X-Appalachian State Mountaineers 7-6 (5-4)
X-Troy Trojans 7-5 (5-3)
X-Coastal Carolina Chanticleers 6-6 (3-5)
Georgia State Panthers 4-8 (3-5)
Georgia Southern Easgles 2-10 (0-8)
Y-Arkansas State Red Wolves 9-4 (6-3)
Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks 4-8 (3-5)
South Alabama Jaguars 3-9 (2-6)
Louisiana Ragin Cajuns 2-10 (1-7)
Texas State Bobcats 1-11 (0-8)
The 2017 college football season was another solid one for the Sun Belt Conference. For the second consecutive year the Appalachian State Mountaineers were co-champs of the Sun Belt as this time they would share the honor with the Troy Trojans who got their first share of the conference crown since 2010. But things will be much different this year in the Sun Belt. The Mexico State Aggies have left the conference to become an independent at the Football Bowl Subdivision level, while the Idaho Vandals have left the FBS level altogether as they are now competing at the Football Championship Subdivision level. The Sun Belt now has 10 schools, but an NCAA provision allows them to have a conference championship game which they will implement for the first time as there will be an undisputed champion of the league for 2018? But who will it be?
In the Sun Belt East, the battle for the top spot will be between Appalachian State and Troy. The Mountaineers and Trojans shared top honors in the conference last year, but that won’t be the case this year as they are now in the same division. And to add more intrigue, the Trojans and Mountaineers will meet in the final game of the regular season in what more than likely will determine who’ll advance to the inaugural conference title game.
The speed and elusiveness of Appalachian State senior running back Jalin Moore will put him the discussion to be the Sun Belt Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year; especially if he is able to help his team win the league title. There are several defenders to keep an eye on in the Sun Belt East with one of them being Moore’s Appalachian State teammate in junior cornerback Clifton Duck. Last year Duck played defense more like a hawk as his 6 interceptions led the Mountaineers, and his coverage skills will put fear into opposing quarterbacks around the conference.
Troy is led by junior outside linebacker Tron Folsom and and senior cornerback Blace Brown. Last year the Trojans had the top ranked defense in the Sun Belt, while they were 24th in the nation, and they will once again be a difficult unit to score on.
In the Sun Belt West, it will come down to whether or not that anyone will be able to hang with the Arkansas State Red Wolves. Last year Arkansas State finished one game behind Appalachian State and Troy for the top spot in the Sun Belt.
But this time around Arkansas State should have a clear path to the conference title game as they will be paced by one of the top offenses in the nation. Last year the Red Wolves were 10th in the nation in total offense and they will once again be working their magic with senior quarterback Justice Hansen, senior running back Warren Wand, and senior running back Justin McInnis leading the way for Arkansas State head football coach Blake Anderson.
The Sun Belt might get overlooked due to the fact that it isn’t a Power Five Conference, but don’t sleep on the impact that they’ll have on the college football scene here in 2018.
Sun Belt Conference Championship Game: Appalachian State vs. Arkansas State
Conference Champion: Arkansas State
Sources: Cfbstats.com, Sports-reference.com, Ourlads.com