In order of predicted finish (so pay no attention to the order, right?)
1) Arkansas State [Mascot Redacted]
Why am I picking the Arkansas State soon-to-no-long-be-Indians #1 in the mighty Sun Belt? Because I grew up in northeastern Arkansas and have been to more Arkansas State Native American Peoples games than I care to admit to. Additionally, they have four of their conference games at home this year and they return 14 starters from a team that had a chance at winning the SBC last year. I see no reason why they won’t win the SBC with a 5-2 conference record and a 5-7 overall record. That’s what happens when teams like Arkansas State play teams like Texas, Tennessee, and Southern Mississippi.
2) Troy Trojans
These guys are the most likely actual champions of the SBC, as they figure to have the best offensive attack in the conference thanks to the return of All-Conference QB Omar Haugabook. Haugabook threw for 21 TDs last year, but most of his line is gone this go around. Good thing for him that he is mobile, eh? The Trojans also return 8 starters on defense. Things appear to be on the up and up and this team could very well surprise one of their major conference opponents this year. I just pray it’s not my beloved Razorbacks on September 1st.
3) Louisiana – Monroe Warhawks
According to our good friend Phil Steele, the Warhawks actually outgained their opponents by nearly 30 yards per game last year. Somehow, they still finished only 3-4 in conference. They return both their top QB and WR and their offense is expected to remain capable of putting up yardage and points. They will challenge for the SBC crowd. More importantly, they will be out saving grace on Thursday by taking part in the first televised D-1A game of the year against Tulsa on ESPN2. Huzzah!
4) Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders
I have a warm spot in my heart for the MTSU Blue Raiders. You see, they were the team that my alma mater (Central Michigan) defeated in their bowl game last December. I can’t dislike a team that provided me such happiness now can I? They aren’t returning many starters from that SBC runner-up team though and a drop in production is to be expected. But are they really going to be worse than the rest of these teams? Probably not. Fourth place suits them well for now.
5) Florida Atlantic Owls
Good God! It’s the ghost of Howard Schnellenberger! The former Miami and Louisville coach has been at FAU for a few years now and has the program on the rise within the conference. They are returning a ton of starters and are expected to challenge for the SBC championship this year. So why do I have them so low? Because a world where Sun Belt conference teams live up to expectations is not a world I wish to live in. Plus they are the Owls. Nobody fears an Owl except for field mice. Ask Rice.