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2014 College Football Preview: Sun Belt
By: Steve Bennett - StatFox
Published: 8/1/2014  at  11:58:00 AM
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To get you prepared for the upcoming college football season, we continue our run of all FBS conference previews over the next several weeks. For complete coverage, download your copy of the 2014 StatFox Edge Football Preview. Next up is the Sun Belt Conference, which lost Western Kentucky, but added four schools (Idaho, Georgia Southern, New Mexico State and Appalachian State) to increase its membership to 11 teams.

Here is the BetDSI Sportsbook breakdown of odds for the first week of the college football season:

Predicted Order of Finish

1. Louisiana-Lafayette
2. Louisiana-Monroe
3. Arkansas State
4. South Alabama
5. Troy
6. Texas State
7. Idaho
8. Georgia Southern
9. New Mexico State
10. Georgia State
11. Appalachian State

LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE RAGIN' CAJUNS


2013 Statistics:
SU Record: 9-4 (5-2 in Sun Belt)
ATS Record: 5-8 (39%)
Over/Under: 7-6
Points Scored: 33.8 PPG (34th in FBS)
Points Allowed: 26.5 PPG (63rd in FBS)
Odds to Win 2015 BCS National Championship: 100/1 (Field)

2014 Preview:
Offense: Starters Returning: 8
Defense: Starters Returning: 9
The Ragin’ Cajuns figure to be the class of the Sun Belt again. They return a stacked backfield with QB Terrance Broadway (9.1 YPA, 27 total TD) and RBs Alonzo Harris (942 rush yds, 14 TD) and Elijah McGuire (863 rush yds, 8 TD), plus O-Line four starters back. ULL was shaky defensively last year, allowing 29.0 PPG over their final six games due largely to a toothless pass rush.

LOUISIANA-MONROE WARHAWKS


2013 Statistics:
SU Record: 6-6 (4-3 in Sun Belt)
ATS Record: 5-7 (42%)
Over/Under: 5-7
Points Scored: 22.3 PPG (101st in FBS)
Points Allowed: 30.2 PPG (T-84th in FBS)
Odds to Win 2015 BCS National Championship: 100/1 (Field)

2014 Preview:
Offense: Starters Returning: 5
Defense: Starters Returning: 9
Former Colorado State and NC State starter Pete Thomas (6.7 YPA, 4 TD, 9 INT) steps in at QB and has a solid target in WR Rashon Ceaser (964 yards), but the tandem of RBs Centarius Donald (433 rush yds, 4 TD) and converted WR Tyler Cain will likely carry the load. A veteran defense bodes well for the Warhawks, though their lack of a pass rush cost them late last year.

ARKANSAS STATE RED WOLVES


2013 Statistics:
SU Record: 8-5 (5-2 in Sun Belt)
ATS Record: 8-5 (62%)
Over/Under: 7-6
Points Scored: 29.2 PPG (67th in FBS)
Points Allowed: 26.2 PPG (58th in FBS)
Odds to Win 2015 BCS National Championship: 100/1 (Field)

2014 Preview:
Offense: Starters Returning: 4
Defense: Starters Returning: 8
New Head Coach: Blake Anderson
QB Fredi Knighton (4.5 YPA, 2 TD; 344 rush yds, 5 TD) likely retains the starting job he earned late last year. The undersized dual threat should thrive in Blake Anderson’s up-tempo system. RB Michael Gordon (960 total yds, 11 TD), WR J.D. McKissic (662 rec yds) and TE Darion Griswold (312 rec yds) are solid weapons. The defense will miss stud DT Ryan Carrethers, but LB Qushaun Lee (134 tackles) anchors an improving 4-2-5 defensive scheme.

SOUTH ALABAMA JAGUARS


2013 Statistics:
SU Record: 6-6 (4-3 in Sun Belt)
ATS Record: 8-4 (67%)
Over/Under: 4-6-2
Points Scored: 29.4 PPG (63rd in FBS)
Points Allowed: 25.2 PPG (53rd in FBS)
Odds to Win 2015 BCS National Championship: 100/1 (Field)

2014 Preview:
Offense: Starters Returning: 8
Defense: Starters Returning: 6
Six-foot-5 dual-threat QB Brandon Bridge (6.0 YPA, 4.6 YPC) has plenty of weaponry with WR Shavarez Smith (940 rec yds, 6 TD), TE Wes Saxton (635 rec yds) and Alabama transfer WRs Marvin Shinn and Josh Magee. The bulk of a quality secondary returns. DE Pat Moore (5.5 sacks) must step up.

TROY TROJANS


2013 Statistics:
SU Record: 6-6 (4-3 in Sun Belt)
ATS Record: 5-7 (42%)
Over/Under: 11-1
Points Scored: 34.1 PPG (31st in FBS)
Points Allowed: 35.9 PPG (108th in FBS)
Odds to Win 2015 BCS National Championship: 100/1 (Field)

2014 Preview:
Offense: Starters Returning: 5
Defense: Starters Returning: 5
RBs Brandon Burks (675 rush yds) and Jordan Chunn (14 TD), and WR Bryan Holmes (16.9 rec avg, 7 TD) lead Troy’s offense. Ex-No. 3 QB Dallas Tidwell (12-of-16, 137 yds, 2 TD) and redshirt freshman QB Brandon Silvers are potential starters. Aside from LBs Mark Wilson and Wayland Coleman-Dancer, Troy will rely on a JUCO influx to improve its 35.9 PPG allowed.

TEXAS STATE BOBCATS


2013 Statistics:
SU Record: 6-6 (2-5 in Sun Belt)
ATS Record: 5-7 (42%)
Over/Under: 6-6
Points Scored: 23.9 PPG (94th in FBS)
Points Allowed: 27.3 PPG (71st in FBS)
Odds to Win 2015 BCS National Championship: 100/1 (Field)

2014 Preview:
Offense: Starters Returning: 8
Defense: Starters Returning: 3
Dennis Franchione will go up-tempo on offense with sophomore dual threat QB Tyler Jones (7.1 YPA, 8 TD, 5 INT) taking over. He’ll get plenty of help from RB Robert Lowe (945 rush yds, 5.8 YPC, 9 TD). LB David Mayo (89 tackles) leads the defense. The secondary and pass rush could be lacking though.

IDAHO VANDALS


2013 Statistics:
SU Record: 1-11 (Independent)
ATS Record: 3-9 (25%)
Over/Under: 7-5
Points Scored: 18.2 PPG (117th in FBS)
Points Allowed: 46.8 PPG (125th in FBS)
Odds to Win 2015 BCS National Championship: 100/1 (Field)

2014 Preview:
Offense: Starters Returning: 8
Defense: Starters Returning: 7
Idaho moves to the Sun Belt after a one-win season as an FBS Independent. The offense (18.2 PPG) has a chance to improve. The Vandals have a veteran O-Line and redshirt freshman QB Matt Linehan appears to be an upgrade at the position. The defense will likely be overmatched, especially in the secondary. The Vandals were rotating offensive players by the end of last season, when they allowed an FBS-high 46.8 PPG, including 40 TD passes.

GEORGIA SOUTHERN EAGLES


2013 Statistics:
SU Record: 7-4
ATS Record: 1-0 (100%)
Over/Under: 1-0
Points Scored: 35.1 PPG
Points Allowed: 23.2 PPG
Odds to Win 2015 BCS National Championship: 100/1 (Field)

2014 Preview:
Offense: Starters Returning: 8
Defense: Starters Returning: 8
New Head Coach: Willie Fritz
The Eagles move to FBS with a new look. The arrival of Willie Fritz signals that they will move away from the triple-option offense they used under Jeff Monken. Fritz ran a spread option at Sam Houston State, and he’ll trust QB Kevin Ellison (9.6 YPA, 2 TD, 3 INT) to throw more than his 79 passes as a freshman starter. While Fritz retained defensive coordinator Jack Curtis, it’s an undersized unit that’s short on talent in the front seven.

NEW MEXICO STATE AGGIES


2013 Statistics:
SU Record: 2-10 (Independent)
ATS Record: 4-7 (36%)
Over/Under: 9-2
Points Scored: 20.9 PPG (104th in FBS)
Points Allowed: 44.6 PPG (122nd in FBS)
Odds to Win 2015 BCS National Championship: 100/1 (Field)

2014 Preview:
Offense: Starters Returning: 8
Defense: Starters Returning: 3
The Aggies lost the two best players from a two-win team—WR Austin Franklin and QB Andrew McDonald. JUCO transfer QB Tyler Rogers likely takes over under center, though sophomore RB Xavier Hall (5.1 YPC) could be the focus. Veteran coach Larry Coyer takes over as defensive coordinator. He inherits a group that allowed an NCAA-worst 550 total YPG last year.

GEORGIA STATE PANTHERS


2013 Statistics:
SU Record: 0-12 (0-7 in Sun Belt)
ATS Record: 8-3-1 (73%)
Over/Under: 6-6
Points Scored: 18.8 PPG (115th in FBS)
Points Allowed: 36.7 PPG (T-110th in FBS)
Odds to Win 2015 BCS National Championship: 100/1 (Field)

2014 Preview:
Offense: Starters Returning: 5
Defense: Starters Returning: 5
The Panthers had a nightmarish FBS debut, losing all 12 games in 2013. QB Ronnie Bell (6.9 YPA, 15 TD, 11 INT), an Ohio transfer, looks to build on a decent first season as a starter. He’ll need sophomore WR Robert Davis (711 rec yds) to make a big leap with top target Albert Wilson gone. The defense will likely be overmatched again. LB Joseph Peterson (103 tackles) is a rock in the front seven, but GSU still surrendered 221.2 rush YPG last year.

APPALACHIAN STATE MOUNTAINEERS


2013 Statistics:
SU Record: 4-8
ATS Record: 1-0 (100%)
Over/Under: 0-1
Points Scored: 23.6 PPG
Points Allowed: 28.0 PPG
Odds to Win 2015 BCS National Championship: 100/1 (Field)

2014 Preview:
Offense: Starters Returning: 8
Defense: Starters Returning: 8
The FCS powerhouse had a rough 4-8 final year in the NCAA’s lower division. Second-year coach (and longtime ASU assistant) Scott Satterfield has his work cut out for him. QB Kameron Bryant (71.2% comp., 14 TD, 4 INT) isn’t as mobile as some of Satterfield’s former stars, but he’s accurate. Defense is the problem. ASU allowed 27.8 PPG last season, 71st among 126 teams at the FCS level, and was bottom-20 in rushing yards allowed (220.3).

All 2014 College Football Previews:

American Athletic Conference
Conference USA
MAC
Mountain West
Sun Belt
ACC - August 6
Big 12 - August 8
Big Ten - August 13
Pac-12 - August 15
SEC - August 20
Independents - August 22
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