FOX Sports Exclusive
CFN: Sun Belt Conference preview
Share This Story
Team that will surpriseMiddle Tennessee. Lost in the shuffle with all the attention that'll be paid to Troy, Florida Atlantic and Arkansas State, Middle Tennessee could end up flying under the radar even though the secondary could be the best in the league, the defensive front is solid, and there's enough speed and potential on offense to keep up in shootouts. Anything less than 6-6 will be a major disappointment.
Team that will disappointArkansas State. The Red Wolves might be loaded on offense, led by QB Corey Leonard and RB Reggie Arnold, and have a killer defensive front helped by DE Alex Carrington, but it's all about schedule, schedule, and schedule. ASU has to face Iowa, Nebraska, and Louisville on the road and have back-to-back November away dates at Florida Atlantic and Middle Tennessee. The Troy game is at home in what might be a must-win to have any prayer of winning the Sun Belt title.
Game of the YearFlorida Atlantic at Troy, Nov. 21. Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee will have their say in the matter, but the Sun Belt title will be decided in one way or another by the showdown in Troy. No matter what happens, both teams will likely end up going bowling.
Five big-time players who deserve a bigger spotlight1. DE Alex Carrington, Sr. Arkansas State
2. QB Corey Leonard, Jr. Arkansas State
3. LB Cardia Jackson, Sr. ULM
4. WR T.Y. Hilton, Soph. FIU
5. WR Cortez Gent, Sr. Florida Atlantic
Coach on the hot seatTodd Dodge, North Texas. ULM's Charlie Weatherbie is feeling a bit toasty and Rick Stockstill could use a big year at Middle Tennessee, but it's Dodge who has to prove that the system and coaching ability that made him a Texas high school legend can produce. It's one thing to be bad, but it's another issue to be bad and not put up consistent offensive numbers when the attack is supposed to be explosive.
Five non-conference games Sun Belt opponents had better take seriously1. Florida Atlantic at Nebraska, Sept. 5
2. Troy at Arkansas, Nov. 14
3. Arkansas State at Louisville, Oct. 31
4. Middle Tennessee at Clemson, Sept. 5
5. ULM at Kentucky, Oct. 24
Bold predictionFlorida Atlantic will win its bowl game. Actually, that's not that crazy a call considering head coach Howard Schnellenberger has never lost a bowl game, and that goes back to his days at Miami. The Owls might not win the Sun Belt title -- Troy will probably take that honor and be off to the New Orleans Bowl -- but that doesn't mean there won't be room for more conference teams to get another game. FAU will probably be the underdog, everyone will assume the Sun Belt will get tagged with a loss, and Schnellenberger will prove everyone wrong once again.
Five best pro prospects1. DE Brandon Lang, Sr. Troy
2. DE Alex Carrington, Sr. Arkansas State
3. QB Rusty Smith, Sr. Florida Atlantic
4. LB Cardia Jackson, Sr. ULM
5. LB/S Boris Lee, Sr. Troy
Five biggest shoes to fill1. RB Undrea Salis for Tyrell Fenroy, UL Lafayette
2. QB Brad McGuire or Chris Masson for Michael Desormeaux, UL Lafayette
3. LB Michael Lockley for Frantz Joseph, Florida Atlantic
4. S Chris Bowen for Sherrod Martin, Troy
5. WR Sam Roberson for Casey Fitzgerald, North Texas