Mountaineers picked to win close race for Sun Belt title

foot-appstateThe Coastal Carolina football team is ineligible to compete for the Sun Belt Conference championship this season, and it appears the Chanticleers will miss out on a tight title race.

The Appalachian State Mountaineers are the favorites to win the 2016 Sun Belt Conference Football Championship according to the league’s 11 head coaches. The preseason selections were released Thursday in advance of the Sun Belt’s annual media day that begins Monday.

The Mountaineers received five of 11 first-place votes and tallied 114 points from the coaches. Arkansas State was picked to finish second and also received five first-place votes as the Red Wolves tallied 110 points. The Mountaineers finished second in the league a season ago with a 7-1 record in conference play and an 11-2 record overall.

Appalachian State also competed in its first-ever FBS bowl game, winning the Raycom Camellia Bowl in 2015. This year the Mountaineers will return 47 lettermen which includes 15 of 22 starters on offense and defense.

The Red Wolves finished 2015 as the top program in the Sun Belt as they went a perfect 8-0 last season in conference play, being crowned league champions. The 2015 season also marked the fifth consecutive year the Red Wolves have participated in a bowl game, playing in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. A-State returns 13 starters (six on offense and seven on defense) from last year’s squad that went 9-4 overall.

Georgia Southern was chosen third by the coaches with 98 points and one first-place vote and was followed by Georgia State in fourth with 73 points. The Eagles made their first appearance to an FBS bowl game a memorable one as well as they claimed the GoDaddy Bowl title last season after finishing the year 9-4 overall and 6-2 in league play.

The Panthers were the fourth Sun Belt bowl participant in 2015 as they made their first appearance in an FBS bowl game as they played in the inaugural Cure Bowl. They will begin the 2016 campaign looking to build upon the momentum from last season’s success.

UL Lafayette and Troy both tallied 70 points and were tied for fifth while South Alabama was picked to finish seventh with 62 points. Idaho was picked to finish eighth with 48 points followed by New Mexico State with 37 points and picked to finish ninth. Texas State was picked tenth and UL Monroe 11th in the coaches’ poll.

The 2016 Sun Belt Conference Football Media Day begins on Monday, July 25 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA. Live coverage from the event will be available on the Sun Belt’s media day central website as well as the Sun Belt social media platforms. Live coverage will be broadcast throughout the day with a break during the lunch hour. ESPN3 will broadcast live from the event from 2-4 p.m. ET.

2016 Sun Belt Football Coaches Predicted Order of Finish (first place votes)
1. Appalachian St. (5) – 114 pts
2. Arkansas State (5) – 110 pts
3. Georgia Southern (1) – 98 pts
4. Georgia State – 73 pts
5. UL Lafayette – 70 pts
5. Troy – 70 pts
7. South Alabama – 62 pts
8. Idaho – 48 pts
9. New Mexico St. – 37 pts
10. Texas State – 30 pts
11. UL Monroe – 14 pts

Photo courtesy of SBC

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