Arkansas State Red Wolves
CBG: BUY. This may sound weird coming on the heels of the team's worst season since the advent of the "one and done coaches" era, but I am buying everything I can from A-State. The recruiting class is strong, and the studs Fredi Knighten and Michael Gordon will lead what could be the most explosive offense in the Sun Belt. Should they learn to tackle on defense, all should be well in Jonesboro--they even have the same head coach as last season (as of this writing).
Will: BUY. A-State was unlucky last season and suffered a slew of injuries that wrecked their consistency towards the end of 2014. They've brought in one hell of a recruiting class, plus Knighten and most of the skill players are back. In the longer term they're still set up to be one of the top programs of the 'Belt with new shiny facilities and solid recruiting.
Haisten: BUY. I have to confess I didn't watch the Red Wolves as closely as I should have last year, especially since they weren't on my team's schedule. Arkansas State has been a Sun Belt stalwart the past half decade even with the slew of coaching changes and always are one of the league's strongest when it comes to recruiting. After losing three of their last four to end the year, I see ASU improving on its 2014 record of 7-6.
CBG: SELL. In order to enjoy any kind of sustained success, Idaho needs a bigger/better recruiting base. While A-State had the all-too-special dream of capturing a fourth straight Sun Belt title this past season, the Vandals could be going for a four-peat of their own in 2015-2016. Should Paul Petrino manage to guide his team to another one-win season, Idaho would clinch, maybe forever, the title of "little engine that never could." I will not deny that I am secretly hoping for this.
Haisten: PUSH. Yep, I'm gonna wuss out and say hold again, which, hopefully that's an option because I didn't ask. Idaho is one of those teams who just never seems to crawl out of the gutter in CFB. It may be only a matter of time before they move back to the FCS and Big Sky Conference, and I wouldn't buy stock in them playing there either. They can't get much worse but Bobby Petrino's less demon-like brother has a tall task in front of him. Maybe he should sell his soul to the devil too.
Will: BUY. Linehan has another year under center, and just like Georgia State they *should* be in line for improvement since there's nowhere to go but up. They put scares into Texas State, Ohio, and ULM last season, and they get all three of them in the
aircraft hangar Kibbie Dome this year. Three wins seems within reach. But they'll have to find a way to get around their lackluster recruiting base and subpar facilities in the longer term. Luckily for them, they have a Petrino at the helm who may be able to do just that.
Louisiana Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns
CBG: SELL. Give the Ragin' Cajuns the credit they deserve. They are humble enough to celebrate their four straight R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl titles, that's what the banner ad running on their website tells me. That streak may not reach five however, as Terrence Broadway and Alonzo Harris have graduated on offense, and defensive coordinator James Willis is in the NFL. Louisiana will be fine in the long term if head coach Mark Hudspeth doesn't follow in Willis's footsteps. The team will still be good this upcoming season, because Elijah McGuire can run for a mile if you need him to.
Will: SELL. Hudspeth is a fantastic coach who should probably be at a P5 program by now, and the Ragin' Cajuns are always loaded with nasty, bruising Louisiana talent every season. However, it's hard to imagine ULL not taking at least a little bit of a dip (say to 7-5 or so) with Terrence Broadway graduating. ULL's stock in the longer term will likely depend on whether they can keep Hud or not.
Haisten: It's time to SELL. One of the roughest aspects of life at this level of football is when you have a lot of success, you lose people. The folks over at How Many Ls have done well to keep Hudspeth this long and hopefully will be able to keep him around a while longer. That's not going to earn my Monopoly money though. Short term, expect a dropoff this year without Broadway.
Haisten: BUY. ULM was one of the unluckiest teams in the country, with their last five losses coming by a combined 24 points. Let's not forget they also took out Wake Forest to open the season and gave Georgia Southern quite a contest in their final game. The Warhawks beat Arkansas and scared the Hell out of Auburn and Baylor in the not-too-distant past, they're due for improvement.
Will: BUY. But I'm buying hesitantly, as there are still a number of question marks around this team despite how unlucky they were. ULM's run game was sub-par despite an experienced o-line and senior Centarius Donald at running back, and QB Pete Thomas is gone. However, there are a couple of solid receiving weapons to work with in Ajalen Holley and Rashon Ceaser, and that defense is just nasty and returns their four leading tacklers from last season. In the long term, ULM is in good hands with Todd Berry, but how much patience do they have with him in Funroe?
CBG: PUSH. Head coach Todd Berry deserved better than a 4-8 record this past season, but deserve never made anyone bowl eligible. It is true, however, that a little luck might have pushed ULM all the way to the Sun Belt median that were the South Alabama Jaguars (more on them below). Starters Pete Thomas and Centarius Donald are gone at quarterback and running back, but maybe that's a good thing. Most of the main players of what was a strong defense are back, and that's definitely a good thing.
New Mexico State Aggies
CBG: SELL. What's the opposite of "If it's not broken, don't fix it"? That might be what has been unfolding in Las Cruces these past few years, as the Aggies throw and throw the ball and lose and lose football games. Doubling the win total from this past season could be feasible for Doug Martin, but the coaching staff will need more than fewer penalties and turnovers for any sustained success.
Will: PUSH. NMSU's offense--at least in Las Cruces--can and has scared the crap out of the top half of the Sun Belt, and they were incredibly young last season. Their defense is far too small to put much of a scare to anyone, but if they can get out of their own way by cutting down on penalties and turnovers, they could win a few shootouts and get to four wins or so. However, in the long term Doug Martin will have to deal with an awful recruiting base, lack of administrative support, and general lack of momentum that invariably destroys coaching careers in Las Cruces.
Haisten: BUY. If NMSU is good at one thing it's dedication. They've been airing it out for more than a decade now dating back to when Hal Mumme, the inventor of the air raid, took over in 2004. Sadly, the term "pass happy" appears to be an oxymoron in their case: They consistently lose. I'm feeling lucky though and prices are cheap.
Texas State Bobcats
Will: PUSH. Texas State has one of the easiest home schedules they'll ever have in FBS and could easily go 6-0 in San Marcos, but the road schedule is utterly brutal. Tyler Jones and Robert Lowe could easily dump 40 points a game on the 'Belt, but in the short term the defensive front seven could be a liability. Texas State is quietly building some serious depth under Dennis Franchione, but you may want to hold off a year on buying until the defense rebuilds.
CBG: BUY. I will buy whatever product/team that allows Robert Lowe to run, because Robert Lowe can do no wrong and his rushes are my worst nightmare. Wide receiver Montreal Taylor is also a favourite of mine, because that's the city I'm from. (Montreal, not Taylor.)
Haisten: I'll say BUY. Texas State has been on the brink of being pretty good for a while now and it's going to look really bad for the conference if they end up bowl eligible for a third straight year and get shut out. The soft home schedule Will mentioned will be a big help. It might only be 8-5 rather than 7-5, but I see more wins next year.