Much like many of the other conferences in college football, realignment has changed the Sun Belt’s team lineup for 2013.
FAU, FIU, MTSU and North Texas left to join Conference USA, leaving the Sun Belt with just eight teams for 2013. However, the Sun Belt is facing another round of changes next season, as New Mexico State and Idaho will join the conference, while Western Kentucky is headed to Conference USA. Georgia Southern and Appalachian State will make the move from FCS to FBS next year to compete in the Sun Belt.
In time, the moves should provide the Sun Belt with some stability. However, it may take some time for the league's new members to become a yearly title contender.
While realignment has dominated the Sun Belt over the last few offseasons, the race to win the conference title should be an entertaining four-way battle between UL Lafayette, ULM, Western Kentucky and Arkansas State.
The Ragin Cajuns’ are a slight favorite to win the league, but the Warhawks return 16 starters, including quarterback Kolton Browning. The Nov. 30 showdown between the Ragin’ Cajuns and Warhawks in Lafayette, La. could decide the Sun Belt crown.
Chasing UL Lafayette and ULM is Western Kentucky and Arkansas State. The Hilltoppers made one of the offseason’s top hires in former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino and return running back Antonio Andrews (1,728 yards in 2012). The Red Wolves will have their fourth coach in four years, but the personnel is among the best in the league.
Troy could have one of the best offenses in the Sun Belt, but the defense is a major question mark after allowing 443.6 yards per game last year.
Texas State, South Alabama and Georgia State round out the Sun Belt predictions for 2013. The Bobcats have the most upside out of this trio this year, and their hopes of getting to a winning record are bolstered by transfers Michael Orakpo (Colorado State) and D.J. Yendrey (TCU). South Alabama were competitive last year and return 15 starters for 2013. Georgia State made an excellent hire by pulling Trent Miles away from Indiana State, but the Panthers have a lot of ground to make up on the rest of the Sun Belt in their first season on the FBS level.
2013 Sun Belt Team Previews
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