3. Sun Belt
The killers at the top make all the difference.
The MAC and Conference USA don’t have Appalachian State.
The Sun Belt is smaller than the 12-team MAC and 14-team Conference USA, so – duh – just a few great teams make the league stand out a bit more.
Texas State has to find its mojo under in Year Two under Jake Spavital – and it might. If the offense kicks in and the quarterback play is better, this will be the type of team that screws someone up on the right day.
The Bobcats have to bring up the floor, and South Alabama has to join them. It’s been a rough two years under Steve Campbell, but there shouldn’t be too many other dead-weight teams.
Coastal Carolina should at least flirt with bowl eligibility again, ULM will at least be interesting, and Troy should bounce back a bit after the transition from the Neal Brown era didn’t go so well.
If Georgia State can do that again, at least half the conference will be terrific again.
Georgia Southern managed to put up a great year even though the offense didn’t quite work like it was supposed to. If it’s just a wee bit sharper – okay, a lot sharper – the option attack will be a killer.
As always, Arkansas State is going to be great – just pencil it into a bowl game somewhere. Louisiana has somehow been able to hold on to head coach Billy Napier for at least another year, and then there’s Appalachian State.
The transition from Scott Satterfield to Eliah Drinkwitz went more than fine, and new head coach Shawn Clark is inheriting a heater. If the Mountaineers can be almost as good as they were last season, then the Sun Belt has its superstar – the early date at Wisconsin is a big deal – with a whole lot else to like.