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Pre-season SBC Power Index

Sun Belt Power Poll - PreSeason
SunBelt Power Index




#1 Louisiana-Lafayette Cajuns

2011 (9-4, 6-2)

First year Head Coach Mark Hudspeth rejuvenated the Cajun fan base and caught fire in 2011. The Cajuns lose the big play maker in Ladarius Green for this season, however 1,000 yard rusher Javone Lawson and QB Blaine Gautier, passing for nearly 3,000 yards, return to keep the fire alive on offense. Special teams remain intact with Brett Baer returning. He connected on the game winning FG to win the New Orleans Bowl last season, while maintaining a 92% accuracy rating. Melvin White will need to step up to replace Dwight Bentley in the defensive secondary.
#2 Troy Trojans

2011 (3-9, 2-6)

3 win and the second best team in the Sun Belt? It's hard to ever bet against Troy Head Coach Larry Blakeney who has not posted back-to-back losing seasons in his 22 year career at the helm of the program. Helping him to rebound from last season's disappointments is one of the top QBs in the league. Corey Robinson passes for over 3,400 yards and 21 TD in the season. His favorite targets Eric Thomas and Chandler Worthy hauled in a combined 13 scores and Thomas collected 875 yards. The Trojans will switch to a 4-3 scheme and can only improve their 113th ranking from 2011.
#3 Arkansas State Red Wolves

2011 (10-3, 8-0)

Just when Head Coach Hugh Freeze had the Red Wolves red hot, he departed for Ole Miss. Entering Jonesboro though is Gus Malzahn who has kept the interest high in the program high. Senior Ryan Aplin is one of the conference's top QBs, last season he passed for over 3,500 yards and 19 TDs. Complementing his passing abilities is running back Derek Lawson who tallied 484 yards. The offense is explosive, but the Red Wolf defense is very suspect, so look for a lot of high scoring games as Arkansas State looks for their second straight bowl game.
#4 ULM Warhawks

2011 (4-8, 3-5)

The biggest difference from 2010 and 2011, depth and injuries. 2012 could tell the tale of just how deep the Warhawks are. Particular interest should be on the offensive and defensive lines. The front three on defense of Kentarius Caldwell, Joey Gautney, and Gerrand Johnson are all solid, but beyond these there's a lot of unproven players. Joseph Treadwell and Ben Risenhoover saw a number of snaps as true freshmen. The defensive will also shine at the linebacker position with Cameron Blakes and Austin Moss predicted to make big plays.
#5 FIU Panthers

2011 (8-5, 5-3)

All-American T.Y. Hilton was the face for the young Panther's program over the past four years. Not the new era begins and Head Coach Mario Cristobal will have rely heavily on Wayne Times. Last season his yardage was half of Hilton's totals, but will need to make big plays to propel FIU. Kedrick Rhodes will be another key offensive threat that will have to have a strong year for the success of his team. His success will further hinge on the success of Jake Medlock who will be moving into a new starting role with the graduation of Wes Carroll. Winston Fraser and Jordan Hunt are a solid duo to solidify the defense. The Panthers are almost guaranteed three points anytime they cross the 40-yard line with kicker Jack Griffin.
#6 North Texas Mean Green

2011 (5-7, 4-4)

The big running threat of Lance Dunbar is gone from the under performing Mean Green. Despite this, the second year of Head Coach Dan McCarney should be a good final showing in the Sun Belt. Derek Thompson returns after a 2011 campaign that saw him pass for nearly 1,800 yards. His top two targets return in Chris Bynes and Brelan Chancellor. A lack luster defense is made more vulnerable by their third coordinator in the past three seasons. Look for plenty of surrendered passing yards with an extremely young secondary.
#7 WKU Hilltoppers

2011 (7-5, 7-1)

The Toppers chocked the nation in 2011 with their best FBS season. A repeat performance will be tough though, as running back Bobby Rainy is gone. Rainy accounted for 2,104 of WKU's 4,187 total offense. The good news for Willie Taggart is the return of Kawaun Jakes at QB. He passed for over 1,854 and 10 TD last season. The offensive line will need to setup though for him to cut down on his 12 interceptions. Linebackers Andrew Jackson and Xavius Boyd return and help to solidify the defensive unit. WKU will be out this season to prove that last year was no fluke and that their 7-5 record was deserving of the schools' first post season birth.
#8 Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

2011 (2-10, 1-7)

The Blue Raiders looked to have 2011 on the upswing after falling to Sun Belt perennial power Troy by just a field goal, then upsetting Conference USA Memphis at home. From there thought, Head Coach Rick Stockstill struggled to get much traction in the season. A big bright spot does return for 2012 though, quarterback Logan Kilgore, who passed for 2,231 yards is back. New targets for him have to be ready after the departure of leading pass catcher Malcolm Beyah graduated. Last year, the Blue Raider secondary was raided by opponents and had just four interceptions. New defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix will have the defense better, but still in need of further improvement.
#9 Florida Atlantic Owls

2011 (1-11, 0-8)

FAU didn't send their only coach in the school's program, Howard Schnellenberger, out with a bang, just a thud. The Owl offense converted just 29% of their 3rd-down conversion attempts (48-166) and scored just 18 times on the season, leading to a 74-215 1st half scoring differential. New Head Coach Carl Pelini will have a tough time finding a way for the Owls to spread their winds this season. Graham Wilbert is expected to take over at quarterback, at the spring game he was 8/10 for 71 yards and had 49 yards on the ground.
#10 South Alabama Jaguars

2011 (6-4 - FBS transition)

The new kids on the block will have to hang tough this season as they work their way into the Sun Belt Conference. A solid defense headlined by safety BJ Scott and linebacker Jake Johnson make the Jaguars a good team on that side of the ball. Offensively though they will have their work cut out for them. A new offensive coordinator, Robert Matthews, takes over a team managed to pass the ball just 6.8 yards per attempt, and 18 interceptions. Bryant Lavender is leading receiver coming back. Last season as a true freshman, he hauled in 28 receptions for 370 yards. The team is scattered with FBS transfer talent, and has the potential to be a good team, just not in 2012.



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