Sun Belt Football Predictions 2014
By Tyler Smith
Sun Belt Football Predictions 2014
Offense: The Ragin' Cajuns offense will look even better this year with eight offensive starters returning including QB, Terrance Broadway. Broadway totaled 27 touchdowns last season, but needs to take care of the ball a bit more with 12 interceptions on 266 attempts last season. Broawdway's favorite target, WR Jamal Robinson, returns. Robinson caught 54 balls and scored eight touchdowns in 2013. The WR spot will need to show depth after Robinson and Butler. The top backfield in the Sun Belt resides at Cajun Field. Alonzo Harris and Elijah McGuire combined for over 1,800 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns. The line is back with four of five starters which is great news for this offense.
Defense: The linebacker unit will be one to watch with all-conference LB Justin Anderson gone. The lone returner at LB is Dominque Tovell. A transfer the Cajuns are excited about is Trey Granier from LSU. Upfront Louisiana will be impressive with two starters returning and plenty of depth. You'll see a nice rotation from the line to keep the energy level high. The secondary has a lot of experience with three senior starters and one junior. The Cajuns forced 14 interceptions a year ago look for that number to climb a little bit higher this season with T.J. Worthy and Sean Thomas playing the safety spots.
Special Teams: The kicking battle will be decided in fall camp between Stephen Brauchle and Hunter Stover. Daniel Cadona is back at punter.
Overview: Both sides of the ball will be just as good as last year's Sun Belt title team. The running attack will be elite. The defense will be even better then last season. If they want to get in the top 25 beating Boise or Ole Miss would be a good start.
Offense: It will be odd seeing another QB other than Corey Robinson under center. It looks like the race is between JUCO transfer Dontreal Pruitt and redshirt freshman Brandon Silvers. Whoever wins the job will have plenty of options to pass to. Chandler Worthy, Micheal Lindsey, Bryan Holmes and K.D. Edenfield all bring experience to the table. A new wave of talent will push these players for a starting spot. The running game is in good hands with Brandon Burks (675 rushing yards) and Jordan Chunn (14 touchdowns). Blocking for those guys will be four returning starters including stud tackle Terrance Jones.
Defense: This is the area where things have to change. The Trojans gave up over 480 yards per game in 2013. Upfront they have DE Tyler Roberts who led the team in sacks and tackles for loss. With all the attention Roberts will get the rest of the line will have to step up. Linebacker will be fine with seniors Wayland Coleman-Dancer and Mark Wilson back. Jeremy Spikner is back at the nickel back. The biggest question will be who fills the void left at safety. JaQuadrian Lewis seems to be in favor for one spot.
Special Teams: The return team is dangerous. Ryan Kay will handle both punting and kicking duties.
Overview: The offense will be solid, but the defense will need to take a step forward for them to contend for a top three spot. A game to circle for Troy fans, October 24th at South Alabama.
#3 Arkansas State
Offense: Junior QB Fredi Knighten will start at QB for the Red Wolves. Knighten got some playing time near the end of the season. The dual-threat QB will be tough for Sun Belt defenses to contain.The go to passing option for Knighten will be WR J.D. McKissic. McKissic in two seasons has over 1,650 yards and 184 receptions. Michael Gordon will also wreak havoc against Sun Belt defenses. Gordon has big play ability both running and catching the ball. The line in front of Gordon returns three starters. Look for offensive linemen Travis Bodenstein to make a big impact this season.
Defense:The defense has room to grow after a season that saw the Red Wolves give up 413.1 yards per game. Arkansas State's leading tackler Qushaun Lee is back at OLB. A couple of talented DE are back on the line, Chris Stone and Chris Odom. Everyone returns in the secondary which features three seniors and two juniors.
Special Teams: Luke Ferguson will handle both duties on special teams. J.D. McKissic is dangerous on returns averaging nearly 30 returns yards per kick return.
Overview: Blake Anderson has some big shoes to fill. The defense should improve. The offense has big play potential. The road contest at Louisiana will be one to watch.
#4 South Alabama
Overview: Five of South Alabama's six losses were by a touchdown or less. If the Jags can flip the script this season, they could contend for the title. Canadian QB Brandon Bridge will slide into the starting spot. Bridge should be just fine with top Sun Belt TE Wes Saxton back and the top three WR from last season. Alabama Marvin Shinn adds depth to an already deep WR core. The line has great experience and should pave the way for RB Jay Jones. The three game stretch with Troy at home then Louisiana and Arkansas State on the road will be big for the Jaguars.
#5 Texas State
Overview: The star on defense is LB Micheal Orakpo. LB David Mayo is back from injury and will combine with Orakpo to form the best linebacking unit in the league. The running game will be in full force with a healthy Tyler Jones at QB and Robert Lowe at RB. The passing game will need to develop a playmaker. The Bobacts get both Arkansas State and Louisiana at home.
Overview: The offense will take a step back this season with QB Kolton Browning gone. Browning's likely successor is Brayle Brown. Brown in 117 attempts threw one touchdown and six interceptions. Losing two senior WR who each had over 300 yards receiving will hurt but junior Rashon Ceaser return. The defense made strides last season, but still allowed seven teams to put over 30 points on the scoreboard. The defensive line looks good with all three starters back including Gerrand Johnson who had 11 tackles for loss last season. LB Ray Stovall should be in consideration for all conference at the seasons end.
#7 Appalachian State
Overview: We've long awaited Appalachian State to make the jump to the FBS, well they've arrived. QB Kameron Bryant has a completion percentage over 70 percent. He will have to find some new faces at WR with the departures of his top two pass catchers. Running back Marcus Cox will get a lot of attention with his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. He had 43 receptions and six touchdowns to go with his nearlly 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns. Where the Mountaineers will struggle is on defense and more specifically against the run. The first two games in conference play are against South Alabama and Georgia Southern a split their will be a good sign.
#8 George Southern
Overview: My biggest concern for Georgia Southern is getting away from the triple-option attack. The passing game is virtually unknown with only 102 passing attempts last season. The offensive line has some experience, but will come in a bit undersized for FBS play. The Eagles have the same problems on the defensive line. The secondary could prove to be a strength of the team with good experience and skill. A winning season could be hard to come by for first year coach Willie Fritz.
Overview: The Vandals won one game last season. This will be Idaho's first season in the Sun Belt and they come in with 14 returning starters. The transition won't be easy without WR Dezmon Epps who was dissmissed from the team this summer. The defense was one of the worst in the nation giving up 529 yards a game. The Vandals will try the JUCO transfer route to fix that problem. Tough times are ahead in the Kibbie Dome.
#9.5 Georgia State
Overview: Georgia State will open up the college football season for us with a game on ESPNU vs. Abilene Christian. Georgia State will always find its self in a QB battle until they can find a winner. Whomever starts at QB will miss top target Albert Wilson. Until Georgia State can field first and second team Sun Belt talent they will find themselves at the bottom of the league.
#11 New Mexico State
Overview: With only two winning seasons in the past 20 years don't look for things to change this season. They had the worst defense in the country last season and it doesn't look to get much better this season. The passing game wasn't bad last season, but they lost all their weapons on offense. The Aggies haven't been to a bowl since 1960...yes, 1960.
Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year
Terrance Braodway, QB, Louisiana
Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year
Micheal Orakpo, LB, Texas State
Sun Belt Coach of the Year
Larry Blakeney, Troy
Check Out Our Other Conference Predictions