Thursday, August 5, 2010

2010 Sun Belt Conference College Football Preview

This is your Sun Belt Conference Preview for the 2010 season...
The HQ thought about putting the above phrase in some kind of bold lettering or something of that effect, but we decided against it...

Middle Tennessee State
2009 Finish: 10-3, 7-1 in Sun Belt
Defeated Southern Miss 42-32 in New Orleans Bowl

Things To Like: QB Dwight Dasher, 8 offensive starters returning, 2009 Lou Groza Award semifinalist K Alan Gendreau

Things Not To Like: The lack of experience on defense- especially up front where only three starters come back

OSG's Take: The HQ has been familiar with Dasher ever since he was a high schooler at Charlton County High in south Georgia. He's one of the most dangerous players in all of D1 football and, this is odd to say, a game in week 5 will decide everything for this conference. If the front seven can come around early enough, that game in week 5 should lock down a trip to New Orleans in December.

Nelson: 10-2 and a trip to New Orleans to beat up on a Conference USA team...

Brother Phil: Agreed with Jon, it starts...and ends with Dasher. 10-2 is realistic. Rick Stockstill won't be the coach there much longer...movin' on up soon.

Oh, that game in Week 5...??? It's a home game against....... Troy

Wilkie: Blue Raider fans, go ahead and make your hotel reservations for New Orleans. Middle Tennessee has the best quarterback in the SBC and a friendly schedule with Troy and North Texas coming to Murfreesboro. The Blue Raiders can make a statement opening night hosting Minnesota from the Big Ten.

2009 Record: 9-4, 8-0 in Sun Belt
Lost to Central Michigan 44-41 ((OT)) in the GMAC Bowl

Things To Like: The idea of QB Jamie Hampton taking over for all-conference gunslinger Levi Brown. RB Shawn Southward and WR Jerrel Jernigan can score from anywhere.

Things Not To Like: Everyone who left after the 2009 season. Brown, 6-of-the-7 up front- including their top three tacklers and top three pass rushers.

Think that's enough...???

OSG's Take: The only thing that will keep Troy from getting another conference title is that game in Murfreesboro. A lot will depend on Hampton and how quickly he integrates with the rest of the offense- 3rd in Division 1 last season. The game at Oklahoma State and the game the week before the MTSU game against Arkansas State should put the Men of Troy in place for the rest of their Sun Belt run. Don't be surprised if another run to Mobile is in play.

Nelson: 10-2 and another trip to Mobile

Brother Phil: This team is always about the "O". That won't change. Do they have enough to fight off MTSU? Not this year. 9-3

Wilkie: The quarterback situation is a concern as is Troy's inexperience. Troy's got the best talent in the SBC but its just young. The showdown at MTSU October 5th is huge. The Blue Raiders haven't beaten Troy in 5 years. If the Trojans get by the Blue Raiders the SBC title is theirs.

Arkansas State
2009 Finish: 4-8, 3-5 in Sun Belt

Things We Like: The offensive line returns everyone, which will help a first-year QB in Ryan Aplin (or Phillip Butterfield) staying upright most of the season. First-year OC Hugh Freeze comes in from Lambuth in the NAIA to wake up the 95th-ranked offense with his spread looks. The top four tacklers return as well on defense- including safeties Kelcie McCray and MD Jennings.

Things We Don't Like: The inexperience at quarterback. While the top two tacklers in the secondary are back, half of the starters from last year are not. That defense was 41st in D1 and Alex Carrington was one of the ones that left. Can all the freshman and JuCo newcomers contribute to keep this team from losing 8 of 9 like last year...? Needing a new kicker and punter won't help, either.

OSG's Take: The team will be successful if they make it to .500- a two-game improvement over 2009. That might be pushing it a little bit. 2011 is a better focus for marked improvement in the Sun Belt.

Nelson: Maybe 5-7

Phil: Some rebuilding needs to be finished now that it has started. Up and coming, but not there yet. Look for 4-8 or slightly better.

Wilkie: 2009 was a bitter disappointment for the fans in Jonesboro. ASU could have a nice bounce back since their offensive line is solid and the linebackers are the core of the Red Wolf defense. ASU might sneak up the SBC ladder after underachieveing last year. 6-6 is probably the best ASU can do this year.

Florida Atlantic
2009 Finish: 5-7, 5-3 in Sun Belt

Things We Like: Most of the defense is returning- 8 starters, including all of the secondary. Jeff Van Camp gets a full year as a starter at QB.

Things We Don't Like: Last year's defense was 112th in D1. Only two other starters are back on offense. The whole O-Line needs remodeling.

OSG's Take: While the game at Michigan State should be interesting (for the wrong reasons) as an early indicator, it looks like all the losses to graduation are catching up with Coach Schnellenberger. New DC Kurt Van Valkenburgh has his work cut out for him. More of the same means more of 5-7...

Nelson: 5-7

Phil: Until they fix the D, they'll never be more than what they are. 4-8 sounds good.

Wilkie: Nelson and Phil aren't very high on the Owls but there is some talent there. Yes the offensive line is a huge concern but the skill players are outstanding on offense and FAU defense isn't bad either. FAU only has "4" home games too, 3 road games against BCS teams, one being Texas. I guess FAU needs to pay some bills. I'm going to say 6-6.

2009 Finish: 6-6, 5-3 in Sun Belt

What We Like: Frank Goodin's running game- 1,126 yards and 13 TD's had him one short of the school record as a junior. Nate Brown and Darius Prelow in the secondary. They may have to carry the squad for a while.

What We Don't Like: The red-shirt freshman who may be QB in Kolton Browning. New head coach Todd Berry may hear about this decision if it doesn't pan out. A small D-line in the 3-3-5 defense that averages 270 pounds. Guess what teams will do this year on ULM...?

OSG's Take: ULM lost four of their last six to finish at 6-6 in 2009. That was with a bunch of seniors on defense that was ranked Top 20 in the country against the run. The skill positions on offense may help out, but they'll need to help out quickly. Early games against Arkansas and Auburn won't help psyches, either. Close to .500, but not at .500.

Nelson: 5-7

Phil: Always a good skill team that lacks discipline. Decent, not great. 6-6 = baby steps.

Wilkie: New coach, Todd Berry, new schemes, Only 10 returning starters, smells like a rebuilding season in Monroe. Patience Warhawk fans. 4-7

2009 Finish: 6-6, 4-4 in Sun Belt

What We Like: A lot of the defense (7 starters) and both special teamers return. TE Ladarius Green will be a big target on offense for QB Chris Masson. Three starters are back in the secondary that was 13th in D1 in interceptions in 2009.

What We Don't Like: The inexperience at RB and on the offensive line. In 2009, the OL only gave up 13 sacks. There should be more this year. The Cajuns only averaged 22 points per game last year- 92rd in D1. Who replaces MLB Antwyne Zanders and his 103 tackles from last year...? And when did they go to just the "Louisiana Rajun Cajuns?"

OSG's Take: Another one of those close to .500 or .500 years for the Bustles... even though odds are the HQ will be there in person for the season opener at Georgia...

Did we mention that we wrote a book on UGA...???

Nelson: Agree... 5-7, probably...

Phil: If the O-Line holds up good, if not...not so much. Tough way to start the year. 7-5

Wilkie: With two road games against SEC teams, at Georgia and at Ole Miss, another road game at Ohio and hosting Oklahoma State the Ragin' Cajuns may have way overscheduled which will keep Louisiana from bowl eligibilty. A strong team but 5-7 is in the cards.

Florida International
2009 Finish: 3-9, 3-5 in Sun Belt

What We Like: RB Jerimiah Harden transferring from Syracuse, the depth at wideout with Hilton, Times, Ellingson, and Frierson...

What We Don't Like: The defense returning only three players from a 119th ranked group in D1 in 2009. On second thought, maybe that's a good thing... The Goldens needs to replace three O-Linemen and their entire front four on D.

OSG's Take: The team is still trying to find a way to cope with the loss of RB Kendall Berry in an on-campus stabbing. There are, simply, too may holes to fill with a brutal schedule to start: Rutgers, at Texas A&M, at Maryland, and at Pitt. Another 3-9 year seems about right with one of the best names in all of football on defense- LB Pooh Bear Mars...

Nelson: I think FIU will steal one on the road so they can get to 3-9

Phil: Major rebuild in progress, they'll struggle. 3-9

Wilkie: FIU will be 0-4 to start the season. Then who knows. Mario Cristobal gets South Florida talent, second-tier talent, which might steal a win here or there but if the Golden Panthers match last year's win total that's a big accomplishment. 3-9 for FIU

North Texas
2009 Finish: 2-10, 1-7 in Sun Belt

What We Like: Head Coach Todd Dodge returns his top 6 pass catchers- including Lance Dunbar. Dunbar was second in the conference in rushing yards last year (1,378) in only 8 games. Practically, everyone on the offensive side returns.
Most of the defense is back including LB Craig Robertson.

What We Don't Like: Injuries to Riley Dodge, the coach's son, moved him to WR, so it will be a contest to see who starts now- Nathan Tune or Derek Thompson. Todd Dodge thinks he needs to finish at .500 to stay after his son graduates this year.

OSG's Take: First, we don't see where the Mean Green will get 6 wins. They could be 1-3 out of the box with that lone win at Army. Which means Todd Dodge will be leaving campus with Riley Dodge if they don't finish 5-3 in conference.

Save the puns written by 5-year-olds...

Nelson: 2-10 and Dodge is done...

Phil: Why do I keep thinking of "Dodgeball: The Movie" only with out the redemption. 1-11

Wilkie: I don't share the same opinion. I think North Texas will be the most improved team in the SBC. Lance Dunbar is a tremendous offensive weapon for the Mean Green. The defense has some players for a change but still needs to continue to make strides. I wouldn't be suprised if North Texas goes 6-6 this year.

Western Kentucky
2009 Finish: 0-12, 0-8 in Sun Belt

What We Like: The hiring of Willie Taggart to take over for the departed David Elson

What We Don't Like: Taggart's inexperience at the head coaching level. He's never been a coordinator, much less a head guy. The team is on a nation's-best 20-game losing streak at present and go to Nebraska, Kentucky, and South Florida before conference play. The Toppers were 115th in turnover margin, 101st in total offense, and 118th in total defense in 2009. A great deal of this isn't changing in WKU's second D1 year.

OSG's Take: Maybe an outside chance at a win against UNT at home, and that's about it.

Nelson: The streak reaches 32 by the end of the year...

Phil: Again a perennial Bottom of the Barrel Team, that won't change. 1-11

Wilkie: Another long year in Bowling Green, KY. 0-12

SBC Champion:
Nelson: Mit-soo
Phil: 2 for MTSU

Wilkie: MTSU

Offensive Player of the Year:
Nelson: Dwight Dasher, Middle Tennessee State
Phil: Dasher

Wilkie: Dwight Dasher

Defensive Player of the Year:
Nelson: Jamari Lattimore, MTSU
Phil: Lattimore
Wilkie: Jamari Lattimore, MTSU


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