stronger team than they were in 2018, yet it will likely not reflect that in their record. The schedule is absolutely brutal.
Sun Belt Championship Game Prediction: Troy defeats Arkansas State
2019 Sun Belt Win Totals