Normally our college football roundtables take place on Wednesday but this week we are making some changes. Yesterday, we started our discussion on the Sun Belt Conference and that discussion will continue today and tomorrow. TSS Associate Editor Terry Johnson joins staff writer Kevin Causey and special rotating guests in our weekly roundtable discussing all things college football.
On Wednesday we talked about players to watch in the Sun Belt Conference. Today we dig deeper into the Sun Belt as we are joined by Ben Moore of PantherTalk.com of the 247 Sports Network.
Question: Which team will be the biggest surprise in the Sun Belt?
On Twitter @BenMoore247:
I’m a positive guy so I’ll highlight what I believe to be a positive surprise – Georgia State. The Panthers enter their 3rd year in the FBS ranks and 6th season overall with more talent and depth on both sides of the ball than they’ve ever had. Adding six players from the closed and now back open program at UAB as well as eight prospect from the JUCO ranks, GSU is ready to win now. Other than a road game against Oregon, Georgia State should be competitive with all of their opponents this season, something that couldn’t be said in previous seasons.
The Panthers open at home against Charlotte and have non-conference games against FCS Liberty and a road game with Ball State. With the potential to have a Top 40 caliber offense, GSU will be able to score points, it’s all about how much the defense progresses to see if this team win 3 or 4 vs. competing for a bowl berth. Those last five words, if true, would shake many naysers presumptions of where this program currently sits and where it’s headed.
On Twitter @CFBZ
For Sun Belt insiders this might not come as much of a surprise but to those that don’t follow as closely, they will be very surprised by Appalachian State in 2015.
After going just 4-8 in 2013 (mainly against FCS competition), the Mountaineers started 2014 at 1-5. Then a funny thing started happening, they started winning. They beat Troy, Georgia State, Louisiana-Monroe and Idaho and won road games against Louisiana (Lafayette) and Arkansas State. They finished with an outstanding 6-2 record against Sun Belt opponents.
Appalachian State returns Taylor Lamb at QB and Marcus Cox at RB but it doesn’t stop there. They return the most starters in the Sun Belt (20 players) and the FBS. The schedule is also in their favor as they get Arkansas State, Georgia Southern and Louisiana (Lafayette) all at home.
On Twitter @SectionTPJ
New Mexico State will be the surprise team in the Sun Belt this year.
Please note that I am not saying that the Aggies are going to win the conference. However, they will be one of the more improved teams in the league.
Believe it or not, New Mexico State wasn’t as bad as it seemed in 2014. Sure, the 2-10 record was awful. But, three of those losses came by eight points or less, including an eight point loss to eventual conference champion Georgia Southern. With one play here or there, the Aggies could have easily doubled their win total.
Things will be different this fall, as NMSU returns 17 starters, making it the 10th most experienced team in the country. The extra year of seasoning will make the difference in close contests, helping a still-young team win games that it would have lost a year ago. With a couple of W’s early, the Aggies could be looking at their first five-win campaign since 2004 (which ironically was their final season in the Sun Belt before rejoining in 2014).