The Sun Belt will live up to its affable "Fun Belt" nickname this season. A razor-thin margin separates Troy, Appalachian State and Arkansas State, with the Red Wolves atop Bovada's recently released futures odds.
The conference trimmed some of the fat in 2018, ridding itself of Idaho and New Mexico State. What is left is a conference of teams located in the South, which should create enjoyable rivalries and close contests each and every week. The conference had its share of headlines last year, with Troy's victory over LSU ranking up there as one of the biggest head-scratching upsets in recent memory.
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The Trojans victory didn't translate into a conference title, but coming into 2018, they share the stage with both Arkansas State and Appalachian State. The three have been the class of the conference and that will continue.
Blake Anderson's verbal and physical assault on the state of Arkansas football has been backed up by an impressive 26-6 record in conference play. The Red Wolves return their starting quarterback, Justice Hansen, in 2018. Hansen rushed for 400 yards and seven touchdowns while throwing for almost 4,000 yards and 37 touchdowns in 2017.
Troy has a bunch of question marks on both sides of the ball. Luckily or unluckily for the Trojans, a week one matchup against Boise State and a week three game against Nebraska should provide some clarity on expectations in the post-Brandon Silvers era. The four-year starting quarterback is gone and it is unknown who will replace him leading into fall camp. What is a certainty, however, is Troy employs one of the best coaches in the Group of Five in Neal Brown. There is no doubt Brown will have his team ready to compete for a crown.
Appalachian State has its own coach in Scott Satterfield who will be sought after in the off-season. Much like the Trojans, the Mountaineers enter 2018 replacing a four-year starter, Taylor Lamb, at quarterback. The Mountaineers do have the benefit of returning 2016 Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year, Jalin Moore at running back. Moore ran for over 1,000 yards in 2017, despite battling injuries.
All three schools have question marks that will be answered early in 2018. Who ends up on top, however, is anyone's guess.