Just last week, the Sun Belt Conference announced that the league would be the final conference to add a conference championship game to their schedule. Starting in 2018, the Sun Belt will crown their conference champion by way of a title game.
The 2018 season would be the second season with Coastal Carolina in the conference and the first season without New Mexico State and Idaho, truly marking a new beginning for SBC football.
As my good virtual friend, Thomas Sherrill, discussed in his article reporting the the addition of a CCG there are only two ways to have a CCG with just 10 teams: two divisions or a full round-robin among the teams in the conference. For UL Lafayette, breaking off into two divisions is exactly what the team needs.
If the SBC moves forward with two divisions, it'll more than likely be based off location: East and West. As Thomas wrote...
If divisions is the decision, the likely set-up will have Appalachian State, Georgia State, Georgia Southern, Coastal Carolina and Troy in the East Division with South Alabama, Louisiana, UL Monroe, Arkansas State and Texas State in the West Division.
The conference's commissioner, Karl Benson, has reiterated this point of an East/West type divisional format before, so Thomas' division setup is very possible. How does this setup benefit the Ragin' Cajuns and their fans though?
A Stacked Sun Belt East
Much like the Big Ten East and the SEC West, the Sun Belt's East division is stacked compared to its other division. While Arkansas State has been the conference champion four of the past five seasons, the rest of the SB West would be very thin compared to the SB East.
The SB East would have three of the top four teams from last year's conference standings, Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, and Georgia State. Georgia State's ability to remain in the top half of the conference standings is certainly a huge question mark, but there's no reason to think that Georgia Southern and Appalachian State won't be among the best teams in the conference for many years to come.
The other two teams that would make up the SB East, Troy and Coastal Carolina, aren't cupcakes though. Troy has been a middle of the road SBC team finishing 3-5 or 4-4 in each of the past four seasons. And while Coastal Carolina's first season in the SBC will be 2017, this is a team that has won their conference three of the past four seasons and has made it to the FCS Tournament four years in a row.
There is No Comparison
Potential SB West members, UL Monroe, Texas State, Arkansas State, and South Alabama, have combined for a conference record of 32-32 over the past two seasons, while the SB East has combined for a conference record of 38-26. Imagine if Georgia State, a team that started its football program in 2010, hadn't gone 0-8 in conference during the 2014 season.
Moving into 2016, Vegas has projected the win totals for each of the SBC teams, and to no one's surprise, the potential SB East has four of the six highest totals.
Appalachian St. Mountaineers 8.5
Georgia Southern Eagles 8
Arkansas State Red Wolves 7.5
Louisiana Ragin Cajuns 6.5
Troy Trojans 6
Georgia State Panthers 4.5
Idaho Vandals 3.5
ULM Warhawks 3
South Alabama Jaguars 3
Texas State Bobcats 3
New Mexico State Aggies 3
A Great Head Start
While the Ragin' Cajuns have plenty of work to do to get better on the field, the Sun Belt might be inadvertently stacking the cards in their favor by the time 2018 gets here. If the move is to East and West divisions then we could see the West become a two-man race between the UL Lafayette and Arkansas State.