Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson is all smiles this summer. Four conference teams went bowling in 2015, posting two wins and two losses, and the conference is poised for even greater success in 2016. Arkansas State won the conference title last year with an unblemished 8-0 record, but lost to Louisiana Tech 47-28 in the New Orleans Bowl, while runner up Appalachian State was flying to a dramatic 31-29 win over Ohio. The Mountaineers finished the season 11-2 and earned a #25 ranking in the final Billingsley Report, the first time in history a Sun Belt team finished in the Top 25. Although Arkansas State and Appalachian State will both be breaking in new QB’s, both teams have enough play makers to contend for another conference crown, and perhaps even, a national ranking. The Mountaineers return 16 starters (7 on offense and 9 on defense) while Arkansas State returns 13 (6 and 7). Various Online college football odds are already on top of posting the first week of the season, along with odds for conference titles and playoff participants as the opening week of the season is drawing near.
Appalachian State has a very tough non conference schedule, opening at Tennessee on September 3 and hosting Miami (Fla.) two weeks later, so matching the won-loss record success of 2015 would mean posting a big non conference upset or running the table in conference play, both of which are very possible. The Volunteers and Hurricanes better be ready for this team. By a quirk in the conference schedule, Arkansas State and Appalachian State do not play in the regular season.
Georgia Southern, also a big bowl winner in 2015, figures prominently into the conference race. The Eagles are the only conference contender with a solid returning QB (Sr. Kevin Ellison) but must play a tough road game against Arkansas State on October5. Later Georgia Southern gets Appalachian State at home on October 27, and has another tough road test near the end of the season at Georgia State.
This is the way I am projecting the Sun Belt Conference for 2016:
New Mexico State