Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The Sun Belt Conference moves from eight to 11 teams this season but there is only one squad with a legitimate chance to win the league title - Louisiana.
Last year, the Ragin' Cajuns tied Arkansas State for the top spot at 5-2. This season, they will stand alone as Sun Belt champions for the first time since the league was formed.
For those wagering on conference games this upcoming season, be aware of how poorly home favorites have fared in past years. They are a combined 15-25-2 going back to 2012.
Time now to take a deeper look into the league, along with predicted SU (overall and conference) records for those wagering on over/unders for team victories.
11) NEW MEXICO STATE - The Aggies are 5-14-1 as underdogs the last two years. They won one Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) game last season and it came over 1-11 Idaho. This year, they lose more defensive lettermen than they return and the offense moves forward without 2013's leading rusher, receiver and starting quarterback.
Final thought - New Mexico State could match last season's two-win total due to a relatively easy schedule. Predicted overall and conference records - 2-10, 1-7.
10) IDAHO - The Vandals are 5-17 ATS in their last 22 games. They finished last nationally in scoring defense in 2013 but they came into the year without their top six tacklers. This season, seven of the top nine return. Combine that with a more experienced offense and the win total should improve in 2014.
Final thought - The Vandals have lost 16 straight road games and they play seven away from home this season. However, they could win a couple at home. Predicted overall and conference records - 2-10, 2-6.
9) GEORGIA STATE - The Panthers went 7-2 ATS versus FBS opposition last season. They lost four games by a touchdown or less in 2013 - three in conference play. Georgia State should be more competitive this year with Nick Arbuckle at quarterback and a few new cornerbacks.
Final thought - Three wins are possible with the infusion of more talented players. Predicted overall and conference records - 3-9, 2-6.
8) GEORGIA SOUTHERN - The Eagles are 4-0 ATS versus FBS teams the last four years. They begin their first Sun Belt season with a new coach in Willie Fritz, who wants to break away from the triple-option. This move could stifle an offense which loses a third-round NFL draft choice in Jerick McKinnon.
Final thought - Look for the Eagles to have their worst season since 2006 when they went 3-8. Predicted overall and conference records - 4-8, 3-5.
7) TEXAS STATE - The Bobcats have covered only of two their last eight games. They are installing a new, no-huddle attack this season to try and help an offense which ranked last in league play in scoring. After losing their top three tacklers last year, four of the top six return in 2014.
Final thought - Texas State will win two more conference games than it did last season. Predicted overall and conference records - 5-7, 4-4.
6) SOUTH ALABAMA - The Jaguars went 8-3 ATS last year after a 4-8 ATS mark in 2012. They move forward without quarterback Ross Metheny and his 25 total touchdowns. In addition, the defense, which was so strong a year ago, will be without players who recorded 75 percent of the team's sacks.
Final thought - The overall win total will decline due to a more difficult non-conference schedule. Predicted overall and conference records - 4-8, 4-4.
5) TROY - The Trojans are 8-19 when favored the last three years. They must break in a new starting quarterback since Corey Robinson used up his eligibility. On the other hand, they are strong at every other offensive position, and the defense brings back 12 of its top 16 tacklers after just five of the top 16 came back in 2013.
Final thought - This is a much more experienced squad than last year but the record might not show it due to the loss of Robinson. Predicted overall and conference records - 6-6, 4-4.
4) APPALACHIAN STATE - The Mountaineers covered their first FBS game since 2009 (0-3 between 2010 and 2012) when they lost by "only" 38 points to Georgia last season. Nine starters return on offense and they also bring back 10 of the top 14 tacklers on defense.
Final thought - Appalachian State lost four games last season by a touchdown or less and three of those came by a combined nine points. The club's fortunes will turn around in 2014. Predicted overall and conference records - 7-5, 5-3.
3) ULM - The Warhawks are 3-9 in their last 12 games as home favorites. They averaged 11.5 fewer points per game than the season prior and finished next- to-last in league play in total offense. The run defense also failed as it dropped from second to sixth against Sun Belt competition. Despite all of that, ULM still managed to finish 4-3 in conference play. If new quarterback Pete Thomas can come anywhere close to reproducing Kolton Browning's numbers, the Warhawks will be bowl eligible for a third straight season.
Final thought - ULM is 12-6 in its last 18 conference games. Expect a 5-3 league mark this season. Predicted overall and conference records - 6-6, 5-3.
2) ARKANSAS STATE - The Red Wolves are 14-6 ATS on the road the last three seasons. They are on their fifth head coach in the last five years but have won 24 conference games in the previous four - the most of any Sun Belt team. This year, only three offensive starters return, but the offense has not brought back more than six starters in a season since 2004. They will be stout on defense with eight returning starters.
Final thought - The Red Wolves do not play Troy and get ULM, South Alabama and Appalachian State all at home where they are 16-2 over the last three years. Predicted overall and conference records - 7-5, 6-2.
1) LOUISIANA - The Ragin' Cajuns are 17-5 ATS in their last 22 road games. Their bread and butter is an explosive offense, which loses only three starters. In addition, their defensive scoring average has improved each of the last four years. Expect it to be even better in 2014 with the return of 17 of their top 18 tacklers.
Final thought - Louisiana will become the first Sun Belt team to finish with an unbeaten conference record since Arkansas State went 8-0 in 2011. Predicted overall and conference records - 10-2, 8-0.