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2011 Sun Belt Conference Football Preview with Predictions
The Sun Belt Conference is home to some of the best "mid-majors" in college football. Typically used in the basketball world, we feel this descriptor fits well as the top teams in the Sun Belt aren't bad, but not good enough to compete with the best BCS teams yet. Let's take a look at who will reign supreme in Sun Belt Conference in 2011.
Troy Trojans - Last year's 8-5 team won the Sun Belt Title and they bring back 5 offensive starters and 8 defensive starters from that group. QB Corey Robinson did well with a 28-15 ratio in his first year on the job in 2010 and we can expect big time improvement in his second full year on the job. Last year's RB group combined for 1,614 and with 2 of 3 top RBs returning they might do it again. They have a road trip to play FIU and that will likely decide the season. With a strong defense they have to be considered the early favorite to win that game.
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FIU Golden Panthers - With a 7-6 mark last year this team made it to and WON their first Bowl game when they took down Toledo in the Little Caesars Bowl. For a school that didn't play football in 2001, FIU has come a very long way. They get back 8 offensive and 7 defensive starters from that team. Wesley Carroll is back at QB as are top runners Darriet Perry and Darian Mallary. The defense has top tackler Jonthan Cyprien back. The season could come down to a matchup with Troy where the strong Trojan defense will be pitted with stopping FIU's running attack. Can FIU answer the bell when it rings?
ULM Warhawks - This could be one of the most improved teams in college football because of 10 returning starters on offense and 7 on defense. While they finished 3-7 in 2010 they lost two very close games and were playing with an inexperienced QB. Kolt Browning now has a year of experience under his belt and after having an 18-12 ratio in 2010 he figures to move way up. Not only is it his second year, but HC Todd Berry was also a new face last year. There is plenty to be happy about for ULM fans.
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders - Life after Dwight Dasher won't be easy, but this team will make it. They now have a sophomore QB in Logan Kilgore and a new RB in Benjamin Cunningham. They have experience on the offensive line and HC Rick Stockstill has been successful in the past. This team will have their backs against the wall, but they are good enough to overcome it.
Arkansas State Red Wolves - After going 4-8 last year this team keeps 6 and 7 starters. They have a new HC in Hugh Freeze. The top 3 RBs are back and they combined for 1,200+ yards last year. QB Ryan Aplin was first team All SBC in 2010 and will only get better in 2011. They play FIU and Troy at home so that could make them a dark horse contender if they avoid typically growing pains associated with a new HC.
North Texas Mean Green - Dan McCarney is the new sheriff in town as the old HC couldn't get this historically bad team rolling. They get a new stadium this year, but sadly this team will likely to continue to act as a punching bag.
Florida Atlantic Owls - This team is in trouble after going 4-8 last year. They don't figure to be much better despite a fair amount of talent. HC Howard Schnellenberger must play his first five games on the road and they go up against Florida, Michigan State and Auburn. Playing teams to start the year like that could demoralize them.
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers - This program is moving along since becoming an FBS team. They went 2-10 last year, but could easily get double that amount this year thanks to returning RB Bobby Rainey and QB Kawaun Jakes.
Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns - With a new HC they are unlikely to improve on last year's mark of 3-9. Returning 3 of the top 4 tacklers is a bright spot.
Worth a read - Betfirms Sun Belt Preview
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