James Madison will not be eligible for the Sun Belt championship or a bowl game due to the reclassification process from FCS to FBS.
The Sun Belt Conference has grown as Marshall, Old Dominion, and Southern Miss moved over from Conference USA this offseason. James Madison will also join the league and the FBS after a highly successful run vs. FCS competition.
Look for Appalachian State (+225) to verify college football betting sites’ optimism and once again rule the league. However, the Mountaineers haven’t won an SBC title game in either of the last two seasons after winning or sharing four in a row. UL Lafayette (+350), who lost coach Billy Napier to Florida, has the talent to win the league. The Ragin’ Cajuns will be after Appalachian State as they are a heavy favorite to win the SBC West.
Coastal Carolina (+550) returns its solid quarterback in Grayson McCall. Marshall (+500), with running threat Rasheed Ali, can also figure into the mix. While this conference has grown to 14 teams this season, James Madison is still ineligible win the league this year after their aforementioned move from FCS to FBS.
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App State’s Offense should Flourish Behind Multi-Talented Brice
Quarterback Chase Brice will welcome in a talented-but-inexperienced group of wide receivers.
Brice is a consummate leader under center after he threw 27 touchdown passes with 11 interceptions in 2021. Nate Noel (1,126 yards) and Cameron Peoples (926) will be key contributors for Appalachian State, whose Sun Belt betting odds are posted at +225.
These two were the second and third leading rushers in the conference last year, and Peoples scored 14 touchdowns on the ground to lead the SBC.
? Post-scrimmage practice report ?#GoApphttps://t.co/xJPpn5sh2L
— App State Football (@AppState_FB) August 20, 2022
Defensively, the Mountaineers lost key players, but they return defensive end Nick Hampton and linebacker Trey Cobb as important pieces inside the unit. Hampton was tied for second in the league with 11 quarterback sacks in 2021.
Safety Steven Jones led the SBC with five interceptions, and he returned three of those for touchdowns last season. The Mountaineers host North Carolina on Week 1 and then they play at Texas A&M on the following weekend.
A back-to-back road trip to Coastal Carolina and Marshall on the first two weekends of November will be the deciding factor as the Mountaineers are spotted with 8.5 wins by the oddsmakers. The OVER is planted at (-120) with the UNDER netting (+100).
Cajuns Still Ragin’ in Sun Belt’s Western Division
Chandler Fields will likely take over as the starting quarterback for ULL as he inherits the longest winning streak in the nation (13).
Chris Smith is a solid running back who was nursing an injury during the off-season, but he should post more than his 855 rushing yards of 2021 if he can stay healthy.
?? That’s a wrap on ???? ????.#cULture | #GeauxCajuns pic.twitter.com/uFpWVD70Kh
— Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns® Football (@RaginCajunsFB) August 22, 2022
Defensively, Louisiana (+350 Sun Belt odds) lost four starters to the transfer portal and NFL training camps.
But they return two of their top four defensive linemen in Andre Jones and Zi’Yon Hill, who had six and 5.5 quarterback sacks, respectively, a season ago. There is no Appalachian State nor Coastal Carolina on the schedule as the Ragin’ Cajuns are still set up for only 8.5 wins with the OVER at (-120) and the UNDER at EVEN.
Louisiana will play at Marshall and at Florida State, and wins in these could help to prolong this winning streak.
Herd Looking to Stampede as New Potential Sun Belt Favorite
Marshall has the third-best Sun Belt betting odds (+500) and will have plenty of returning talent on defense.
They were solid against the pass last season by allowing only 205.3 passing yards a game.
Brandon Drayton was the Herd’s third-leading tackler and should be able to capitalize on the depth in the secondary that includes Steven Gilmore and Micah Abraham.
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In today’s Marshall Football Practice Report, Jake Griffith talks with head coach Charles Huff ?#WeAreMarshall pic.twitter.com/VBm5eU5HG3
— Marshall Football (@HerdFB) August 18, 2022
The Herd will also enjoy a solid pass rush with a good returnee in linebacker Eli Neal, who notched 5.5 of the team’s CUSA-leading 40 quarterback sacks.
On offense, running back Rasheen Ali looks like the primary option as he had 1,401 rushing yards and 23 rushing TDs last season. The Thundering Herd lost quarterback Grant Wells as a transfer to Virginia Tech, so Henry Columbi comes in from Texas Tech to throw to a deep wide receiving corps.
Marshall plays at Notre Dame, but inside the league, they host Coastal Carolina and Appalachian State. Oddsmakers have the Herd poised with 7.0 wins as the OVER stands at (-140) and the UNDER at (+120).
Coastal Carolina can Duplicate Win Total
Despite an 11-2 record last season, a three-point loss to Appalachian State and a two-point loss to Georgia State took the Chanticleers out of the Sun Belt title race.
CC returns Grayson McCall at quarterback after he led SBC with 261.2 passing yards per game with 27 touchdown passes to only three interceptions.
McCall and the passing attack were complemented by the leading rushing attack that averaged nearly 230 rushing yards per game.
On defense, the Chanticleers will have to replace eight starters as the transfer portal will be a key in their depth. Linebacker Josiah Stewart had 12.5 sacks as a freshman along with 34 total tackles.
Coastal Carolina has been handed 8.0 wins with an OVER at (+120) and the UNDER measuring (-140). CC plays at Marshall and hosts Appalachian State on back-to-back weeks on Oct. 29 and Nov. 3.
Troy, Georgia State Look Like a Solid Battle for Fifth in League
The Troy Trojans (+800) check in with 21 of their 22 starters intact, but Quayde Hawkins and Gunner Watson could battle for the starting quarterback post.
Watson was the leader in 2021 as he threw for 1,613 yards.
Wide receiver Tez Johnson and running back Kimani Vidal give the new QB a pair of solid producers at the skill positions.
At defensive end, Troy posts Carlton Martial, who led the Sun Belt with 127 tackles a year ago. Troy is listed with 6.5 wins by the sportsbooks with (-110) as the Sun Belt odds for both the OVER and the UNDER.
Georgia State (+1000) is listed by Sun Belt betting odds in the upper middle of the conference as well.
The Panthers return a multi-faceted quarterback in Darren Granger and a leader at wide receiver in Jamari Thrash, who tallied 452 yards on 32 receptions. GSU has a pair of solid playmakers on defense in linebacker Jordan Veneziale (96) and safety Antoine Lane (81), who were the first and third leading tacklers on the squad.
The Panthers have been listed with 7.5 wind by the oddsmakers as the OVER posts at (+130) with (-150) for the UNDER.
South Alabama, Southern Miss, Arkansas State Compete in SBC’s Middle
The Jaguars’ (+1600) calling card is going to be on defense where they return nine starters and are led by linebacker AJ DeShazor, Jr. and safety Keith Gallmon, Jr.
South Alabama totaled 31 sacks and 15 interceptions last season, so the athleticism and playmakers on defense will have a major impact. Offensively, there are many more issues as the Jags with Desmond Trotter expected to be the starter at quarterback with replacements expected to on the offensive line and at skill positions.
South Alabama has been handed 5.5 wins by the sportsbooks as the OVER and the UNDER are both set to render (-110) Sun Belt odds.
Southern Miss (+4000) moves into the Sun Belt from Conference USA as the Golden Eagles will look to revive an offense that was last in the league averaging 17.7 points while putting up only 266.3 yards per game.
Frank Gore, Jr., will be beside of Ty Keyes, who will get another opportunity as the Golden Eagles quarterback.
Will Hall on Frank Gore Jr.’s (@stn_2lit) progression as a leader on the team.
“I think he has a tremendous smile. Kinda like Magic Johnson did…it’s just infectious. He understands that he’s Frank Gore, and he takes that responsibility very seriously.”
Watch full quote ? pic.twitter.com/CFSwsrI4hE
— Dima Mixon (@dima_mixon) August 19, 2022
Defensively, USM should be solid enough as the Golden Eagles’ return three starting linebackers, led by Hayes Maples who was the second leading tackler from 2021.
The Golden Eagles have been given 5.0 wins by the sportsbooks with OVER 5.0 sitting with (-125) odds and (+105) is set to host the UNDER. Meanwhile, Arkansas State (+5000) has to find a running attack after the Red Wolves were last in the SBC by averaging 81.8 yards per game.
Quarterback James Blackmon is back and will probably be the starter if he stays healthy.
On defense, the Red Wolves need to find themselves after opponents rushed for 261.1 yards, easily last in the Sun Belt. Arkansas State had several transfers off its defense, but safety Elery Alexander returns as he was the leading tackler with 85.
ASU was a finisher in the SBC basement for the first time last season, but the Red Wolves have been posted with 5.0 wins with the OVER at EVEN and the UNDER netted at (-120).
Monarchs, Eagles Look for Prominence in Climbing with Lower Odds
The Old Dominion Monarchs (+6600) are another team that has moved from Conference USA to the Sun Belt.
Quarterback Hayden Wolff will be the recipient of a new up-tempo offensive attack in Norfolk. Wolff completed 62.8 percent of his passes, but in this offense, he will be much more successful with well over ten touchdown passes.
The Monarchs return four starters on the offensive line which will help with the transition to this new offense.
#WeNeedYou, ????? ??????!#HailSouthern pic.twitter.com/MSi9XisTRU
— Georgia Southern Football (@GSAthletics_FB) February 8, 2022
ODU should have a solid pass rush as Marcus Hayes is back and was the leader with 5.5 sacks. The Monarchs had only 25 sacks last season and just seven interceptions.
Old Dominion has non-conference rivalry games with Virginia, Virginia Tech, Liberty, and East Carolina. In adding Appalachian State, Marshall, and Coastal Carolina, the Monarchs have been served 4.5 wins with the OVER as EVEN and the UNDER sitting at (-120). Georgia Southern (+6600) welcomes former USC head coach Clay Helton as the Eagles have a major rebuild around Buffalo transfer quarterback Kyle Vantrease.
Like ODU, the Eagles are going to be more of an active offense as wide receiver Khaleb Hold could be up for a break-out season.
On defense, GSU has to move forward after allowing over 400 total yards and they allowed 261.8 yards per game through the air.
Sportsbooks posted the Eagles with (+115) on OVER 4.5 wins and (-135) as the UNDER.
Texas State, UL Monroe Equate to Bottom Positions of Sun Belt
The Bobcats (+6600) have much better odds than the Warhawks to win the Sun Belt.
Texas State had a relatively inefficient pass offense a year ago as it produced only 193.1 yards through the air. Layne Hatcher returns at quarterback with several fast wide receivers. TSU gave up 183.6 yards rushing per game, so the run-stop and the passing attack need to be better for the ‘Cats’ posting of 4.5 wins.
The OVER (-135) would top the UNDER (+115) if Texas State could improve.
UL Monroe WR Jordan Carroll has entered the transfer portal. pic.twitter.com/I8MjaDzGMg
— Sidelines Transfer Portal (@SSN_Portal) August 24, 2022
Meanwhile, Terry Bowden had UL Monroe (+20000) with a 4-8 record last season in his first year as the Warhawks lost their last five games with three of those by a touchdown or less.
Chandler Rogers takes over the quarterbacking role where he competed for 62.6 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns when he took over with the injury to Rhett Rodriguez, who transferred. Bowden’s defense welcomes seasoned coach veteran Vic Koenning as defensive coordinator where he will work to push the Warhawks forward from the 442.8 yards it gave up to opposing offenses last season.
UL Monroe has odds at (-125) stashed with OVER 2.5 wins while it is placed with (+105) to go UNDER the 2.5.
Dukes are New Entry into Sun Belt and FBS Football
James Madison has been a power at the FCS level after winning the national championship in 2016 in Mike Houston’s first season. They are 33-5 in the last three years under coach Curt Cignetti with appearances in the national semifinals in all three of these seasons.
Now, JMU embarks on the Sun Belt Conference and the wars of the FBS and although they are ridiculously ineligible for an SBC title or a bowl bid, the Dukes have the opportunity to cause an uprising in the Sun Belt and potentially the national landscape.
While the oddsmakers don’t have JMU listed because of their standing due to the transition, they were voted sixth in the seven-team SBC East. That said, the Dukes have eight league games that include games at Appalachian State while hosting Coastal Carolina and Marshall.
Good read @ESPNMcGee but when referencing old rivalries don’t forget about the history the Eastern Sun Belt schools have with JMU.
The Sun Belt embraced what makes college football unique. Is it winning realignment? https://t.co/YZELWes9ur
— Sidelines – JMU (@SSN_JMU) August 25, 2022
Colorado State transfer Todd Centeio, who played for five seasons, has the arm to allow the Dukes plenty of their variety of firepower in the passing game.
Centeio will have two major receivers in Kris Thornton who caught 83 passes as 13 of those were touchdowns and Boston College transfer Kobe White. The Dukes were an FCS team with a solid defense to match the productivity of the offense and that should continue in the Sun Belt. Watch Isaac Ukwu on the defensive line where the defense allowed only 275 yards and 15.5 points per game last season.
James Madison only has 6.5 attributed wins attributed by the oddsmakers with the OVER enjoying odds at (+120) while the UNDER is sitting at (-150).
Mountaineers Look Like Favorites For Sun Belt Championship
Sun Belt Conference odds have Appalachian State (+225) as a slight favorite over Louisiana (+350) behind an experienced Chas Brice at quarterback.
Brice will have to break in a new group of receivers after Appalachian State lost the top three, who accounted for 173 of their 251 competitions. In order to beat Louisiana, the Mountaineers will have to establish a much more consistent ground game with Nate Noel and Cameron Peoples orchestrating the two-back attack.
The Ragin’ Cajuns will orchestrate their defensive attack with a solid defensive front that will rush passers before the quarterbacks can get the ball to receivers who can play make in the secondary.
Appalachian will win this game based on it’s running attack and generally having a tougher defense than the Ragin’ Cajuns can assert.
Appalachian State Mountaineers