This is probably the worst conference in the FBS. The majority of these programs are bad year in and year out. However, it is a conference that likes to pass, so if you like that, you will like this conference. They went 2-1 in bowls in last year, but they have never really had a team that is easy to get really excited about.
Troy had a really good year last year for a Sun Belt team, they were explosive on offense and good enough on defense. They went 8-5 last season, and Larry Blakeney has been a very good coach at Troy. They are even more experienced this year, the scary thing that is that they were young last year. Their defense is very solid as well, as their defensive line has always been pretty dominating.
Final Prediction: Starting against Clemson and Arkansas (they were crushed by Arkansas last year) won't be easy, and they will most likely get off to a 0-2 start. The rest of their schedule is the soft Sun Belt schedule with Navy mixed in. They have won at least a share of the Sun Belt title in the past 5 years, I don't see a reason why that changes. 8 or 9 wins at least for this team.
Mario Cristobal is 16-33 since taking over, and he needs to do something or he is probably out. However, they did go to a bowl game and played a classic against Toledo. They lost their all-conference Center, and they hope their line will be good, but thats not a good concern to have. However the rest of their offense is supposed to be good, as well as their defense.
Final Prediction: Starting with North Texas is always nice, and in week 2 they have their toughest opponent in Louisville. The schedule is really soft. This gives them a great chance at a bowl game and they should win at least 6 or 7 games.
They just missed a bowl game last season with 5 wins. They are returning 10 offense starters and 8 on defense, meaning this will be an experienced team. They haven't had a winning season since 1993 and they were in what is now called the FCS. They have a pretty good offense including some really fast players. Their secondary is pretty tough as well.
Final Prediction: You wonder if the person that created their non-conference schedule secretly hates this team. They somehow will play Florida State (get a bit of a break in Grambling State), TCU, and Iowa. However, this may be the year they get that winning season. Usually about 3 Sun Belt teams go to a bowl game, and so I have Louisiana Monroe sneaking in.
They went to the prestigious Go Daddy Bowl last year and lost. Rick Stockhill is over .500 in his time as head coach, which is pretty impressive for Middle Tennessee. They lost all-world quarterback Dasher to graduation, and will have a hard time replacing him. Their offensive line is supposed to be strong though, and that will help their replacement quarterback. Their defense looks like it is going to be really bad, especially in the secondary (and there are teams that can sling in this conference).
Final Prediction: Purdue, Georgia Tech, and Tennessee are the tough games on their schedule, and its really hard to imagine them winning any of those games. A .500 mark would be really optimistic and has to be the goal for this team. I will side on the 5 win side however.
They won only 4 games last year (all conference games, which shows you how weak this conference is). With that brings a new coach, which always brings uncertainty, but they did bring in a “in-house” guy, so there shouldn't be too much change. They had a pretty talented offense last year, and they return most of their skill guys, but they lose almost their entire offensive line. This is obviously not a program that can just replace and plug. This will cause real problems for the offense. Their defense was terrible last year and they have about the same unit coming back this year.
Final Prediction: Illinois, Memphis, and Virginia Tech will be 3 quick losses for Arkansas State, however, the rest of the schedule is mediocre at best, with the Sun Belt being the way it is. I can't give a vote of confidence to a team with a weak offensive line, so repeating a 4 win season will be most likely.
They are coming off a tough 4-8 season, but long-time coach Howard Schnellenberger has had a surprising amount of success with this team. Their offense scored a grand total of 17 points a game last year and gave up 36 sacks. Expect the defense to be terrible as they are losing 5 of their 6 top tacklers from last year. They are also switching to the 3-4, which causes further uncertainty on that side of the ball.
Final Prediction: A brutal start to the season with Florida, Michigan State, and Auburn. The National Football Authority predicted just 1 win for these guys. That may not be fair, but more than 3 is hard to see.
These guys won a grand total of 2 games last year. The running back core is coming back, and so is three of the five linemen. The majority of the defense comes back, but it was really bad last year.
Final Prediction: Kentucky, Navy, LSU, and Troy are the toughest teams on the schedule. Another really dark season appears to be on the horizon.
Their offense isn't very good and their defense was terrible last year. Thats not a good combo. This all means a big headache for first year head coach Mark Hudspeth.
Final Prediction: The only two un-winnable games on the schedule are Oklahoma State at the beginning, and Arizona at the end. However, the rest of the games are very winnable for most teams. They have never been to a bowl game, and they won't this year either. A win at any time would be nice.
This team went 3-9 last year, and lost its solid quarterback, and leading receiver. Guess how well this team is going to do. The new coach Dan Mccarney will have a long rebuilding process to go through. This is how well things are going for UNT football, when you Google North Texas 2011 Football Preview, the third result is about Ultimate Frisbee.
Final Prediction: Look for an 0-5 start as I don't see them beating Florida International or Tulsa, and they will obviously be destroyed by Alabama and Houston. This team is terrible, and will be lucky to win 2 games. But hey, at least they have a new stadium.