It is a wonder that there aren’t other FCS schools clamoring to get into the Sun Belt. I mean look at what Georgia Southern and Appalachian State did in their first year in the damn conference! Teams should be lined up to join.
Now to be honest, there are rumblings that the Sun Belt is looking at the following schools in some form when it comes to expansion:
- Coastal Carolina
- Missouri State
- James Madison
- Eastern Kentucky
Whether these schools would want to join the Sun Belt (or Conference USA-lite) is another question altogether. The SBC also has to figure out what they plan to do with New Mexico State and Idaho. New Mexico State almost seems to be a program the SBC would want to bring in for all sports. Idaho on the other hand may be on the outs if they bring other programs in. They are more of a geographical outlier than NMSU is and their football team has been mostly atrocious for the better part of forever. Their basketball team doesn’t hold a candle to NMSU’s (which is almost always a contender to get into the NCAA Tournament). Don’t be surprised if they are either back as an independent or dropping to the Big Sky as soon as next season.
Alright, doing something a bit different this year with predictions. I still do them the same way (“play out” all the games in the schedule and determine standings and bowls from there). One thing is I am starting with the Group of Five conferences and the Independents and then ending with the Power Five conferences. I’m also not doing the team-by-team run through. I will post my predicted standings and then throw in some news and notes and things of that nature.
Without further adieu, here’s the first set of predicted standings from the Frank Grimes of FBS conferences, the Sun Belt:
|New Mexico State||3||5||4||8|
- Expect the two newbies from FCS-land (Georgia Southern and Appy State) to pretty much dominate the conference this season. There could be a bit of a challenge from the always-tough Arkansas State and Hulk Hudspeth’s Ragin’ Cajuns but for the most part, this is the Eagles and Mountaineers’ conference to lose.
- Texas State should be bowl-eligible and should actually be selected for a bowl this season. Dennis Franchione works his magic again. Now we just have to wait for Texas State to become successful, move on to Conference USA, then he can resign in a controversial manner (Message behind a plane? Cocktail napkins for all players and coaches? YouTube video while he’s in his track pants and a mustard-stained wife beater in an obviously grungy shithole apartment?)
- ULM and South Alabama seem like the type of teams that could play spoiler. Other than that, there is almost no way ULM replicates two seasons ago and USA replicates last season.
- South Alabama has the built-in cheer. If they ever end up on the main ESPN network even one time I can see a bit of a Twitter blowup of “patriotic” people loving every second of the 187 U-S-A chants during the game.
- New Mexico State should be improved but not enough to hit the .500 mark. What makes it worse is now with Ga. Southern and Appalachian State, they fall farther down the pecking order. If they were smart, when (not if) the Sun Belt comes calling for full membership, they take it, dominate in basketball and hopefully improve enough to become a quasi-threat in this conference.
- Back to Hulk Hudspeth, when does he get a call from a school farther up the food chain? I can’t see any other coaches looking towards the promised land (most P5 schools) from the SBC for various reasons: too new to FBS (e.g. Willie Fritz – Ga. Southern), too new to the program (e.g. Blake Anderson – Ark St) or pretty much sucking at head coaching in the SBC so why would they get an opportunity elsewhere? (e.g. Paul Petrino, Idaho).
- As I’ve said before, I think Idaho is on their last legs in the Sun Belt. First of all, how sunny is it in Moscow, Idaho (it sounds like it’s pretty gloomy all the time)? Secondly, the market they are in is Moscow, Idaho which makes Boise look like Los Angeles in comparison. Finally, they can’t be good one out of every twenty years in football and expect to hang around. The Mountain West rejected their sorry asses and I have a feeling the Big Sky will be getting a new member soon (if even they want the Vandals). I don’t mean to be harsh but I can honestly say that I believe this program will be the worst FBS team of 2015.
- The answer about deregulation of conference championships is hanging over the Sun Belt’s head at this point. Expanding to get to 12 teams so they can do a conference championship (and get more $$$) is a good thing unless you don’t have to do it in the first place. The answer is supposed to come sometime late this year. If the NCAA allows conference championships for any conference, it may slow down to a crawl the Sun Belt’s dive into expansion. If the NCAA retains the two-division conference model for conference championships then it’s a matter of how quick can the SBC get these new teams in.
That’s it, that’s all for round one of conference predictions. Next up will be the Independents…all three of them. With one having a pretty ironclad affiliation with one conference and another coming just short of begging to be in a conference. Me thinks Army may be all on its lonesome one of these days. And no I won’t be calling it Army West Point for now. Just Army.