Sun Belt Predictions
The Appalachian State Mountaineers won the first Sun Belt Conference Championship Game last season. Will App State find a way to repeat as champions again in 2019?
According to oddsmakers, Appalachian State is favored to win the Sun Belt this year, as it has -175 odds. Other short odds to win are Arkansas State (+350), Troy (+600) while Georgia Southern, UL-Lafayette and UL-Monroe each have +1400 odds.
Appalachian State has had a piece of the title the last three seasons and won the conference’s first title game last year. App State was 11-2 in 2018 with a 7-1 conference record. The Mountaineers return a wealth of talent. They have 17 starters back this year, including nine from an offense that put up 37.3 points per game. QB Zac Thomas threw for 1,862 yards and 18 touchdowns while rushing for 476 yards and another 10 scores.
Arkansas State finished tied with Louisiana in the West Division last year, but the Cajuns got the title game bid. The Red Wolves were 8-5 in 2018 with a 5-3 conference record. Arkansas State won the conference title with App State in 2016 and won it outright in 2015. The Wolves have 15 starters back this season, including six on offense. However, they have to replace a strong QB in Justice Hansen, who threw for 3,172 yards and 27 touchdowns a year ago.
Troy has been the toughest challenger to App State in recent years. They won a share of the conference title in 2017, but missed out on the title game in 2018 due to a tiebreaker. They also were 7-1 in conference play, but finished second to App State in the East. The Trojans finished 10-3 overall in 2018. This year’s team has 14 starters back, including RB B.J. Smith, who rushed for 1,093 yards and 12 touchdowns.
I feel like the Sun Belt is likely to come down to Appalachian State and Troy once again. These two seem to be the top two programs in the conference, they just happen to play in the same division. Troy has the best value at 6/1, but I think the Mountaineers are going to be too tough this season. I don’t love their money line, but returning 17 starters is a huge luxury for a team that was already really strong. I expect App State to have an offense that is too challenging to stop and a defense that can keep teams from matching their scores.
Sun Belt Conference Championship Prediction: Appalachian State -175