NCAA FB

Sun Belt has no clear favorite in 2013

Share This Story

   
 

NEW ORLEANS (AP)

Although the Sun Belt Conference is in flux right now, all four of the league's bowl teams from last season are back.

Two of them are co-favorites to win the league - according to a preseason coaches' poll - and happen to be in-state rivals: Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana-Monroe. The other two are two-time defending league champion Arkansas State and Western Kentucky, which became the landing spot for Bobby Petrino's coaching comeback after the former Arkansas coach spent a season away from football

This should be Petrino's only season in the Sun Belt because WKU jumps to Conference USA next season. He hopes to have the Hilltoppers on top of the league and in a second-straight bowl, but the former Louisville and Atlanta Falcons coach doesn't expect it to be easy, and noted how far the once-fledgling mid-major league has come in its 13 years.

''When you look back on the success that the Sun Belt had last year, it just speaks for itself,'' Petrino said. ''You had four teams go to bowl games and some really major upsets. ... It's going to be very, very competitive.''

Petrino was referring to Louisiana-Monroe's comeback win at Arkansas. He also recalled how close Louisiana-Lafayette came to upsetting Florida before the Gators returned a blocked punt for a score in the final seconds. ULM also nearly won at Auburn.

''To me, the strength of our conference is still here, intact,'' said Louisiana-Lafayette coach Mark Hudspeth, who's led the Ragin' Cajuns to two straight New Orleans Bowl triumphs.

After an Independence Bowl berth last season, ULM coach Todd Berry said he would have been disappointed if his Warhawks weren't a favorite, particularly in light of the experience coming back, led by quarterback Kolton Browning, the league's preseason offensive player of the year, who passed for more than 3,000 yards last season.

''In today's college football, when you've got a quarterback, you've got a chance,'' Berry said. ''We've got a quarterback, so we've got a chance.''

Coaches picked Troy to finish fifth, but the Trojans and coach Larry Blakeney know how to win, having won five straight league titles from 2006-2010. Last season, all but one of their seven losses came by a touchdown or less, so they don't seem far behind.

---

5 THINGS TO WATCH

1: PETRINO'S PRESENCE. Petrino is 75-26 in eight seasons as a Division I college head coach, missing out on a bowl only once. He led both Louisville and Arkansas to their first BCS games and if not for off-the-field problems, he might still be coaching the Razorbacks. Arkansans fired Petrino in April 2012 for a ''pattern of misleading'' behavior following an accident in which the coach was injured while riding a motorcycle with his mistress as a passenger. At WKU, The 52-year-old Petrino replaces Willie Taggart, who left for South Florida after leading the Hilltoppers to a 7-5 regular season record and bid to the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.

2: BROADWAY ENCORE: Ragin' Cajuns quarterback Terrance Broadway burst onto the scene last year because of an early season injury to starter Blaine Gautier. The dual-threat QB wound up producing 3,611 yards of total offense, including 769 yards on the ground. Now he's on the 2013 watch list for the Manning Award, giving to the nation's top college quarterback.

3: BROWNING'S SWAN SONG: Browning enters his senior season at ULM with a host of preseason accolades. Not only is he the Sun Belt preseason offensive player of the year, but also has been named to watch lists for the Walter Camp Award, Davey O'Brien Quarterback Award, Maxwell Award and CFPA Offensive Awards.

4: COACHING CAROUSEL: Arkansas State is a contender despite having its fourth coach in four years. Last year, Gus Malzahn was in charge. He's since left for Auburn, replaced by former Texas co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin.

5: NEWBIES Texas State and Georgia State enter their first year in the Sun Belt, while South Alabama enters its second after a 2-11 record in its debut season. Some coaches see Texas State as a sleeping giant, given its easy access to fertile recruiting grounds and its hiring of coach Dennis Franchione, who previously coached at Alabama and Texas A&M.

---

Predicted order of finish in preseason coaches' poll:

1. Louisiana-Lafayette (co-favorite)

1. Louisiana-Monroe (co-favorite)

3. Arkansas State

4. Western Kentucky

5. Troy

6. Texas State

7. South Alabama

8. Georgia State

--

Online:

AP college football site: http://collegefootball.ap.org/

Tagged: Arkansas State, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana-Lafayette, Texas, Kolton Browning

Related Stories

Member Comments

Please note by clicking on "Post comment" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Use and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be Polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator.

powered by

College Football Pick'em on FOX


NCAA FB Videos

Sumlin annoyed by media's Manziel questions Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Kevin Sumlin responds to questions about life after Johnny Football by toying wi...

AJ Pasquale's journey back to UCLA Posted: Jun 17, 2014
UCLA football ops intern AJ Pasquale describes his own personal journey after th...

Winston issued adult civil citation Posted: Apr 30, 2014
Get the latest news surrounding Jameis Winston's recent shoplifting fiasco.

Get Inside the Locker Room with Scout.com

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    Nike Florida Gators Gridiron 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - Royal Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Florida_Gators/browse/featuredproduct/759777/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_759000/ff_759777_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Florida Gators Gridiron 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - Royal Blue
    Nike Michigan State Spartans Football 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - White http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Michigan_State_Spartans/browse/featuredproduct/760171/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_760000/ff_760171_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Michigan State Spartans Football 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - White
    Nike USC Trojans Fight On My School T-Shirt - Cardinal http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_USC_Trojans/browse/featuredproduct/761373/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_761000/ff_761373_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike USC Trojans Fight On My School T-Shirt - Cardinal
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Crimson http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/829709/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_829000/ff_829709_xl.jpg&w=100 64.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Crimso..
    Nike LSU Tigers Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Purple http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_LSU_Tigers/browse/featuredproduct/829740/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_829000/ff_829740_xl.jpg&w=100 49.99 Nike LSU Tigers Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Purple
    Nike Oklahoma Sooners Legacy 91 Dri-FIT Adjustable Coaches Cap - Crimson http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Oklahoma_Sooners/browse/featuredproduct/830935/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_830000/ff_830935_xl.jpg&w=100 21.95 Nike Oklahoma Sooners Legacy 91 Dri-FIT Adjustable Coaches Cap - Crimson
    adidas Notre Dame Fighting Irish Hot Sideline Jacket - Navy Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Notre_Dame_Fighting_Irish/browse/featuredproduct/861243/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_861000/ff_861243_xl.jpg&w=100 69.95 adidas Notre Dame Fighting Irish Hot Sideline Jacket - Navy Blue
    adidas Nebraska Cornhuskers Sideline Hot Quarter Zip Jacket - Scarlet http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Nebraska_Cornhuskers/browse/featuredproduct/861247/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_861000/ff_861247_xl.jpg&w=100 69.95 adidas Nebraska Cornhuskers Sideline Hot Quarter Zip Jacket - Scarlet
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Players Locker Room Snapback Hat - Charcoal/Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/1087345/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1087000/ff_1087345_xl.jpg&w=100 29.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Players Locker Room Snapba..
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - Ash http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/1093431/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1093000/ff_1093431_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - Ash