2010 Sun Belt Preseason Coaches Poll
2010 All-Sun Belt Preseason Team
Last year's computer forecast nailed the exact overall record of four Sun Belt teams, and the conference record of 5 Sun Belt programs. The computer pegged North Texas' record for the 3rd year in-a-row and the 9th time in the last 15 seasons.
Sun Belt teams were 6-29 vs. FBS teams outside of the conference last year. But, to be fair, Sun Belt teams had some pretty treacherous nonconference schedules to navigate.
Arkansas State nearly pulled off the upset at Iowa; MTSU defeated Maryland for the second straight season and downed Southern Miss in the New Orleans Bowl Bowl; Louisiana's Ragin' Cajuns went to Nebraska and LSU, and downed Kansas State in Lafayette. FIU's OOC slate presented trips to Alabama, Florida and Rutgers. Troy traveled to Florida and Arkansas, and Western Kentucky hosted USF and visited Tennessee and Navy.
The 2010 slates don't offer a reprieve as Sun Belt teams will play 72% of their nonconference games against BCS schools, far more than any other conference in the country. By comparison, the MAC is 2nd with 53.85%. That doesn't bode well for a conference that easily ranks dead last in overall strength, trailing the next-to-last place MAC by more than 3 points.
It would take a miracle for FIU and WKU not to open 0-4. They are the only FBS schools that will play all of their nonconference games against BCS conference members. FIU travels to Texas A&M, Maryland and Pitt after opening at home against Rutgers. Western Kentucky, losers of 20 straight overall and 25 straight to FBS teams, opens with road trips to Nebraska and Kentucky before playing its home opener against Indiana. After that, the Hilltoppers head to USF.
Troy, which has won or shared the last four conference titles, visits Oklahoma State and South Carolina this year. The Trojans also host a Bowling Green team that defeated them in last season's opener.
Middle Tennessee, last year's runner-up with a 7-1 league mark and 10-3 overall record, opens at home against Minnesota. The Blue Raiders travel to Georgia Tech at midseason, but the rest of the nonconference slate features FCS member Austin Peay and a road trip to lowly Memphis from CUSA.
Other tough openers include Arkansas State at Auburn, FIU hosting Rutgers, Louisiana at Georgia, Louisiana-Monroe at Arkansas (in Little Rock), and North Texas at Clemson.
Meanwhile, Howard Schnellenberger's FAU Owls head to Detroit to face Michigan State in week two and travel to Austin to face Texas on November 20.
Louisiana-Monroe and Western Kentucky have new head coaches.
The Warhawks ended Charlie Weatherbie's tenure after his 7 seasons produced a 31-51 record overall and a 24-24 mark in conference games. Oddly, his firing came after UL-M enjoyed only its second non-losing season since joining the FBS ranks in 1994. Weatherbie also coached the Warhawks to a 6-6 record in 2007, and his 2005 team won a share of the Sun Belt conference even though its overall record was just 5-6.
Western Kentucky alumnus Willie Taggart was named David Elson's successor on November 23. As Stanford's running backs coach last season, Taggart coached Toby Gerhart, the nation's leading rusher and runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. Taggart himself was a standout QB for the Hilltoppers from 1995-1998, setting 13 school records. He served as an assistant coach at WKU from 1999-2006, and was assistant head coach from 2003-2006.
Elson was fired on November 9, but finished an 0-12 season with the team. 2009 was WKU's first season as a full-fledged FBS program and member of the Sun Belt conference. Elson's record at the school was 39-44 in 7 seasons.
This year's computer forecast calls for an end to Troy's dominance of the conference, though the projected setback at Middle Tennessee (+7.15) is the lone forecasted loss. The Blue Raiders, led by standout dual-threat QB Dwight Dasher, are the expected conference champions with a standout forecast of 11-1 overall, and 8-0 in the Sun Belt.
MTSU is favored by double-digits in 9 of its 12 games, and is a 8.97-point home choice against Minnesota in the season opener.
Projected third-place finisher, Louisiana-Lafayette, is a 6.47-point home underdog to MTSU, and an 8.32-point road underdog to Troy.
Our preseason Top 120 (the Congrove Computer Rankings) has four Sun Belt teams ranked 102nd or worse, but Middle Tennessee checks in at 19. The Blue Raiders ended last season ranked No. 23 after completing their campaign with a 10-3 overall mark and a conference record of 7-1. MTSU has won 11 of its last 12 Sun Belt games while Troy has won 11 straight Sun Belt affairs.
NOTE: In a year when 85 FBS teams play at least one FCS opponent, only two Sun Belt teams (La.-Monroe and MTSU) have scheduled any FCS schools.