The Sun Belt coaches released their 2015 preseason poll last week, so we decided to ask our Sun Belt beat writers to come up with their own poll.
Our esteemed *cough* Sun Belt panel is comprised of the following:
- Nic Lewis, Site Manager and highly unofficial South Alabama writer
- Matt Monte, Assistant Coach emeritus and Cajun
- Chris Hondros, general G5 football guru and Greek person
- Will Butler, Assistant Manager & Texas State writer
- Haisten Willis, Senior Editor & Georgia Southern writer
- TK Sherrill, Appalachian State writer
- Charles Blouin-Gascon, Arkansas State writer
- Joseph Gilbert, Georgia State writer
- Jeremy Adcock, Louisiana-Lafayette writer
- AJ Devine, Louisiana-Monroe writer
So what fresh and exciting results did we come up with? Why, a preseason poll that looks...remarkably similar to the coaches' poll. Hooray for originality!
1. Georgia Southern (7) - 104 points
Highest vote: 1st (almost everybody)
Lowest vote: 4th (TK)
Oh what wonders a conference title will do. Despite not playing ULL or Arkansas State last year, an at times passive defensive front, and having to replace much of their o-line and two of their top receivers, our pollsters were seemingly afraid of challenging the "Georgia Southern is going to dominate again" orthodoxy.
Oh, and would you look at that. Our App State writer ranked GSU the lowest. TROLL SO HARD.
2. Arkansas State (2) - 93 points
Highest vote: 1st (TK, Will)
Lowest vote: 4th (Haisten, Nic)
Given that they bring back damn near all of their (impressive, proven, often scary) skill players on offense, Arkansas State's going to get some respect. But that all goes out the window if their defense once again turns into the equivalent of a field hospital on the battlefields of Gallipoli.
3. Appalachian State - 90 points
Highest vote: 2nd (Will, Haisten, Nic, TK)
Lowest vote: 4th (Jeremy, Hondros, CBG)
Just like Arkansas State, everyone's back. And their toughest Sun Belt road game is at Mobile (insert laugh track here). Our pollsters seemed a bit hesitant to buy fully into the ASU preseason hype, as evidenced by zero first place votes, but they weren't about to crash ASU out of the top 4 either.
4. Louisiana Lafayette - 86 points
Highest vote: 2nd (Jeremy, Hondros, CBG)
Lowest vote: 5th (Will, TK)
It's usually not wise to question The Hud, or to look him in the eyes for that matter. But while the three teams above them return the majority of their weapons, the two monsters Terrence Broadway and Christian Ringo are gone. So maybe a backslide from 9-3/8-4 is finally in order.
Of course, three words could prove us all wrong: ELIJAH MCGUIRE THO.
5. Texas State (1) - 71 points
Highest vote: 1st (Joseph)
Lowest vote: 7th (Hondros)
The general consensus for Texas State was around 5th or 6th, but things got screwy with the outlying votes. Chris Hondros seems to think that the Bobcats will finish below both South Alabama and ULM despite Texas State getting them both at home, not to mention USA's rebuilding project and ULM's punchless offense.
Meanwhile, Joseph and TK seem to be perhaps overly high on the Bobcats, as they voted Texas State 1st and 3rd, respectively. That's higher than our own Texas State beat writer's vote, as Will tabbed his alma mater to finish 4th.
Hey, nobody said we had any idea what we're doing.
6. South Alabama - 58 points
Highest vote: 5th (Haisten, Nic, Jeremy, CBG)
Lowest vote: 10th (TK)
Without the influx of talent from Birmingham, South Alabama would be looking at a new program rebuild that inevitably happens when the majority of your senior class cycles out (see: UTSA). But those players from UAB have helped refill some major roster holes.
So will the Jags actually be any good? As you can see from our range of responses, we don't know other than an educated guess that they probably won't be in the top four. TK seems to think that the rebuild is going to look more like a salvage project, however.
7. Louisiana Monroe - 47 points
Highest vote: 5th (Hondros)
Lowest vote: 9th (Nic)
If you squint, you should see some reasons for ULM to finish higher than 7th. They have a nasty 3-3-5 defense with most of their weapons returning, as well as two excellent wide receivers.
But then there's that atrocious rushing offense, the mostly re-tooled o-line, and the loss of kicker Justin Manton to bail them out on field position. There's also the meat grinder of a schedule with games against Arkansas State, Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, @Bama, @Georgia, @ULL, and @Texas State. Gulp. So maybe seventh is actually ULM's ceiling.
8. Troy - 40 points
Highest vote: 7th (Haisten, Nic, Jeremy)
Lowest vote: 9th (Matt, CBG)
Even in Larry Blakeney's worst season in recent memory, the Trojans blew New Mexico State, Georgia State, and Idaho out of the water. But they also looked overmatched against every other Sun Belt team not named UL-Monroe. We should learn quickly in 2015 whether Neal Brown is head coaching material.
9. New Mexico State - 30 points
Highest vote: 7th (TK, AJ)
Lowest vote: 10th (Nic, Jeremy, Hondros, CBG)
Nic: "I think New Mexico State and Georgia State are the same team, but NMSU is further along in the process."
NMSU also gets Georgia State in Las Cruces, so....
10. Georgia State - 22 points
Highest vote: 6th (Joseph)
Lowest vote: 11th (Everyone else besides Nic and Hondros)
The "other" GSU was slated to be last, and then BOOM. Right at 6 pm on Monday our Georgia State beat writer Joseph Gilbert swoops in with his poll. Where he picked Georgia State 6th. The highest anyone else had chosen Georgia State was 9th.
With that, we award Joseph the official Underdog Dynasty Sportswriters' Homertastic Trophy of the Year.
11. Idaho - 19 points
Highest vote: 8th (Nic, CBG)
Lowest vote: 11th (Jeremy, Hondros, TK, Joseph)
Our writers will argue about and generally insult each other's polls in our Sun Belt conference roundtable discussion.