Sun Belt Football 2015 Predictions

Complete Sun Belt preview and picks for 2015.

The Sun Belt has seen its share of membership changes due to conference realignment in recent years. But as the 2015 season approaches, the Sun Belt has some stability with its 11-team membership.

 

Appalachian State and Georgia Southern combined for a 16-8 record in their FBS debut in 2014, and the league had six teams reach bowl eligibility.

 

UL Lafayette and Arkansas State have been the teams to beat in recent years, but the addition of Appalachian State and Georgia Southern has strengthened the top of the league. Additionally, South Alabama and Texas State continue to develop as FBS programs and should be in the mix for a bowl in 2015.

 

Here are 5 Key Questions That Will Shape the Sun Belt in 2015

 

1. UL Lafayette, Arkansas State the Teams to Beat Once Again?

UL Lafayette and Arkansas State have been the Sun Belt’s top programs in recent years, and both teams are coming off four consecutive bowl appearances. The Ragin’ Cajuns and Red Wolves are among the favorites once again, but these two programs will be pushed by Georgia Southern and Appalachian State for the league crown. Arkansas State will have no trouble scoring points behind dynamic quarterback Fredi Knighten. But the defense returns only four starters and improving the run defense is a priority. UL Lafayette’s Mark Hudspeth is a rising star in the coaching ranks, and the Ragin’ Cajuns will be tested with just eight returning starters. Junior Brooks Haack is slated to replace Terrance Broadway at quarterback, but the biggest concern is on defense on the line. Will both teams find the right answers on defense early in the year? Or will the defensive woes push Appalachian State and Georgia Southern to the top spots?

 

2. Will Appalachian State Pick Up Where it Left Off?

Recapturing the momentum or energy from a previous season is no easy task for any team. The Mountaineers won their final six games last year, which included victories over UL Lafayette and Arkansas State. While it may not be easy to replicate the momentum from the end of 2014, Appalachian State is in a good position to challenge for the league title in 2015 with 20 returning starters. Scott Satterfield’s team is headlined by an explosive offense, and the defense held opponents to a respectable 27.3 points per game in 2014. Sophomore quarterback Taylor Lamb is one of the Sun Belt’s top rising stars to watch, and his development could be the difference in the conference title picture. Even if the Mountaineers don’t pickup exactly where they left off, this team is still capable of winning the Sun Belt title in 2015.

 

3. Georgia Southern’s Encore

It was hard to script a better start to FBS play for Georgia Southern. The Eagles thrived under first-year coach Willie Fritz, finishing with a 9-3 overall record and a perfect 8-0 mark in conference play. The Eagles also came close to victories over Power 5 teams Georgia Tech and NC State last season. Can Georgia Southern finish with a perfect mark in conference play again? Fritz’s team has a favorable schedule by missing Arkansas State and UL Lafayette, but road tests at Appalachian State and ULM will be tough. Quarterback Kevin Ellison and running back Matt Breida are back to anchor the offense, and six starters form an experienced core on defense. The biggest question mark for Fritz’s team is an offensive line that returns only one starter.

 

4. South Alabama’s Rebuilding Effort

The Jaguars were one of the team’s hit hardest by personnel departures from 2014. South Alabama returns only five starters, but there’s help on the way in the form of a handful of UAB transfers. Quarterback Cody Clements and guard Cameron Blankenship should have the biggest impact for coach Joey Jones’ team, and former UAB offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent will call the plays for the Jaguars in 2015. South Alabama has a good core of talent but a lot of inexperience and new players attempting to mesh with the current roster. How quickly will Jones find the right answers on both sides of the ball?

 

5. Can Texas State Take the Next Step?

Over the last four years under coach Dennis Franchione, the Bobcats have recorded three seasons of at least a .500 record. Texas State is coming off its best mark in that span (7-5), but the program is still looking for its first bowl appearance. Can the Bobcats take the next step and reach the postseason in 2015? The offense should be in good shape with the return of quarterback Tyler Jones, while the defense must find replacements for standouts David Mayo (LB), Craig Mager (CB) and end Michael Odiari. The schedule doesn’t provide many breaks for Franchione’s team, as Texas State catches three out of the league’s projected top four and also has road trips to Florida State and Houston in non-conference play. There’s enough returning talent on offense to carry the team until the defense finds replacements for its departed standouts. How far will Jones elevate this team in 2015? A bowl is a reasonable expectation, but the Bobcats have to improve on defense to push the top four teams in the league.  

 

2015 Sun Belt Team Previews

             
 
National
Rank:
90 76 77 126 125 87
   
National
Rank:
115 124 108 93 118  

 

Visit the Athlon Sports Online Store to order a copy of the 2015 National College Football Preview Magazine, which features in-depth analysis and previews for all 128 teams, predictions, rankings and features to prepare for the upcoming year. 

 

Sun Belt 2015 Football Predictions

         
Rank Team   Projected Sun Belt Record Projected Overall Record
1

Arkansas State

(No. 76)

7-1 8-4
Read the full, in-depth preview of Arkansas State for 2015.
2

Georgia Southern

(No. 77)

6-2 8-4
Read the full, in-depth preview of Georgia Southern for 2015.
3

UL Lafayette

(No. 87)

6-2 8-4
Read the full, in-depth preview of UL Lafayette for 2015.
4

Appalachian State

(No. 90)

5-3 8-4
Read the full, in-depth preview of Appalachian State for 2015.
5

Texas State

(No. 93)

 

5-3 7-5
Read the full, in-depth preview of Texas State for 2015.
6

South Alabama

(No. 108)

4-4 5-7
Read the full, in-depth preview of South Alabama for 2015.
7

ULM

(No. 115)

4-4 5-8
Read the full, in-depth preview of ULM for 2015.
8

Troy

(No. 118)

3-5 4-8
Read the full, in-depth preview of Troy for 2015.
9

New Mexico State

(No. 124)

2-6 2-10
Read the full, in-depth preview of NMSU for 2015.
10

Idaho

(No. 125)

1-7 2-10
Read the full, in-depth preview of Idaho for 2015.
11

Georgia State

(No. 126)

1-7 3-9
Read the full, in-depth preview of Georgia State for 2015.

Sun Belt 2015 Superlatives and Season Predictions
  Steven
Lassan
Mitch
Light
Mark
Ross
David
Fox
  @AthlonSteven @AthlonMitch @AthlonMarkR @DavidFox615
Offensive POY Fredi Knighten
QB, ASU
Matt Breida
RB, Ga. Southern
Fredi Knighten
QB, ASU
Elijah McGuire
RB, ULL
Defensive POY Gerrand Johnson
DL, ULM
Mitch Lane
DB, ULM
John Law
LB, Appalachian State
Michael Johnson
LB, ULM
Coach of the Year Scott Satterfield
Appalachian State
Blake Anderson
Arkansas State
Willie Fritz
Georgia Southern
Scott Satterfield
Appalachian State
Coach on Hot Seat Doug Martin
NMSU
Doug Martin
NMSU
Doug Martin
NMSU
Doug Martin
NMSU
Top Newcomer Cody Clements
QB, USA
Cody Clements
QB, USA
Cody Clements
QB, USA
Cody Clements
QB, USA
Sleeper Team Troy ULM Appalachian State Troy
Top Coordinator Hire Bryant Vincent
OC, USA
Bryant Vincent
OC, USA
Vic Koenning
DC, Troy
Bryant Vincent
OC, USA
Key Position to Watch Georgia Southern OL Georgia Southern OL ULL QB Georgia Southern OL
Hardest to Evaluate South Alabama South Alabama South Alabama ULM
Coach on the Rise Willie Fritz
Georgia Southern
Willie Fritz
Georgia Southern
Blake Anderson
Arkansas State
Willie Fritz
Georgia Southern
Must-See Game ULL at 
Arkansas State
ULL at
Arkansas State
Arkansas State at 
Appalachian State
ULL at
Arkansas State
Breakout Player Taylor Lamb
QB, Appalachian State
D.J. Vinson
WR, USA
Taylor Lamb
QB, Appalachian State
Brandon Silvers
QB, Troy
Comeback Player Dezmon Epps
WR, Idaho
Dezmon Epps
WR, Idaho
J.D. McKissic 
WR, Ark. State
J.D. McKissic
WR, Ark. State

Ranking the Sun Belt's Coaches for 2015

 

1. Mark Hudspeth, UL Lafayette

2. Willie Fritz, Georgia Southern

3. Joey Jones, South Alabama

4. Dennis Franchione, Texas State

5. Todd Berry, ULM

 

Ranking the Sun Belt's Quarterbacks for 2015

 

1. Fredi Knighten, Arkansas State

2. Kevin Ellison, Georgia Southern

3. Tyler Jones, Texas State

4. Taylor Lamb, Appalachian State

5. Nick Arbuckle, Georgia State

 

Ranking the Sun Belt's Running Backs for 2015

 

1. Elijah McGuire, UL Lafayette

2. Matt Breida, Georgia Southern

3. Marcus Cox, Appalachian State

4. Michael Gordon, Arkansas State

5. Larry Rose III, New Mexico State

 

Key Coordinator Hires for 2015

 

1. Bryant Vincent, Offensive Coordinator, South Alabama

2. Mike Breske, Defensive Coordinator, Idaho

3. Charlie Harbison/Melvin Smith, Co-Defensive Coordinators, UL Lafayette

 

Top Incoming Freshmen (from 247Sports)

 

1. Dion Ray, QB, UL Lafayette

2. Mario Osborne, DL, UL Lafayette

3. Jalen Thompson, DB, South Alabama

4. D.J. Pearson, QB, Arkansas State

5. Keenan Barnes, ATH, UL Lafayette

6. Markeis Hallback, RB, Georgia Southern

7. Gary Haynes, ATH, UL Lafayette

8. Cortez Sisco, DB, ULM

9. Daniel David, QB, Appalachian State

10. Joshua Moon, DB, Georgia Southern

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