Sun Belt Football Predictions 2013
Offense: Having quarterback Kolton Browning back for his fourth year is huge. Browning, totaled 36 touchdowns last season with 29 through the air and seven on the ground. The Warhawks return four starters upfront. Browning has one of the best wide receiving cores in the Sun Belt with Je'ron Hamm and Tavarese Maye. Both players will have opportunities to catch more balls with WR Brent Leonard who caught over 100 balls last season, gone. RB Jyruss Edawrds only played in eight games due to injury last season. Edwards had a big game vs. Baylor last year running for 120 yards and one score.
Defense: The secondary returns all five player's, this could be a good thing or a bad thing for Louisiana-Monroe. Last year's team gave up 276 yards a game through the air last season. One more year under their belt should help. Linebacker Cameron Blakes returns from an injury that forced him to miss most of the season last year. Blakes should emerge as one of the team's leading tacklers. Last year's team forced a lot of sacks and interceptions last season. If they are going to give up a lot of yards through the air, becoming opportunistic is a must.
Special Teams: Justin Manton handles both the punting and kicking duties.
Final Thoughts: The offense will be great with Browning under center. The defense will need to continue getting sacks and forcing turnovers if the secondary doesn't improve. Don't be surprised if the Warhawks pull off another upset of a BCS team. They have Oklahoma, Wake Forest, and Baylor within in the first four weeks.
Offense: Terrance Broadway burst onto the scene last season and led the Cajuns to a 9-4 record. Broadways best game of the year came against Louisiana-Monroe, he had 4 threw for 373 yards and four touchdowns. His main targets will be Jamal Robinson and Darryl Surgent. Both players can stretch the field with speed. Alonzo Harris returns at running back after a solid season with 10 touchdowns and 881 yards on 170 carries. The line returns the Quave brothers and one other starter. Right tackle will be a position battle to keep an eye on during fall camp.
Defense: The line is in good shape with three returning starters. Defensive end Christian Ringo had an impressive sophomore campaign with a team high seven sacks. The team's leading tackler, Justin Anderson, returns. Anderson had double-digit solo tackle games twice last season. The secondary is going to need to improve a bit from last season. The Ragin' Cajuns gave up over 280 yards through the air. One starter returns, Rodney Gillis.
Special Teams: Hard to replace Brett Baer. Baer made All-Sun Belt both punting and kicking.
Final Thoughts: While the defense only returns five starters, the five they do return made a major impact last season. The offense will score early and often with dual-threat quarterback Terrance Broadway. Nov. 30th will be a big Sun Belt match-up vs. ULM.
#3 Western Kentucky
Offense: Everyone in Bowling Green is waiting to see Bobby Petrino's offense. Petrino will have the best running back in the Sun Belt, Antonio Andrews. Andrews was eighth in the nation in rushing yards with, 1,728. He will also be a major factor in the receiving games. Who will be under center for the Western Kentucky has yet to be determined. Demarcus Smith and Brandon Doughty will battle it out in the fall. Smith a former highly touted recruit was at UCF before transferring to WKU.
Defense: The defense was solid last season and two stud senior LB's are back. Andrew Jackson led the team with 122 tackles. His partner at LB Xavius Boyd had 79.
The front four lost all four starters from last year's team who was 13th in tackles for loss. Gavin Rocker looks like the best of the new d-line options. The secondary employs two safetys and three corners. All five starters return. Jonathan Dowling tied for 5th in the nation with six interceptions.
Special Teams: Antonio Andrews is always a threat to take one back. Garrett Schwettman went 10-13 on field goals last season. Hendrix Brakefield is back at punter and that's good news for the Hilltoppers.
Final Thoughts: The Hilltoppers have two of the most talented players in the Sun Belt with RB Antonio Andrews and LB Andrew Jackson. The level of play they get out of the QB position could take them to a Sun Belt title. WKU has Arkansas State and Louisiana at home.
#4 Arkansas State
Offense: Finding a replacement for Ryan Aplin will be no easy task. Several players will be in the mix for the job this fall, stay tuned. One thing that is set in stone is David Oku will be getting plenty of carries this season. Oku had 16 touchdowns in his first season with Arkansas State. Another player that burst on the scene last season for the Red Wolves, WR J.D. McKissic. His freshmen season he led all freshman in receptions with 103 and was seventh in the nation. Add in Allen Muse who returns after a year away and whoever is at quarterback will be fine. The line will be solid again with four returning starters.
Defense: Up front the Red Wolves look good with NFL talent Ryan Carrethers. Carrethers had 61 tackles from the defensive tackle spot. The secondary returns both safeties The corner positions will be up for grabs. The lone returning starter at linebacker tallied 100 tackles last season.
Special Teams: Brian Davis is back at kicker and could make a run at punter.
Final Thoughts: Four coaches in four years is tough. Do everything QB Ryan Aplin is gone. The skill positions will be solid. The defense should be fine. A big road game vs. Louisiana-Monroe in November.
Offense: Corey Robinson burst onto the scene in 2010, but since then his numbers have gone down each year. Last season Robinson threw for just 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Troy needs Robinson to have a bounce back season. Two big targets for Robinson will be WR's Eric Thomas and Chandler Worthy. The running back position is up for grabs, but will likely be by committee. One dynamic that Troy will show is putting QB Deon Anthony in to give the team a different look. The line has several holes to fill.
Defense: The defensive line will be the strength of the defense. Last season the line only produced 13 sacks, getting more pressure on the QB is a must. The secondary and linebacking core took big hits with only one starter returning.
Special Teams: Will Scott handles both punting and kicking duties.
Final Thoughts: The offense will put up numbers, but will Corey Robinson take care of the ball and throw more TD's? The defense needs to apply more pressure on the quarterback and force more turnovers.
#6 Texas State
Final Thoughts: The defense should improve with two big transfers. Quarterback is still a question, but the running game is fine. Texas State will be competitive, but will likely be in the bottom half of the Sun Belt.
#7 Georgia State
Final Thoughts: The offense simply didn't put up enough points to be competitive. The Panthers had a -20 turnover margin last season. The schedule has three 1-AA opponents on it? Didn't Georgia State want to be a 1-A program?
#8 South Alabama
Final Thoughts: Similar problems as Georgia State. They can't score. Outside of Southern Utah, the biggest game will be at Georgia State to stay out of the bottom of the Sun Belt.