Story by Toby Scott
Tampa, FL — Coming off a bowl season where the Sun Belt Conference claimed 4 of 6 games. Most college fans may have heard a little about some of the teams but that is quickly changing. One of the best thing about playing in this conference is some of the big-name team schedule them for tune up games. They quickly find out that they are in for a fight they might not have prepared for. University of Tennessee had a pretty good start in 2016 but that 1st game OT win over Appalachian State was definitely not the game plan. Power house Georgia Southern shocked University of Florida in the Swamp 2013 with a 26-20 win. Then followed it up with a 23 -17 lost 2015 to University of Georgia in Athens. The Eagles would love to get that running game going against Auburn to show everyone they are back to the good ole days.
Let’s talk about a team we got a chance to see hunt down the Knights of UCF at the Cure bowl in Orlando (http://www.betweenclasses.org/red-wolves-hunt-down-the-knights/) . Wow what a defense. The win was great for the program. I still need a shocker from them before I am believer and I don’t think Nebraska or Miami will accommodate them on that. Look for Arkansas State to be strong in the conference and get the win over SMU. New Comer Coastal Carolina Chanticleers are coming off a 10-2 season where both loses were by 1 point. If they think they are going to magically fly in here and have the same type of season without recently drafted De’Angelo Henderson (Coastal Carolina’s all-time leading rusher and scorer) they are truly mistaken. Give them about 2 years they should be ready to contend for the conference.
One more team I think will contend for the conference will be Troy University Trojans. Last year’s 10-3 season was capped with a 28-23 bowl game win over Ohio. If the Trojans could have somehow slayed the Tigers of Clemson the world would have went crazy. They fought like a champ and was only down by 3 points at halftime. Being from Tampa we knew what Ray-Ray McCloud and Deon Cain could do as receivers which proved to be the difference in the game. This is the same Clemson team that won the championship!!
Overall this is an extremely competitive conference known for winning championships at the Division 2 level. That experience has aided them well as they continue to make noise in Division 1. Look for teams to shy away from thinking this is an easy tune up win. Born in Savannah I got to go with the Eagles but football knowledge is leaning more toward Appalachian State or Arkansas State depending on who is ready to go once the season starts.
Side note: After 2018 season the Sun Belt will host their 1st Conference