The 2019 Sun Belt Preview with the Game of the Year, Players of the Year, top pro prospects, big-time players who deserve a bigger spotlight, and more.
It’s going to be a new-look league on the sidelines, after turning into a new-look league last year with a massive change in divisional format.
On the one hand, it stinks to be a training ground for coaching talent – building up the stars only to lose them at the first big opportunity. On the other hand, it’s a fun time for the league with a whole slew of young and relatively inexperienced head coaches bringing a whole lot of energy.
Only Arkansas State’s Blake Anderson and ULM’s Matt Viator have been around for more than two seasons, with Appalachian State, Texas State and Troy starting out with new head men, and with Coastal Carolina, Louisiana, and South Alabama all with head coaches going into their second seasons.
That means 60% of the league has head coach with two years of experience or fewer, and that should mean an interesting season with a few wacky things happening from out of left field.
Most importantly, though, will be the transition of the two power programs in the East. Scott Satterfield created a killer at Appalachian State before going to Louisville, and now it’s up to Eliah Drinkwitz to keep it all going.
Neal Brown got an even better gig going to West Virginia after doing wonderful things at Troy, but former Auburn offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey is more than ready to keep it rolling.
Louisiana’s Billy Napier had a strong first season – he’s destined for huge things in the near future – and even though he runs an option attack, Chad Lunsford is a rising force at Georgia Southern.
Overall, the coaching is solid, and if Texas State can come up with anything interesting in the first year under new head man Jake Spavital, this will be an unpredictable league with everyone 1-though-10 having something for everyone else to worry about.
In the end, it’ll almost certainly come down to Appalachian State and Troy again in the East – with Georgia Southern making a whole lot of noise – and Arkansas State and Louisiana in the West.
Sun Belt Team That Will Surprise
Flip a coin on which way this will go in Year Two under head coach Steve Campbell. This was a good program that clawed its way to bowl eligibility in 2014 and 2016, but in seven years at the FBS level, it has yet to have a winning season. However, the 3-9 campaign of last year was a problem.
It’s not just that the record was lousy in a rebuilding season; it’s that the defense struggled and the offense fizzled way too often, scoring 17 points or fewer six times. It’s a stronger team, and it has the potential to get to six wins if it can get by Georgia State, Louisiana, ULM, and … it won’t get there. However, the Jaguars will be more competitive and be more of a factor.
– South Alabama Team Preview
Sun Belt Team That Will Disappoint
There’s a whole lot to like about the Warhawks. QB Caleb Evans is one of the league’s most dynamic playmakers, the offensive line is among the Sun Belt’s best, and the attack as a whole should be able to compete with anyone in the conference. The defense is a wee bit iffy – especially in the secondary – but there’s an even bigger issue. The schedule is a nightmare.
ULM was able to upset Southern Miss last season, rocked Georgia Southern, and put together a decent year on the way to a 6-6 season. Can the Warhawks beat Georgia Southern again, but on the road?
Can they win at Louisiana in the rivalry game, and/or at Florida State, and/or at Iowa State, and/or at Appalachian State? That doesn’t even include dates with Memphis and Arkansas State. The Warhawks will win a few of them, but not enough of them.
– ULM Team Preview