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2021 Sun Belt Conference Football Preview



Predicted Order of Finish


East Division


1. Coastal Carolina- the Chanticleers couldn’t close out a perfect 2020 season losing to Liberty in the Cure Bowl, if anything the loss will serve as motivation with almost the entire roster back from last year’s historic season, sophomore QB Grayson McCall leads the offense after passing for 277.9 yards per game and rushing for 569, WR Jaivon Heiligh who caught 10 touchdowns returns as the top receiving target, RB CJ Marble is gone but junior Reese White is ready to take over, the O-Line returns everyone, 10 starters return from a defense that finished 19th in points allowed, must travel to Appalachian St but avoids Louisiana until potential title matchup


2. Appalachian State- HC Shawn Clark led the Mountaineers to a 9-3 finish and a bowl win in his first full season, the offense must replace QB Zac Thomas who went 32-6 in three years as a starter, Duke transfer Chase Brice who also spent time at Clemson will take over the offense, Brice will be surrounded by a deep receiving corps along with junior RB Camerun Peoples who rushed for 1,124 a year ago, the defense loses only 1 starter from last year after ranking near the top of the Sun Belt in almost every statistical category, gets Coastal Carolina at home this time around


3. Georgia State- HC Shawn Elliot continues to work his magic taking the Panthers to 3 bowls in 4 seasons, the high powered offense that finished 32nd nationally in points scoring returns every starter including dual-threat QB Cornelious Brown IV who passed for 2,278 yards and rushed from 301, Brown must cut down on his 10 interceptions last year but will have a plethora of talented receivers and backs returning, the defense returns 8 starters but must replace 3 linebackers including Jordan Strachan who collected 10.5 sacks last season, brutally tough non-conference schedule will help prepare for conference play


4. Georgia Southern- HC Chad Lunsford has taken the Eagles to 3 straight bowls but haven’t been able to overtake Appalachian St and now Coastal Carolina atop the East Division, the offense returns 7 starters but loses 4 year starting QB Shai Werts, Justin Tomlin who was supposed take over as started but will be ineligible to start the year leaving freshman Cam Ransom as the likely next choice, thankfully whoever the QB is will have junior RB Logan Wright along with a veteran O-Line, the defense led the Sun Belt in rushing yards allowed and finished third in points allowed and has experience all throughout the depth chart


5. Troy- HC Chip Lindsey hasn’t been able to carry on the momentum Neal Brown built posting 3 straight double digit win seasons before leaving to West Virginia, Lindsey hopes Missouri transfer QB Taylor Powell can lead a loaded offense and cut down on the turnovers that plagued the Trojans in 2020, Powell will have a talented group of receivers to throw to along with a pair of solid running backs, the defense improved significantly from 2019 climbing from 116th in points allowed to 42nd and will be a key cog in climbing up the division standings


West Division


1. Louisiana- Covid-19 issues denied the Rajin Cajuns a chance to avenge their only loss of 2020 against Coastal Carolina in the Sun Belt title, however they were able to cap of an impressive 10 win season with a bowl victory over UTSA, HC Billy Napier returns for his 4th season with a stacked roster that has a Sun Belt Championship square in its sights, Senior QB Levi Lewis returns to run the offense after throwing 19 touchdown passes and rushing for 335 yards, the receivers and O-Line both have an abundance of talent and experience and sophomore RB Chris Smith should be a viable replacement after losing 2 All-Sun Belt backs, the defense finished 31st in scoring but was gashed against good rushing attacks and must improve, tough non-conference schedule at Texas and Liberty offers chance to bolster New Years Six resume


2. Arkansas State- Butch Jones takes over as HC after Blake Anderson left for Utah St, Jones had great success in his prior 2 stints coaching at non power five schools Central Michigan and Cincinnati and inherits a solid foundation built by Anderson, junior QB Layne Hatcher will battle FSU transfer James Blackmond for the starting spot, the receiving corps lost 2 key starters from 2020 but have plenty of talent ready to step in, the backfield remains a question but 4 senior linemen return up front, the defense has its struggles last year and must replace linebacker Justin Rice and D lineman Forrest Merril along the front seven, get Coastal Carolina, Louisiana, and Appalachian St at home


3. South Alabama- HC Steve Campbell was let go after 3 years despite showing some signs of progress in 2020, in comes Kane Wommack who served as D coordinator under Tom Allen at Indiana, the offense will turn the keys to South Carolina transfer QB Jake Bentley, there is talent at receiver with All-Sun Belt performer Jalen Tolbert, however the O-Line needs to get shored up and the backfield has questions heading into the season, the defense returns 8 starters from a unit that had its up and downs in 2020 but should tighten up under defensive minded Wommack


4. Texas State- Jake Spavital enters his third season as HC of the Bobcats, as expected under the offensive minded Spavital the production on that side of the ball showed progress in year two, sophomore QB Brady McBride returns along with a deep backfield and experienced O-line, third team Sun Belt receiver Marcell Barbee will be the primary target, the defense however has been atrocious finishing outside the top 110 in rushing and passing yards allowed last year, it returns 8 starters but must replace two starting linebackers, schedule provides some winnable games early


5. Louisiana-Monroe- veteran HC Terry Bowden takes over a program that went winless in 2020 and struggled mightily in all 3 phases, Rhett Rodriguez son of O coordinator Rich Rodriguez will likely start at QB, the offense returns 5 starters but must replace reliable tight end Josh Pederson, O-Line lacks experience, the defense returns 8 starters but many will likely be replaced given the struggles it had last year, this won’t be an easy fix for Bowden


Buy- Arkansas State

Sell-None


Best Bet- Arkansas State OVER total wins


Coach of the Year- Jamey Chadwell Coastal Carolina

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