The Sun Belt had a good season last year with Coastal Carolina getting a ton of the spotlight especially after a big victory over BYU. The Chanticleers were great for the conference, but also early upsets of Power 5 schools by Arkansas State and Louisiana got the college football world's attention. Once again, the races in the East and West divisions should be fun with two Top 25-caliber teams leading the way. Let's take a look at the win totals and see where the value lies.
Note: Win total numbers courtesy of DraftKings.
Sun Belt East
Appalachian State (Over 9 -113...Under 9 -113)
Non-Conference Games: East Carolina (in Charlotte, N.C.), at Miami, Elon, Marshall
Schedule Notes: Getting Miami the week after the Hurricanes open against Alabama in Atlanta is interesting. I don't think the Mountaineers will win, but it could be interesting. App State hosts Coastal Carolina on Oct. 20 in what could be the Sun Belt's game of the year and has to navigate November road trips to Arkansas State and Troy.
QB Battle: Chase Brice vs. Jacob Huesman
Roster Notes: Zac Thomas is gone so it's the first time in a while that there's no stability at the quarterback position. The wide receiver group is stacked with Corey Sutton, Thomas Hennigan, Malik Williams and Jalen Virgil all back. The running backs are equally deep with 1,100-yard rusher Camerun Peoples leading the way and Notre Dame transfer Jahmir Smith added to the mix. The defense ranked in the top 20 nationally in three major categories last season and welcomes back nine starters. Demetrius Taylor (six sacks, 13 TFLs) anchors the defensive line. The secondary boasts plenty of experience and has added transfers from Wisconsin and Stanford.
Prediction: Nine is a pretty solid number.
Coastal Carolina (Over 10 -113...Under 10 -113)
Non-Conference Games: The Citadel, Kansas, at Buffalo, UMass
Schedule Notes: It's a really cushy start for the Chanticleers with four of their first five at home and a real good chance at a 5-0 start at least. It gets tougher later with back-to-back games at Appalachian State and home vs. Troy.
QB: Grayson McCall
Roster Notes: The hunter becomes the hunted now as Coastal moves up everyone's scouting reports. This team put up almost 40 points and 450 yards per contest last season and nine starters are back. McCall put up amazing numbers last year and his top two targets – wide receiver Jaivon Heiligh (998 yds., 10 TDs) and tight end Isaiah Likely are back. The running game will look different with CJ Marable gone but the backfield cupboard is not bare. The defense was stingy last year (20.2 ppg, 19th in FBS) and returns 10 starters but the one not coming back, end Tarron Jackson, will be tough to replace.
Prediction: With so much experience returning and an extremely manageable slate, 11 wins in the regular season are very possible for Coastal Carolina.
Georgia Southern (Over 4.5 -134...Under 4.5 +105)
Non-Conference Games: Gardner-Webb, at FAU, at Arkansas, BYU
Schedule Notes: The Eagles will be without quarterback Justin Tomlin for the first two games due to academics and they are both very winnable. The tough road trips are to Troy and Appalachian State while Georgia Southern hosts Coastal Carolina to start November.
QB: Justin Tomlin (Sam Kenerson or Cam Ransom for the first two games)
Roster Notes: Losing quarterback Shai Werts to Louisville is huge and Tomlin's academic issue puts even more pressure on the quarterback position. The backfield got a boost with the addition of Tulane transfer Amare Jones. He'll join J.D. King and Logan Wright in running behind an offensive line that returns almost intact, an important factor for a triple-option offense. Georgia Southern's defense finished first in the Sun Belt last season but the four starters that departed (including pass rushers Raymond Johnson III and Justin Ellis) played a big part in this success. The secondary should be the strength of this defense.
Prediction: I like the over here, but shop around. It's worth keeping an eye on the quarterback situation during camp given Tomlin's academic issues.
Georgia State (Over 5.5 +110...Under 5.5 -139)
Non-Conference Games: Army, at North Carolina, Charlotte, at Auburn
Schedule Notes: September will be a challenge for a Panthers team that returns a total of 20 starters. Sun Belt play opens with Appalachian State at home and the Panthers also have consecutive road games against Georgia Southern, Louisiana and Coastal Carolina.
QB: Cornelious Brown IV
Roster Notes: The offense, led by the dual-threat Brown, should score points. He has the dynamic duo of Sam Pinckney and Cornelius McCoy out wide and Destin Coates at running back. The offensive line also returns intact. The defense was stout against the run last season but will be without outside linebacker Jordan Strachan, who transferred to South Carolina after leading the country with 10.5 sacks. Hardrick Willis and Jeffery Clark (combined nine sacks in 2020) are back to anchor the defensive line and a senior-laden secondary should help take some pressure off a relatively inexperienced linebacking corps.
Prediction: The over is not bad at this price. I think the Panthers can beat Army in their opener, which increases the chances of getting to six wins.
Troy (Over 7 EVEN...Under 7 -125)
Non-Conference Games: Southern, Liberty, at Southern Miss, at South Carolina
Schedule Notes: Two straight at home to open is nice because five of the next six are on the road and that includes trips to SEC country and Coastal Carolina. The Trojans do have three in a row at home to begin November before a contest at Georgia State to end things.
QB Battle: Gunnar Watson vs. Taylor Powell
Roster Notes: Watson completed around 70 percent of his passes but at times the offense bogged down as a unit. Reggie Todd and Tray Eafford are the key returning wide receivers. Running back B.J. Smith also opted to return for his super senior year and he'll share the workload with Kimani Vidal, who led the team in rushing last season as a freshman. Nine starters return on defense along with transfers from Florida State and NC State. There's talent across each level on this side of the ball.
Prediction: Seven is a good number.
Sun Belt West
Arkansas State (Over 3.5 -180...Under 3.5 +140)
Non-Conference Games: Central Arkansas, Memphis, at Washington, at Tulsa
Schedule Notes: The Red Wolves hung with Memphis last year on the road and now get them at home. They also host Coastal Carolina, Louisiana and Appalachian State in Sun Belt play with the toughest road test coming against Georgia State.
QB Battle: Layne Hatcher vs. Florida State transfer James Blackman
Roster Notes: Arkansas State is undergoing a coaching change with Butch Jones taking over for Blake Anderson, who is now at Utah State. A few players followed Anderson out west, so only six offensive starters are back. Hatcher split the quarterback snaps with Logan Bonner last season and could find himself in a similar situation with Blackman. Dahu Green, Corey Rucker and TCU transfer Te'Vailance Hunt should be the top targets following the departures of Jonathan Adams and Brandon Bowling. The backfield could be led by Marcel Murray and Lincoln Pare, who both battled injuries last season, but some transfers have been added to the mix. The offensive line returns four starters. The defense was a problem last year but eight starters are back. The key could be how the players handle the switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 under the new coaching staff.
Prediction: There's a chance the under comes in, but I think the Red Wolves can get to at least four wins.
Louisiana (Over 8.5 -165...Under 8.5 +140)
Non-Conference Games: at Texas, Nicholls, Ohio, at Liberty
Schedule Notes: Could the Longhorns be the next Sun Belt upset victim? The Ragin' Cajuns get their shot at Texas in Austin and also host Appalachian State. The trip to Liberty in late November could be pivotal to both teams' bowl destinations.
QB: Levi Lewis
Roster Notes: the team that beat Iowa State and whose only loss last season was by three points to Coastal Carolina has 20 starters returning. The backfield will look drastically different with Elijah Mitchell and Trey Ragas gone but Lewis will not lack for options to throw to. The offensive line also returns intact. All but one starter returns on defense from a unit that ranked sixth nationally against the pass. This roster doesn't lack experience and several transfers have been added that will only help bolster the depth on both sides of the ball.
Prediction: This is a low number, but it's also priced that way. I'm not taking the over at this price and I certainly can't recommend the under.
South Alabama (Over 4.5 +107...Under 4.5 -134)
Non-Conference Games: Southern Miss, at Bowling Green, Alcorn State, at Tennessee
Schedule Notes: It could be a rough end for South Alabama with November consisting of road games at Troy, Appalachian State and Tennessee followed by a home date with Coastal Carolina. The Jaguars get Louisiana and Arkansas State in Mobile, although it may not matter much when it comes to the outcome.
QB Battle: Utah transfer Jake Bentley vs. Desmond Trotter
Roster Notes: New offensive coordinator Major Applewhite has his work cut out for him after South Alabama managed just 20 points per game last season. Jalen Tolbert is a solid No. 1 wide receiver and Bentley, who started his career at South Carolina, could give the Jaguars' attack a new element. Defensively, new head coach Kane Wommack has some work to do. Nine starters are back but the unit will be making the transition to Wommack's preferred 4-2-5 alignment. Playmakers need to emerge on this side of the ball.
Prediction: Money move is right on the under. Someone has to take all the losses to the good teams in the Sun Belt.
Texas State (Over 4.5 +110...Under 4.5 -139)
Non-Conference Games: Baylor, at FIU, Incarnate Word, at Eastern Michigan
Schedule Notes: Getting Baylor at home is nice, but probably won't lead to a win. There are probably two wins out of conference before Sun Belt play. The Bobcats also must deal with road games against Louisiana and Coastal Carolina.
QB: Brady McBride
Roster Notes: McBride is the returning starter but Tyler Vitt and NC State transfer Ty Evans can't be forgotten. Marcell Barbee is expected to take over as the No. 1 wide receiver with Brock Sturges and Calvin Hill back to anchor the running game. The offensive line should get a boost from an influx of transfers. The defense also is hoping some fresh blood can help improve a unit that ranked 112th or worse nationally in the four major categories last season.
Prediction: Four wins feel right but I don't like the under at this price.
ULM (Over 1.5 +105...Under 1.5 -125)
Non-Conference Games: at Kentucky, Jackson State, Liberty, at LSU
Schedule Notes: The Warhawks have four of their final five on the road with three of those against Appalachian State, LSU and Louisiana. They do have five of their first seven at home although they could be underdogs in all of those games except against FCS Jackson State, which won't be easy either.
QB Battle: Rhett Rodriguez vs. Jeremy Hunt vs. Colby Suits
Roster Notes: Rich Rodriguez is the interim coach after Terry Bowden stepped away to be with his ailing father, Bobby Bowden, who passed on Aug. 8. The coaching staff's No. 1 priority is to find a quarterback that can produce with so many new pieces (only four returning starters). New defensive coordinator Zac Alley is 27 years old, making him the youngest coordinator in FBS. The coaching staff change and personnel turnover will probably lead to plenty of growing pains for a unit that struggled mightily last season.
Prediction: Two wins are possible but there's not a lot of conviction behind that sentiment.