We were privileged with the opportunity to watch some football games this past weekend, but now the season officially starts as the Fun Belt opens play this week. This will be a weekly feature where we will tell you where each team currently stands in the league.
We finally get to wrap up talking season as the rest of the year we will have actual football action to talk about. It’s a great time to be alive!
1.) Appalachian State Mountaineers (10-3 last year, co-champs)
It’s no secret that the Mountaineers will be the heavy favorites this fall. Scott Satterfield is 20-4 in conference play since joining the league and will have a senior heavy club this fall. The schedule is very favorable for the Mountaineers as it’s conference title or bust.
2.) Troy Trojans (10-3)
The Trojans were the surprise of the Sun Belt last year as they reached double-digit wins and were playing for a league title on the final Saturday of the regular season. Now the Trojans enter this year with expectations and we’ll see if their skill players can live up to the hype. This is the squad that has the highest ceiling in the Sun Belt.
3.) Arkansas State (8-5, co-champs)
After going winless in non-conference play, the Red Wolves found their mojo in Sun Belt play and would win their fifth conference title since 2011. Now they return a solid quarterback and the conference player of the year in defensive end Ja’Von Rolland-Jones. With Blake Anderson taking over play-calling duties, points should be much easier to come by this fall.
4.) UL-Lafayette (6-7)
The Cajuns made their fifth bowl appearance in six years under Mark Hudspeth and this has slowly become one of the most consistent programs in the Sun Belt. The schedule is absolutely brutal with only five home games, but this defense will be very salty. New offensive coordinator Will Hall and quarterback Jordan Davis will need to provide a spark to an offense that really labored last season.
5.) New Mexico State (3-9)
I bet you didn’t see this coming. The Aggies are entering their last year in the Fun Belt and they’ll look to go out with a bang. Running back Larry Rose III is the best skill player in the conference and having senior Tyler Rogers behind center will make this an exciting offense. The defense can’t get any worse as the Aggies could surprise many this fall.
6.) Idaho Vandals (9-4)
It was one of the best years in program history last fall in Moscow, as the Vandals reached their first bowl game since 2009. Now Paul Petrino’s program is entering their final season in FBS and they’ll attempt to go out with a bang. Four-year starter Matt Linehan returns at quarterback and he’ll pace this offense. With Kaden Elliss, Ed Hall, and Tony Lashley, the Vandals have the best linebacker group in the league.
7.) South Alabama Jaguars (6-7)
For three straight seasons, USA has ended the year with seven losses. They have yet to post a winning season in FBS play and some pressure may be building on Joey Jones. Cole Garvin beat out incumbent Dallas Davis for the quarterback spot as the Jags are totally rebuilding their passing attack. The defense has some bright spots, but the schedule is brutal.
8.) Georgia Southern Eagles (5-7)
The Eagles finished the year undefeated in Sun Belt play in 2014, but man has the bottom fallen out since then. Tyson Summers enters year two after making many coaching changes to his staff in the offseason. The return to the option will hopefully get Georgia Southern back to their winning ways.
9.) Georgia State Panthers (3-9)
There has never been this much hype surrounding the Atlanta based program and it’s well deserved. Shawn Elliott takes over as head coach in 2017 and now there are legit expectations with a new stadium and facilities. First things first, the Panthers must find some way to establish a ground game.
10.) ULM Warhawks (4-8)
ULM was one of the worst teams in college football last season, but they still managed to go 3-5 in Sun Belt play. Give that credit to Matt Viator as he’s one of the best coaches in the league. The defense can only improve and this offense will field one of the best ground games in the Fun Belt.
11.) Texas State Bobcats (2-10)
The Bobcats enter year two under Everett Withers after going winless in conference play last season. However, the Bobcats played a lot of freshmen and all those guys are a year older. If grad transfer Damian Williams cannot provide good quarterback play, look for the Bobcats to turn to a true freshman.
12.) Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (10-2 FCS)
The Chants are entering their first season as an FBS member and they are going to be without their head coach. Coastal is replacing a ton of pieces on offense as new offensive coordinator and interim head coach Jamey Chadwell takes over. The defense will need to lead the way for them this fall.