#23-nc-state-logo#23 NC State
#14-north-carolina-logo#14 North Carolina
12:00 pm, October 24
#5-ohio-state-logo#5 Ohio State
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#8-penn-state-logo#8 Penn State
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3:30 pm, October 24
#3-notre-dame-logo#3 Notre Dame
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#2-alabama-logo#2 Alabama
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3:30 pm, October 24
#17-iowa-state-logo#17 Iowa State
#6-oklahoma-state-logo#6 Oklahoma State
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7:00 pm, October 24
#18-michigan-logo#18 Michigan
#21-minnesota-logo#21 Minnesota
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#9-cincinnati-logo#9 Cincinnati
#16-smu-logo#16 SMU
9:00 pm, October 24

The Ultimate 2017 Sun Belt Preview

2017 Sun Belt Preview.

Projected Standings

1. Appalachian State

Appalachian State only transferred to the FBS three years ago, but in those three years the Mountaineers have finished third, second, and tied for first in the conference, a very quick rise for a team that was in the FCS just a few years ago. 14 starters return from that 1st-place team from last season, including 1,400 yard receiver Jalin Moore. App State also wont have to face Arkansas State, Troy, or South Alabama, and the game against Louisiana-Lafayette will be in Boone. Projected Record: 10-2 (8-0)

T2. Arkansas State

Arkansas State has won or tied for first in the Sun Belt five of the past six years despite going through a coaching change in the middle of that streak. After an 0-4 start last year, the Red Wolves finished 8-5 and claimed another share of the Sun Belt crown. With games against Nebraska and Miami in the non-conference, which will mean another slow start, and just ten returning starters, I don’t see Arkansas State winning the conference, but a bowl appearance should be a lock.  Projected Record: 8-4 (7-1)

T2. Troy

Last year, in just the second year under coach Neal Brown, Troy had the best year in school history, winning ten games for the first time at the FBS level, and achieving the first Top 25 ranking in the history of the program. 14 starters return from that team, and the Trojans will contend for a Sun Belt title, but a road game on December 2nd against Arkansas State will mean they fall one game short of a title for the second straight year.  Projected Record: 9-3 (7-1)

4. Louisiana-Lafayette

Louisiana-Lafayette has made it to the postseason five of the past six years (It was the New Orleans bowl every time), but they have failed to win the conference since 2005. ULL should bring back a solid defense, one that ranked in the top half of the conference last year, but they will lose their top quarterback, running back, and receiver. A bowl game is still the expectation, and they would need to go over .500 in conference to get there.  Projected Record: 6-6 (5-3)

T5. South Alabama

South Alabama beat Mississippi State and Top-25 San Diego State in non-conference play last year, but went 2-6 in the Sun Belt. The Jaguars will have another chance to do damage in the non-conference, with games against Ole Miss and Oklahoma State to open up the year. Only 11 starters return from last year’s 6-7 squad, and a lot of their winnable conference games are on the road.  Projected Record: 5-7 (4-4)

T5. Idaho

It’s Idaho’s last season on the FBS level, and I think I speak for everybody when I say that I really hope the Vandals make a bowl. As a Virginia fan, I remember the game in 2011 when Idaho took UVa to overtime. After three straight 1-11 seasons, management decided they needed to move down, but hey, Idaho went 9-4 last year, and miracles do happen, but only ten starters return from that team.  Projected Record: 5-7 (4-4)

T7.  Georgia Southern

After back-to-back nine win seasons in 2015/16, Willie Fritz left for Tulane, and the Eagles were tasked with finding a new coach. Year one under Tyson Summers didn’t go as planned, with a 5-7 record when the Eagles were expected to be at the top of the conference. With only ten returning starters, I expect Summers to miss a bowl game again, but year three will be the real test as to whether or not he will stay as head coach.  Projected Record: 5-7 (3-5)

T7. Louisiana-Monroe

ULM’s schedule features games against Top-10 teams Florida State and Auburn, a road trip to AAC favorite Memphis, and a game against C-USA contender Southern Miss. The Warhawks have just five home games, and no bye week until the third-to last week of the year. The schedule is rough, and it was a good year one under Matt Viator, but because of the schedule, don’t be shocked if Viator has a bit of a sophomore slump.  Projected Record: 3-9 (3-5)

T7. Georgia State

Georgia State has gone a combined 10-39 in four years at the FBS level, much of which is the fault of an offense that was ranked 119th in the country last year. Trent Miles is out as head coach, and Shawn Elliot (the guy who interimed when Steve Spurrier retired) is in. I like the hire, and the Panthers have 15 starters returning. Thanks to an out-of-conference schedule that should allow for two wins, I see Georgia State contending for a bowl.  Projected Record: 5-7 (3-5) 

T10 New Mexico State

New Mexico State has gone 10-38 over the past four years, and because the conference needed somebody to kick out to keep things even now that Idaho was leaving, they chose the Aggies, this is their last year in the conference. New Mexico State will have to face my top seven teams in the conference, and I don’t see them contending for a bowl during their final year in the conference.  Projected Record: 3-9 (2-6)

T10. Coastal Carolina

This is Coastal Carolina’s first year transitioning from FCS to FBS, meaning that they will not be able to compete for a bowl this year, but I see them doing some damage in year one. With 2015 FCS Coach of the Year Joe Moglia at the helm, and an easy schedule, the Chanticleers will have a good year one at the FBS level, and in no time they’ll be competing for a Sun Belt title.  Projected Record: 4-8 (2-6)

12. Texas State

And, finally… Texas State. In my 1-130 rankings, the Bobcats will come into the season ranked right at the bottom, 130th. Everett Withers knew it would be a rebuilding job when he took over last year, and the Bobcats won’t be sniffing bowl eligibility any time soon, but they will be more competitive in conference play. November 4th vs New Mexico State is their best chance for a Sun Belt win. Projected Record: 1-11 (0-8)

All-Sun Belt Team and Awards

Offense

QB: Brandon Silvers – Troy
RB: Jalin Moore – Appalachian State
RB: Larry Rose III – New Mexico State
WR: Emanuel Thompson – Troy
WR: Penny Hart – Georgia State
TE: Blake Mack – Arkansas State
C: Aaron Brewer – Texas State
OL: Colby Gossett – Appalachian State
OL: Beau Nunn – Appalachian State
OL: Jordan Rose – Idaho
OL: Frank Sutton Jr. – ULM

Defense

DL: Aikeem Coleman – Idaho
DL: Ja’Von Rolland-Jones – Arkansas State
DL: Joe Dillon – Louisiana-Lafayette
DL: Tee Sims – Appalachian State
LB: Eric Boggs – Appalachian State
LB: Bryan London II – Texas State
LB: Kyle Wilson – Arkansas State
DB: Clifton Duck – Appalachian State
DB: Justin Clifton – Arkansas State
DB: Jeremy Reaves – South Alabama
DB: Jaden Wright – New Mexico State

Special Teams

K: Stevie Artigue – Louisiana
P: Payton Theisler – New Mexico State

MVP: Ja’Von Rolland-Jones, DL – Arkansas State
Offensive Player of the Year: Jalin Moore, RB – Appalachian State
Defensive Player of the Year: Clifton Duck, CB – Appalachian State
Newcomer of the Year: Damian Williams, QB – Texas State

247Sports Recruiting Rankings

  1. Texas State
  2. Troy
  3. Louisiana-Monroe
  4. Georgia State
  5. Georgia Southern
  6. Appalachian State
  7. Arkansas State
  8. Louisiana-Lafayette
  9. South Alabama
  10. Coastal Carolina
  11. New Mexico State
  12. Idaho

Five Quick Questions

Team taking a step forward: Georgia State
Team taking a step back: Idaho
How many bowl teams: Four
Best QB: Brandon Silvers
Arkansas State’s ceiling: Sun Belt Championship

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