The 3 Sun Belt teams that can challenge the “Big 3”
Ask anyone: the top three teams in the Sun Belt are Arkansas State, Appalachian State and Troy. But the one thing we know for sure about the Sun Belt is that the Sun Belt cannot be predicted. Attempting to do so is to risk madness and ruin! Ignoring the risks, I submit three Sun Belt teams that have the potential to flummox predictability in 2017.
The Red Wolves, Mountaineers and Trojans (The Big 3) are predicted to punch it out in the Sun Belt this season. What winning attributes do these three programs have in common? Let’s review:
Experienced and quality leadership behind center
A playmaking running back
A stingy, sack-happy defense
Stability at the head coaching position
Everybody else in the Sun Belt is struggling with at least one facet of this list. However, there are a handful of teams capable of riffing off script, sending the Sun Belt hurtling out of orbit. Grab a cold Yoo-hoo and let’s examine these teams together.
Louisiana Ragin Cajuns
Stingy Defense • Stability at HC
Mark Hudpseth’s rushing defense ranked 23rd in the nation and came second only to Troy’s in the Sun Belt. The Cajuns’ QB situation was a mess last season, but junior QB Jordan Davis could provide much needed consistency. But the prospect of replacing the legendary Elijah McGuire at running back is daunting indeed.
South Alabama Jaguars
Playmaking RB • Stability at HC • Stingy(ish) Defense
Joey Jones has helmed the Jags for nearly a decade, and the team has flashed bursts of brilliance for the past three seasons. Xavier Johnson is a special talent at running back, and the Jag defense was a respectable 53rd nationally in Total D. Jones must either find a way to elevate Dallas Davis’ play or replace him with a QB that will limit interceptions.
Stability at HC • Experienced QB
The Vandals’ defense is not the program’s strength. But QB Matt Linehan (3,184 yards, 19 TDs) may be the most NFL-ready quarterback in the Sun Belt. Veteran head coach Paul Petrino is a quick-tempered stick of dynamite, but the man knows how to generate offense. Aaron Duckworth is an underrated RB (676 yards, 4.7 per carry) who could be the difference between the Vandals’ quiet exit from the Sun Belt and a “FU, Karl Benson!” season.
Georgia Southern’s return to a pure triple option offense is intriguing, but Tyson Summer’s squad has just lost too much talent to compete in 2017.
Georgia State saunters into the season with a new coach and a beautiful new venue. The energy is there, but what about the offense?
A former notary public, Jeremy Harper is a professional writer and Chief Instigator for Storm the Castle Creative. He spends much of his free time staring blankly into space.