This could be a fun conference once again
When it comes to college football conferences, the Sun Belt typically isn't on a lot of people's radars. But that doesn't mean the Sun Belt should be completely ignored, however, especially considering the fact the conference has switched to a division alignment and will have a conference championship game this season.
On paper, the Sun Belt has some intriguing teams, both for positive and somewhat negative reasons. The former include Arkansas State, Troy and Appalachian State, while teams like Coastal Carolina and Texas State figure to struggle again.
Let's take a look at the win totals for the teams in the Sun Belt as provided by the South Point sportsbook in Las Vegas. I will offer my thoughts on every team with a verdict on whether I think there's any value in the over/under.
Sun Belt East Division
Appalachian State Mountaineers
Over 8.5 wins -120...Under 8.5 wins EVEN
Non-Conference Games: at Penn State, at Charlotte, Southern Miss, Gardner-Webb
It's going to be weird seeing this team without Taylor Lamb under center. Jalin Moore returns as the Sun Belt's leading rusher, but defenses will be focusing more on him. The offensive line needs to be repaired and the defense lost five of itsr top nine tacklers from 2017. The East Division will be decided most likely when Troy comes to town on the last week of the regular season.
Verdict: I came up with 8 or 9 wins for ASU so no real feel for this line.
Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
Over 3.5 wins -110...Under 3.5 wins -110
Non-Conference Games: at South Carolina, UAB, Campbell, at UMass
The biggest addition will be Joe Moglia who will be back as head coach after missing last year because of a medical issue. The team picked up three wins in its first season as a FBS member. The offense could be good, but the defense will struggle with only four returning starters. The Chanticleers have a nice stretch of three straight at home in November. Bowl eligibility is still far away for this team.
Verdict: 3-4 wins is a reasonable expectation for Coastal Carolina. No play here.
Georgia Southern Eagles
Over 6.5 wins -105...Under 6.5 wins -115
Non-Conference Games: South Carolina State, UMass, at Clemson, at New Mexico State
Chad Lunsford made the Eagles competitive in his short time as head coach and he'll look to build on last season's late momentum. The Eagles will continue to run the option with the hope that quarterback Shai Werts gets better at execution. Bob DeBesse takes over as offensive coordinator after reviving New Mexico's attack. The defense has nine starters back and should improve after allowing 32.2 points per game last year.
Verdict: The over could be worth a look if you think Georgia Southern wins its winnable road games (Texas State, New Mexico State, Coastal Carolina).
Georgia State Panthers
Over 5 wins EVEN...Under 5 wins -120
Non-Conference Games: Kennesaw State, at NC State, at Memphis, Western Michigan
Penny Hart is a fun place to start at wide receiver. The rest of the offense could struggle especially at quarterback after the departure of Conner Manning. The defense was surprisingly decent last year as the Panthers were the last to allow a 100-yard rusher. They are coming off their first-ever bowl appearance and could need some luck to get back there in 2018.
Verdict: 5 is a strong number so no play here.
Over 7.5 wins -120...Under 7.5 wins EVEN
Non-Conference Games: Boise State, Florida A&M, at Nebraska, at Liberty
Much like Appalachian State, Troy also has to replace a standout quarterback as Brandon Silvers has graduated. This year's version of the Trojans will be strong at WR with Louisville transfer Traveon Samuel joining a solid group. There will be a step back on defense despite returning four of the top seven tacklers. Getting Boise State at home to open the season is a huge opportunity.
Verdict: I came up with 6 or 7 wins for Troy. The Trojans have four of their last six games on the road.
Sun Belt West Division
Arkansas State Red Wolves
Over 9 wins -120...Under 9 wins EVEN
Non-Conference Games: Southeast Missouri, at Alabama, at Tulsa, UNLV
Expectations are high for the Red Wolves, who return 11 total starters. Justice Hansen and Warren Wand are one of the best QB/RB duos in the conference. The offensive line is going to be strong as well. The defense may struggle at times without Ja'Von Rolland Jones wreaking havoc up front. Arkansas State doesn't play Troy and the Red Wolves are the clear favorite in their di vision. ASU does play four teams coming of off their bye week.
Verdict: I've got nine wins as the schedule is really easy especially later on in the year.
Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns
Over 4.5 wins -110...Under 4.5 wins -110
Non-Conference Games: Grambling, at Mississippi State, at Alabama, New Mexico State
Billy Napier takes over at head coach and the longtime offensive coordinator should have an impact on that side of the ball with eight starters returning. Quarterback could be an issue, but the Ragin' Cajuns do have solid options at RB (Trey Ragas) and WR (Ryheem Malone) to help out. The defense could be in for a long year. They play at Alabama, Troy and Appalachian State.
Verdict: The over could be worth a look, but I'm most likely sitting this one out.
South Alabama Jaguars
Over 4 wins -135...Under 4 wins +115
Non-Conference Games: Louisiana Tech, at Oklahoma State, at Memphis, Alabama State
South Alabama gets a good opener with Louisiana Tech coming to town. The Bulldogs beat them up last year in Ruston. If Cephus Johnson can take a stranglehold over the QB race, then the offense could be fun to watch. Johnson had a strong showing in the spring game and has the tools to be successful. Seven starters are back on defense. Watch out for the Jaguars as they push for bowl eligibility.
Verdict: The over is my favorite play in the Sun Belt, but the price is not good. I'd wait for a potentially better price if Vegas makes the number 4.5 at some point.
Texas State Bobcats
Over 3.5 wins +105...Under 3.5 wins -125
Non-Conference Games: at Rutgers, Texas Southern, at UTSA, New Mexico State
Everett Withers has not had much success as the Bobcats' head coach. After leading James Madison to an 18-7 record and two FCS playoff appearances, he's just 4-20 at Texas State. Recruiting has not been going well and it shows on the field. The team's two wins last year were against FCS foe Houston Baptist by nine points and FBS transitional member Coastal Carolina by 20. I don't expect the Bobcats to threaten bowl eligibility in 2018 either.
Verdict: Three wins seems about right for Texas State.
Over 5.5 wins -125...Under 5.5 wins +105
Non-Conference Games: Southeastern Louisiana, at Southern Miss, at Texas A&M, at Ole Miss
The Warhawks have seven road games and all of them are grouped together with two back-to-backs and one three-game stretch. Caleb Evans is back at quarterback and his production will be key for the offense. Eight total starters return on that side of the ball, so experience shouldn't be an issue. ULM should be improved although it may not show in the record because this is a really tough schedule.
Verdict: The under is 100 percent worth a look here especially at EVEN money. I have 4 wins with the ceiling set at 5.
-- Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.
(Top photo courtesy of www.astateredwolves.com)