Amid Change, Sun Belt Confident Top of League Remains Strong
The seismic shifts that have shaken up the college football world — with teams well-established in their conferences moving on to perceived greener pastures — have trickled down to the Sun Belt Conference.
The conference lost four members in the last year and added two new ones to create an eight-team league for 2013.
Georgia State and Texas State will replace Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Middle Tennessee and North Texas, which have moved on to Conference USA.
But the changes aren’t stopping there.
Western Kentucky already has announced this will be the its final season in the Sun Belt as it, too, is moving to C-USA for 2014. But Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, Idaho and New Mexico State will be coming aboard.
“We’re certainly in flux right now,” says one veteran league coach. “I’m not going to try to paint a pretty picture necessarily because I don’t know that it is pretty.”
There is some irony in the timing of the defections as the league’s product on the field is arguably at its highest point. In the past three years, the league has sent 10 teams to bowls, half of them coming away with postseason wins.
And last season Louisiana-Monroe and Middle Tennessee got national attention by notching victories over teams from BCS automatic qualifying conferences, Arkansas (SEC) and Georgia Tech (ACC), respectively. Louisiana nearly came away with a third before falling 27-20 at SEC power Florida.
“Those were pretty significant deals,” the coach said.
But if the membership has undergone a radical change, the Sun Belt standings will have a familiar look in 2013. The same teams that contended for the 2012 title (less Middle Tennessee) will be back at it again this fall.
Despite the loss of two-time Player of the Year quarterback Ryan Aplin, Arkansas State, 15-1 in conference play over the past two years, looks primed to make a run for a third straight league title.
Louisiana-Monroe loses only a couple of starters from the first bowl team in school history, and Louisiana, 12-4 in the league the last two years, will be hard to stop offensively.
Western Kentucky, coming off a bowl game and just three years removed from a winless season, has a new coach known for his offensive success. You may have heard of him — Bobby Petrino, most recently of Arkansas.
Of the remaining four teams, Troy, which won outright or shared five consecutive titles until slumping in 2011, has the best chance of getting into the upper half of the standings.
|OFFENSE – FIRST TEAM||OFFENSE – SECOND TEAM|
|QB||Kolton Browning||Sr.||Louisiana-Monroe||QB||Terrance Broadway||Jr.||Louisiana|
|RB||David Oku||Sr.||Arkansas State||RB||Alonzo Harris||Jr.||Louisiana|
|RB||Antonio Andrews||Sr.||Western Kentucky||RB||Jyruss Edwards||Sr.||Louisiana-Monroe|
|WR||J.D. McKissic||So.||Arkansas State||WR||Eric Thomas||Sr.||Troy|
|WR||Je’Ron Hamm||Sr.||Louisiana-Monroe||WR||Jeremé Jones||Jr.||South Alabama|
|TE||Wes Saxton||Jr.||South Alabama||TE||Ian Thompson||Sr.||Louisiana|
|C||Josh Allen||Sr.||Louisiana-Monroe||C||Andre Huval||Sr.||Louisiana|
|OL||Joseph Treadwell||Jr.||Louisiana-Monroe||OL||Terrence Jones||Jr.||Troy|
|OL||Aaron Williams||Sr.||Arkansas State||OL||Charlie Will Tuttle||Jr.||Texas State|
|OL||Daniel Quave||Jr.||Louisiana||OL||Melvin Meggs||Jr.||South Alabama|
|OL||Cameron Clemmons||Jr.||Western Kentucky||OL||Mykhael Quave||So.||Louisiana|
|AP||Darryl Surgent||Sr.||Louisiana-Lafayette||AP||T.J. Glover||Jr.||South Alabama|
|K||Brian Davis||Sr.||Arkansas State||K||Will Johnson||Jr.||Texas State|
|DEFENSE – FIRST TEAM||DEFENSE – SECOND TEAM|
|DL||Ryan Carrethers||Sr.||Arkansas State||DL||Lonnie Gosha||So.||Troy|
|DL||Alex Page||Sr.||South Alabama||DL||Kentarius Caldwell||Sr.||Louisiana-Monroe|
|DL||D.J. Yendrey||Sr.||Texas State||DL||Blake McColloch||Sr.||Texas State|
|DL||Christian Ringo||Jr.||Louisiana||DL||Amos Draper||Sr.||Arkansas State|
|LB||Andrew Jackson||Sr.||Western Kentucky||LB||Enrique Williams||Sr.||South Alabama|
|LB||Qushaun Lee||Jr.||Arkansas State||LB||Michael Orakpo||Jr.||Texas State|
|LB||Cameron Blakes||Sr.||Louisiana-Monroe||LB||Justin Anderson||Sr.||Louisiana|
|DB||Craig Mager||Jr.||Texas State||DB||Vincent Eddie||Sr.||Louisiana-Monroe|
|DB||Rocky Hayes||So.||Arkansas State||DB||Chris Pickett||Sr.||Troy|
|DB||Jonathan Dowling||Jr.||Western Kentucky||DB||Rodney Gillis||Sr.||Louisiana|
|DB||Isaiah Newsome||Sr.||Louisiana-Monroe||DB||Camren Hudson||Sr.||Troy|
|P||Matt Hubbard||Jr.||Georgia State||P||Hendrix Brakefield||Sr.||Western Kentucky|