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College Football 2019: Sun Belt Preview

Sun Belt

Leading up to the kickoff of the 2019 college football season, The Game Haus has been previewing each FBS conference and those independent teams. Today, we conclude with the Sun Belt.

Here we go.

Predictions

EAST DIVISION

1. Appalachian State
In addition to being favored to win the East, the Mountaineers are expected to win the Sun Belt overall. Quarterback Zac Thomas (31 combined touchdowns in 2018) is among 20 starters who are back for Appalachian State.

2. Troy
Running back B.J. Smith is perhaps the best overall talent in the Sun Belt and linebacker Carlton Martial returns after recording 76 tackles in 2018. The Trojans also host Appalachian State and Georgia Southern.

3. Georgia Southern
Behind quarterback Shai Werts (908 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns), who has had an interesting offseason, and the triple-option attack, the Eagles have the talent for a second-place finish. But, they have to play at LSU, Appalachian State, Troy and Arkansas State.

Sun Belt
Tarron Jackson / Photo courtesy of goccusports.com

4. Coastal Carolina
Coastal won three games in its first FBS season in 2017 and five last year. It’s schedule presents an opportunity to reach six wins and defensive end Tarron Jackson (eight career sacks) is someone to keep an eye on.

5. Georgia State
The Panthers went from a seven-win team in 2017 to just two victories last year. They should be better than the latter in ’19, but perhaps not much.

WEST DIVISION

1. Arkansas State
It’s a two-team race in the Sun Belt between Arkansas State and Louisiana. Defensive linemen William Bradley-King and Forrest Merrill combined for 10 1/2 sacks last season.

2. Louisiana
A total of 17 starters are back for a squad that is expected to mix it up with Arkansas State for the Sun Belt West title. The Ragin’ Cajuns boast a ground game that averaged  218.7 yards per game in 2018.

Sun Belt
Caleb Evans / Photo courtesy of m.oxfordeagle.com

3. Louisiana-Monroe
Quarterback Caleb Evans (6,581 career passing yards, 37 passing touchdowns; 1,368 rushing yards, 24 rushing touchdowns) has been a staple at quarterback for the Warhawks since October 2016. As he goes, so does ULM.

4. South Alabama
After totaling seven wins over the last two seasons, the Jaguars will be relying on youth this season. While it may not translate into a winning campaign, it could be beneficial for the future.

5. Texas State
The Bobcats last winning season came in 2014, and it will be a stretch to do it again this year. However, linebacker Bryan London II (109 tackles in 2018) is among the best in the Sun Belt.

Players to watch

Sun Belt
B.J. Smith / Photo courtesy of troytrojans.com

OFFENSE
B.J. Smith, RB, Troy: Following a break-out junior season (1,186 rushing yards, 13 touchdowns in 2018), Smith is looking for even more in 2019.

Kindle Vildor, DB, Georgia Southern: Vildor has seven interceptions over the last two seasons, and might be one of the more underrated defensive backs in the country.

Key Games

Oct. 17: Louisiana at Arkansas State. These are the two best teams in the Sun Belt West. Arkansas State has won the last two meetings at home.

Oct. 31: Georgia Southern at Appalachian State. Georgia Southern might have a team worthy of seriously challenging for the Sun Belt East title. Of course, that means getting past the Mountaineers.

Nov. 29: Appalachian State at Troy. Georgia Southern might have a say in the Sun Belt East race, but this one should have plenty on the line. Appalachian State has won four of the last five matchups.

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