For those of you who don't skip over the Sun Belt games on the college football schedule when handicapping, this could be another good year for the conference. Appalachian State could run away with things, but there are some challengers that could steal this away from the Mountaineers.
FanDuel Sportsbook out of New Jersey right now is the only place you can find totals on the Sun Belt. I may not have an opinion on every team, plus if you wait, I'm sure someone in Vegas will release their numbers soon as well.
Note: Over/under totals provided by FanDuel Sportsbook.
Sun Belt East Division
Over 9 wins -115...Under 9 wins -102
Non-Conference Games: East Tennessee State, Charlotte, at North Carolina, at South Carolina
The Mountaineers hired former NC State offensive coordinator Eli Drinkwitz to replace Scott Satterfield (went to Louisville). This should only help an offense that was already expected to be fairly productive. Zac Thomas is back at quarterback with Darrynton Evans in the backfield and Corey Sutton and Thomas Hennigan out wide. The offensive line should be really strong as well. It's the defense that could be an issue if anything. Six starters return with Ted Roof taking over as coordinator. Senior Akeem-Davis Gaither returns after posting 100-plus tackles and he's joined by Jordan Fehr (5.5 sacks). This team is certainly capable of beating North Carolina and hanging tough with South Carolina as well.
Verdict: I came up with 10 wins so slight lean to the over here.
Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
Over 4.5 wins +140...Under 4.5 wins -165
Non-Conference Games: Eastern Michigan, at Kansas, Norfolk State, at UMass
It could be another long year for Coastal Carolina, which has some winnable games to start before conference play. The Chanticleers have six starters back on both sides of the ball. Fred Payton and Bryce Carpenter are expected to vie for the starting quarterback job, and whoever wins will have CJ Marable and Jeremiah Miller as the top playmakers. This offense averaged 27 points per game last season but may be hard-pressed to match that. The defense is changing to a 3-4 but will still line up in a 4-3 on occasion. Losing defensive lineman Jeffrey Gunter, Coastal Carolina's only first-team All-Sun Belt selection last season, to transfer (NC State) hurts. There's some returning talent, but not much to get excited about.
Verdict: I agree with the money move on the under. Maybe wait for Coastal Carolina to pop up four wins and take the under with less juice.
Georgia Southern Eagles
Over 6.5 wins -108...Under 6.5 wins -108
Non-Conference Games: at LSU, Maine, at Minnesota, New Mexico State
Georgia Southern is coming off of a 10-win season but a tougher schedule and significant roster turnover signal regression is coming. The Eagles' offense has been gutted with just five starters back. One of those is quarterback Shai Werts who was very good as a passer and a runner as well. A triple-option team, Werts will need help running the ball with Wesley Kennedy, Logan Wright and Matt LaRoche all back in the fold. The loss of 1,000-yard rusher Wesley Fields and three starters along the offensive line can't be overlooked though. The defense was very good and has five starters back in the front seven. Raymond Johnson III had 8.0 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks so he's a nice place to start. The Eagles also have a nice pair of aggressive corners. Bowl eligibility should be within grasp.
Verdict: Give me the over here as I think this Georgia Southern team is capable of 7-8 wins.
Georgia State Panthers
Over 3.5 wins -165...Under 3.5 wins +140
Non-Conference Games: at Tennessee, Furman, at Western Michigan, Army
It all starts with Dan Ellington at quarterback. The signal-caller had 17 touchdowns and almost 3,000 yards of offense in 2018. The Panthers still were towards the bottom of the conference in points scored, but it allowed a lot of younger players to gain some experience. Top playmaker Penny Hart is gone but Cornelius McCoy should be able to assume a larger role in the passing game. The backfield will employ a committee approach with five experienced running backs in the mix. The offensive line should be better with the left side in fine shape. The defense needs to get better after allowing nearly 500 yards per game. The secondary is seasoned and there are some guys who can get to the quarterback. Georgia State has a stretch of four road games over six contests and four home games over a five-week span.
Verdict: If you think Georgia State can pull an upset or two at home, then you like the over. I don't think that will happen, so I'd take a shot on the under.
Over 6.5 wins -185...Under 6.5 wins +155
Non-Conference Games: Campbell, Southern Miss, at Akron, at Missouri
The Trojans have the pieces in place to follow up last year's success, but they'll need some guys to step up. Kaleb Barker missed the last half of 2018 due to injury, but he's back to 100 percent and entrenched as the starter after Sawyer Smith transferred. B.J. Smith ran for more than 1,000 yards last year and will have a pretty nice offensive line to work with. Finding guys to catch the ball will be fun with all three of the top receivers gone. On defense, the losses include the leading tackler, pass rusher and a couple of corners. Six starters return with Marcus Webb and Jarvis Hayes providing depth up front. Troy closes out the year at home against Appalachian State in a game that could decide the East Division.
Verdict: The over is the right side here. Wait till it gets to 7 and take the over at a better price as I had eight wins.
Sun Belt West Division
Arkansas State Red Wolves
Over 7.5 wins -165...Under 7.5 wins +140
Non-Conference Games: SMU, at UNLV, at Georgia, Southern Illinois
The Red Wolves closed out the 2018 campaign in style with four straight wins which got them an invite to the Arizona Bowl. They bring back 13 starters including a really good defensive line led by William Bradley-King. Jerry Jacobs could be a really good cornerback for a defense that was 11th nationally against the pass. The offense needs to replace quarterback Justice Hansen. It looks like it'll be Logan Bonner, who has minimal experience. Running back Marcel Murray was named Sun Belt Freshman of the Year and he'll team with wide receiver Kirk Merritt to serve as the primary weapons. Arkansas State's quest for a West Division title is aided by missing Appalachian State during the regular season.
Verdict: I've got eight wins which means the over but not at that price.
Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns
Over 6 wins -108...Under 6 wins -108
Non-Conference Games: Mississippi State, Liberty, Texas Southern, at Ohio
The Ragin' Cajuns get a shot an SEC team in their own state when they play Mississippi State in New Orleans. They also have two sets of back-to-back road games, but close things out with two straight at home. Appalachian State and Troy have to come to Lafayette which is big in conference play. Trey Ragas, Elijah Mitchell and Raymond Calais accounted for more than 3,500 yards from scrimmage and 35 touchdowns. They'll help ease in the new quarterback, which could be Levi Lewis, Chandler Fields or Jai'ave Magalei. The defense has to be better and improvement could come if linebacker Joe Dillon can come back healthy. He had injury issues in 2017 after earning Freshman All-American recognition in '16. This is a sleeper team in this division.
Verdict: Slight lean to the over as I came up with seven wins.
South Alabama Jaguars
Over 2.5 wins -108...Under 2.5 wins -108
Non-Conference Games: at Nebraska, Jackson State, Memphis, at UAB
Cephus Johnson has to improve at quarterback because he has the intangibles to succeed. He's got size and a strong arm and will have a decent group of pass catchers to throw to. Watch out for junior college transfer Tylan Morton, who has a shot to wrest the job away from Johnson. This team has to survive an early schedule featuring a couple of good offenses. They get Appalachian State and Louisiana at home but have to travel to Troy. The defense was gutted by departures and returns just four starters. The Jaguars allowed almost 40 points per game last year and could approach that again in 2019. Special teams will likely feature a freshman kicker and punter.
Verdict: No play here as I come up with two or three wins.
Texas State Bobcats
Over 4.5 wins -112...Under 4.5 wins -104
Non-Conference Games: at Texas A&M, Wyoming, at SMU, Nicholls State
Everett Withers went 7-28 in three seasons as head coach. He was fired and replaced by former West Virginia offensive coordinator Jake Spavital. He hired Bob Stitt to coordinate an offense managed fewer than 20 points per game in 2018. Junior college transfer quarterback Gresch Jensen played for Stitt when he was the head coach at Montana and that familiarity may pay off. Seven of the top 10 receivers are back but the running game is a work in progress. The top two tacklers are back on defense as well as seven other starters. The defense could switch between a 3-4 and a 4-3. The Bobcats have four of their final six on the road.
Verdict: Four wins seems about right for Texas State.
Over 5 wins -120...Under 5 wins EVEN
Non-Conference Games: Grambling, at Florida State, at Iowa State, Memphis
Caleb Evans has to cut down the turnovers with 12 interceptions compared to 16 touchdowns. He did add 10 rushing touchdowns but has to take better care of the football. The running game has several options while the receiving corps doesn't feature have a ton of experience. The defense gets five of the top seven tacklers back. It bears watching to see what happens to defensive linemen Jaylen Veasley and Kerry Starks, who were both arrested this spring. The Warhawks have a tough start to the year and have to play at Appalachian State and Georgia Southern in conference.
Verdict: Five is my number as well so no play here.
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.
(Top photo courtesy of appstatesports.com)