Today our series of Conference Conversations takes us to the Sun Belt. The Saturday Edge is very pleased to present an exclusive Sun Belt football Q & A session with Brett Vito of the Denton Record-Chronicle.
Question # 1: According to oddsmakers, FIU is favored to win the Sun Belt (+240). Which team do you believe is going to win the Sun Belt this season and what other team(s) could realistically challenge for conference title? Why?
My pick is Florida International. It’s just hard to not like what the Golden Panthers have coming back with 18 starters returning. Granted, two of the guys who left were maybe the best player in the Sun Belt in TY Hilton and starting quarterback Wes Carroll, but there are a whole lot of good players at other spots. FIU has 10 starters returning from a defense that allowed 19.5 points a game on the season. My only reason to second-guess that pick is that Arkansas State will also be pretty good this year.
Question # 2: Name me a few unknown players that could become stars this season?
It’s always a good idea to look at transfers who will be eligible for the first time when it comes to Sun Belt sleepers. Florida State transfer Jajuan Harley at Middle Tennessee is one. Darius “Tig” Barksdale, a former Ole Miss signee, at Louisiana-Lafayette is another. Former Oklahoma safety Marcus Trice will start at North Texas and could be an impact player.
Question # 3: Which team do you believe will show the greatest improvement over last season? Which team is overrated (not nearly as good as they are being made out to be)?
I have a hard time believing that Troy won’t bounce back this year, especially with people overlooking that team. The Trojans have a good quarterback in Corey Robinson, and that’s half the battle. Louisiana-Monroe also has a lot of key players back.
I don’t see a team out there that is way over rated, but one team that could have a tough time is South Alabama after moving up to the Sun Belt. There are high expectations for USA, but it is a whole different animal playing on the FBS level every week. The Jaguars have played an FBS game here and there. Now they will have to go through the meat grinder every week.
I would like to thank Brett for his participation and great answers to our Sun Belt football questions. And don’t forget to leave us your Sun Belt football comments below.