Sun Belt Conference 2016-17 Outlook

With the College football season coming up I am going to try to help give you a little more info on the D-1 teams in their respective conferences first up the Sun Belt.

Arkansas State

This team finished #1 in the Sun belt last year capturing their 12th conference title and 2nd of their FBS era. The Red Wolves had a tough early transition from the FCS to the FBS and were not very successful until the later 2000s. They have returning talent with experience at the QB, RB, and WR positions but this may all just be over-excitement from what they did last year they will try to repeat their success of 2015 but it will be hard, but they are riding on a 5 year consecutive bowl streak.

Record last season: 9-4(8-0)
My 2016 over/under 8.5
Last conference win: 2015 vs. Texas State
Last Power 5 win: 2008 vs. Texas A&M
Last bowl appearance: 2015 vs. R+L carriers New Orleans Bowl
Biggest bowl appearance: Godaddy.com Bowl
Bowl Record: 2-4
Last AP top 25 win: 2012 vs. #25 Kent State @ Godaddy.com Bowl
Last AP top 25 ranking: N/A
Conference titles:12
National titles: 1 (FCS)

Appalachian State

With plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, this by far is everyone’s preseason favorites and the hype will only get bigger. Already with 4 games on the ESPN family of networks, they look for this team to come storming out of the gate with a major week 1 victory at Tennessee and a week 3 win vs. Miami. Without a doubt, this is probably the best and most well put together in this conference even though the team has only been at the FBS level for 2 years and was bowl eligible both of those years. Don’t be surprised if you see this team competing at a high level this year which they can do and also end up on the AP or CFP rankings towards the middle or end of the year.

Record last season: 11-2(7-1)
My 2016 over/under 8.5
Last conference win: 2015 vs. South Alabama
Last Power 5 win: N/A
Last bowl appearance: 2015 vs. Ohio @ Raycom Media Camellia Bowl (W)
Biggest bowl appearance: 2015 Raycom Media Bowl
Bowl Record: 1-0
Last AP top 25 win: N/A
Last AP top 25 ranking: N/A
Conference titles: 18
National titles: 3 (FCS)

Georgia Southern

After dropping the first game at West Virginia, they later went on to go on a 5 game win streak before losing their first conference game to Appalachian State when they would later go on to finish 6-2 in the conference. It is very rare in this “pass first, think later” day and age to see a team so run focused with the top rush offense at over 350 yards per a game (NCAA best). They only averaged just over 60 yards passing a game (NCAA worst) and had a decent defense that bent but didn’t break. If they continue this success on the ground, this gives them a good recipe to be bowl eligible and then some with maybe even a New Year’s 6 bowl but of course that’s a long shot.

Record last season: 9-4(6-2)
My 2016 over/under 7.5
Last conference win: 2015 vs. South Alabama
Last Power 5 win: 2013 vs. Florida
Last bowl appearance: 2015 vs. Bowling Green @ Godaddy Bowl (W)
Biggest bowl appearance: 2015 Godaddy bowl
Bowl Record: 1-0
Last AP top 25 win: N/A
Last AP top 25 ranking: N/A
Conference titles: 11 (10 FCS)
National titles: 6 (FCS)

Georgia State

After a devastating loss to a 5-7 team in the AUTONATION Cure bowl last year they look to bounce back and fight their way to the top of the conference with wins. They finished the year off with a 4 game win streak before heading into the bowl and look to use that momentum to guide them forward in their stenure of being in the FBS. From 2012 to 2015 they managed to just win 1 game over that short term with 2 winless seasons on their move up from the FCS to the FBS, last year people might say it is a fluke but this team does have the young talent and is able to fight for the top of the conference in the next few years.

Record last season: 6-7(5-3)
My 2016 over/under 4.5
Last conference win: 2015 vs. Ga Southern
Last Power 5 win: N/A
Last bowl appearance: 2015 vs. San Jose State @ AutoNation Cure Bowl
Biggest bowl appearance: 2015 vs. San Jose State @ AutoNation Cure Bowl (L)
Bowl Record: 0-1
Last AP top 25 win: N/A
Last AP top 25 ranking: N/A
Conference titles: 0
National titles: 0

Idaho

This will be the first school to ever drop down from FBS to FCS and this football team has been on the decline over the past 5 years not making to a bowl since 2009 and has only gotten worst with winning only 1 game for 3 years straight during the span of their last bowl game. They did have a top 30 pass offense last season but struggled on the ground with a Tied for 97th rank, their defense was no better with a inadequate ranking giving up more than 40 points a game. The outlook for Idaho is not good but they will probably have better luck a the FCS level since they could not do very well at the FBS level while only winning 2.9 games per a year since 2000.

Record last season: 4-8(3-5)
My 2016 over/under 4.5
Last conference win: 2015 vs. Texas state
Last Power 5 win: N/A
Last bowl appearance: 2009 vs. Bowling Green @ Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl (W)
Biggest bowl appearance: Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl
Bowl Record: 2-0
Last AP top 25 win: N/A
Last AP top 25 ranking: N/A
Conference titles: 10
National titles: 0

Louisiana Lafayette

A tough game to lead off the season vs Boise State and one later in the season at Georgia should be a difficult enough to shake up the team and give them maybe two guaranteed losses on the season but that is with optimism that they can win some big conference games versus Appalachian State, Georgia State, and Georgia Southern. After little talked drama over the off-season involving self-sanctions in a fraud probe, the Cajuns could be in for a long season if they were to lose to a FCS school in McNeese State who lost their coach during the off-season. They do have little hope as they do have some of the coolest uniforms in all of college football but that does rarely rub off to the field.

Record last season: 4-8(3-5)
My 2016 over/under 5.5
Last conference win: 2015 vs. Georgia State
Last Power 5 win: 2009 vs. Kansas State
Last bowl appearance: 2014 vs. Nevada @ R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (W)
Biggest bowl appearance: R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Bowl Record: 5-1
Last AP top 25 win: N/A
Last AP top 25 ranking: N/A
Conference titles: 14
National titles: 0

Louisiana Monroe

A team that had success for the later parts in the 2000s and a team that won at least 3 games against teams in the conference since 2010 hopes were high for them in the 2015 season but when things turned side-ways and a momentum destroying 2015 season with a 1-7 conference record and a 2-11 season record where do they go from here? They can only go up. With new and proven offensive minded coach from McNeese State that has a overall record of 77-33 and also with 15 seniors returning with some sort of experience at key positions and many new incoming freshmen they can make a splash in a unbalanced Sun Belt conference.

Record last season: 2-11(1-7)
My 2016 over/under 4.5
Last conference win: 2015 vs. New Mexico St.
Last Power 5 win: Wake Forest (ACC)
Last bowl appearance: 2012 vs. Ohio @ the Independence bowl (L)
Biggest bowl appearance: only bowl appearance in 2012
Bowl Record: 0-1
Last AP top 25 win: 2012 vs. Arkansas
Last AP top 25 ranking: N/A
Conference titles: 4
National titles: 1987 (FCS)

New Mexico State

Another team that will be kicked out of the Sun belt conference in 2018 after they just had a horrible campaign while they were in the conference but why? Well for a team that finish in the top 60 in the country for rushing yards and and passing yards in 2015 they struggled on the defensive end giving up a whopping 45 points per a game losing 7 games in 2015 by 50 or more points. The outlook for this team is dark but If they do decide to go back down to the FCS they will face tough teams like North Dakota State, JMU, William & Mary, Montana, CSU, Illinois State, Alcorn State, and Richmond which all have proven that they could win at the FCS level and even beat FBS teams something that New Mexico state had a hard time with.

Record last season: 3-9(3-5)
My 2016 over/under 2.5
Last conference win: 2015 vs. Louisiana Lafayette
Last Power 5 win: 2011 vs. Minnesota
Last bowl appearance: 1960 vs. Utah State @ Sun Bowl (W)
Biggest bowl appearance: Sun Bowl
Bowl Record: 2-0-1
Last AP top 25 win: N/A
Last AP top 25 ranking: N/A
Conference titles: 4
National titles: 0

South Alabama

After being in the bottom half of passing yards per a game, rush yards per a game, and points against per a game the should have success this year with much talent they should be in the conversation for being at the top of the conference. The only thing that will probably hurt them is their non-conference schedule featuring LSU, Mississippi state, and San Diego state.

Record last season: 5-7(3-5)
My 2016 over/under 5.5
Last conference win: Louisiana Lafayette
Last Power 5 win: N/A
Last bowl appearance: 2014 vs. Bowling Green @ Raycom media Camellia bowl (L)
Biggest bowl appearance: Camellia Bowl
Bowl Record: 0-1
Last AP top 25 win: N/A
Last AP top 25 ranking: N/A
Conference titles: 4
National titles: 0

Texas State

No one really knows what this team is able to do with very little insight to the new structure of the team. This is still a fairly new team that just came up from the FCS a couple of years ago the retired coach (Dennis Franchione) that coach this team during the teams transition from the FCS to the FBS is now being replaced by JMU’s ex-head coach Everett Withers. Withers is 19-7 as a head coach in 2 seasons and was an assistant at Ohio state and took over a 2011 North Carolina team that went 7-6 after Butch Davis was fired earlier that year.

Record last season: 3-9(2-6)
My 2016 over/under 3.5
Last conference win: 2015 vs. UL Monroe
Last Power 5 win: N/A
Last bowl appearance: Palm bowl (FCS)
Biggest bowl appearance: Palm bowl (FCS)
Bowl Record: 2-0
Last AP top 25 win: N/A
Last AP top 25 ranking: N/A
Conference titles: 14 (5 shared)
National titles: 1981, 1982 (FCS)

Troy

Well for a team that went 4-8 last year they might have a possible upswing in wins and could win upwards to 7 games this year which would make them bowl eligible and allow them to finally get some national attention. They have a returning starting QB that threw for over 2,000 yards and a go-to receiver that will definitely be a threat through the air. Even though they lost their 1,000 yard rusher, they are in a good place to be a top of the conference and potentially face a Power 5 team in a bowl game.

Record last season: 4-8(3-5)
My 2016 over/under 5.5
Last conference win: Louisiana Lafayette
Last Power 5 win: 2004 vs. #19 Missouri
Last bowl appearance: 2010 vs. Ohio R+L carriers New Orleans bowl (W)
Biggest bowl appearance: Palm Bowl
Bowl Record: 2-3
Last AP top 25 win: 2004 vs. #19 Missouri
Last AP top 25 ranking: N/A
Conference titles: 20 (15 FCS)
National titles: 3 (FCS)

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