The Sun Belt Conferences football coaches met with the media this week and made their preseason picks. The outcome: there’s no obvious favorite.
But the coaches are going with what they know, which is the league’s leading holdovers from last year.
The coaches are calling a first-pace tie between Louisiana-Lafayette (ULL) and Louisiana-Monroe (ULM), both of which earned 57 out of a highest possible 64 voting points. ULL received four first-place votes, compared with two for ULM. Arkansas State, which finished third in the voting with 45 points, received the remaining two first-place votes.
Arkansas State won the league last year at 7-1 and finished 10-3 with a 17-13 win against No. 25 Kent State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl. ULL and ULM were in a tie for second at 6-2. ULL finished 9-4 overall with a 43-34 win against East Carolina in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, while ULM finished 8-5 overall with a 45-14 win against Ohio in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl.
Western Kentucky (4-4, 7-6 in 2012) finished fourth in the voting with 44 points, just a tick beneath Arkansas State. Troy (3-5, 5-7) finished fifth with 35 points.
The Sun Belt last year included 10 teams, five of which now have moved elsewhere. But four of the departed were the bottom four teams in last year’s football standings. It’s not surprising, then, that the league’s new schools — Texas State, South Alabama and Georgia State — were the bottom three selections in the preseason coaches poll. Texas State is sixth with 23 points, South Alabama is seventh with 19 and Georgia State was voted last by all eight coaches and finished with eight votes.
Similarly, all but three of the players picked for the preseason All-Sun Belt teams were in the league last year. The exceptions are all from South Alabama — tight end Wes Saxton, defensive lineman Alex Page and defensive back Tyrell Pearson.