X-Appalachian State Mountaineers 10-2 (7-1)
Y-Arkansas State Red Wolves 7-5 (6-2)
Y-Troy Trojans 8-4 (6-2)
Y-Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns 6-6 (5-3)
South Alabama Jaguars 5-7 (4-4)
Coastal Carolina Chanticleers 5-7 (3-5)
Georgia Southern Panthers 4-8 (2-6)
Idaho Vandals 4-8 (2-6)
Texas State Bobcats 2-10 (1-7)
Louisiana-Monroe Hawks 1-11 (1-7)
New Mexico State Aggies 1-11 (1-7)
Georgia State Panthers 1-11 (0-8)
2016 saw six teams from the Sun Belt Conference make bowl games and in the process they went 4-2 in bowl season. However teams from the Sun Belt went 9-26 versus the conferences in the Football Bowl Subdivision with the only victory against a Power 5 Conference coming when the South Alabama Jaguars upset the Mississippi State Bulldogs of the Southeastern Conference. However the season would end with the Appalachian State Mountaineers and Arkansas State Red Wolves as conference co-champions. The Mountaineers and Red Wolves finished with identical conference records of 7-1, and since they didn’t face each other during the season the honor was shared.
It has been an amazing run for Appalachian State who are in just their fourth season in the Football Bowl Subdivision, and they are already one of the top teams in the Sun Belt. Scott Satterfield has been Appalachian State’s head football coach during this run and as the Mountaineers have won a combined 21 games over the last two years, they have a chance to win at least 10 games against, while winning the conference crown outright this time.
Appalachian State junior running back Jalin Moore enters the upcoming season as the reigning Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Year and he will once again garner some serious consideration to take home the hardware. Last year Moore gained 1,402 yards rushing and as he’ll get more carries this season, getting between 1,600-1,700 yards on the ground is not out of the realm of possibilities for him.
Defensively the Mountaineers were 17th in the nation in total defense last year and they are returning some key players from that unit. After leading Appalachian State in interceptions with 5, cornerback Clifton Duck was named as the Sun Belt Conference’s Freshman of the Year and those ball hawking skills will once again be on display in this his sophomore campaign. Duck will be joined in the Mountaineers secondary by senior strong safety A.J. Howard who aside from having solid range can also bring the wood.
The Mountaineers have a solid pass rush that features senior defensive end Antonio Sims, while senior inside linebacker Eric Boggs will tackle anyone who is in the same zip code as him.
And after being co-champs of the Sun Belt last year, Appalachian State has what it takes to win the conference outright this time around.
The past six years has seen Arkansas State employ four different head coaches,, but it has not prevented them from having success on the gridiron. The Red Wolves have taken home at least a share of the Sun Belt Conference Title five times since 2011, and they have the best chance of holding off Appalachian State this year.
Junior quarterback Justice Hansen could be a sleeper in the race to be the Sun Belt Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year. At 6’4″, Hansen has the size needed to see the field, while he is also a quarterback who won’t force the football.
For Arkansas State head football coach Blake Anderson, his team is one of the best in the nation in regards to rushing the passer. Last year the Red Wolves tallied 43 sacks which was eighth in the nation. 13 of those sacks were by defensive end Ja’Von Rolland-Jones. Rolland-Jones creates tremendous pressure coming off of the edge and his ability should open things up for other defenders due to the fact that he’ll constantly be receiving extra attention. And as the future looks bright for Rolland-Jones at the next level, he could be the 2017 Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
Another team to look out for in the Sun Belt are the Troy Trojans. After going 4-8 in 2015, Troy enjoyed a tremendous turnaround last year as they won 10 games for the first time at the Football Bowl Subdivision level.
Senior quarterback Brandon Silvers is a solid passer as he was able to complete nearly 64% of his passes last season, while senior running back Jordan Chunn is a workhorse. Troy head football coach Neal Brown could potentially give Chunn 300 carries this season as at 6’1″, 235 lbs., he has the ability to lean on opposing defenses. And another impact player to look out for at Troy is junior quarterback Blace Brown who could garner some interest in regards to winning the Jim Thorpe Award which recognizes the top defensive back in the nation. Brown has great hands for a defensive back, and once you add that to his coverage skills, you get a player that opposing quarterbacks have to think twice about in regards to throwing to his side.
Other potential impact players to look out for this year in the Sun Belt Conference includes South Alabama Jaguars senior middle linebacker Darrell Songy, and sophomore cornerback Jalen Thompson. And once you add a conference newcomer to the mix in the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, this could be a solid year for the Sun Belt.
Once again Appalachian State and Arkansas State won’t face each other, but the meeting between the Red Wolves and Troy on December 2 could go a very long way in determining who will take home the Sun Belt Conference Title.
Sources: Cfbstats.com, Sports-reference.com