The Sun Belt loses Western Kentucky to CUSA and brings in Appalachian State and Georgia Southern from the FCS, while also welcoming Idaho and New Mexico State. The Vandals and Aggies operated as Independent FBS programs in 2013 after the WAC dropped football. Both were formerly Sun Belt members from 2001-2004.
Last year, CUSA siphoned off FAU, FIU, Middle Tennessee and North Texas while the Sun Belt replenished with Texas State from the WAC and former FCS member Georgia State.
Five teams on this season's Sun Belt roster moved up to the FBS level between 2012 and this year. That could help explain while the conference is easily rated by the computer as the worst among all of the FBS conferences, and why every team in the league is given a strength of schedule rating of 104 or lower. Only one member is nationally power-ranked in the top 50 with projected conference champion Louisiana-Lafayette checking in at No. 14.
The Ragin' Cajuns are a whopping 11.91 points ahead of the next-closest team in the conference, Louisiana-Monroe. The Warhawks are given 2nd-place by virtue of a tie-breaking victory over South Alabama.
Along with Arkansas State, UL-L and UL-M are the only schools that have been in the conference every year since its inaugural 2001 campaign.
For the fourth straight season, Arkansas State will kick off a campaign with a new head coach. Boise State plucked Bryan Harsin from the Red Wolves after leading the Jonesboro school to a 7-5 record during the regular season. in his only season at Jonesboro. For the second straight year, Arkansas State won its bowl game under interim head coach John Thompson.
North Carolina offensive coordinator Blake Anderson was named the new head coach on December 19, becoming the 5th different head coach, and 7th coaching change, in 40 games when ASU kicks off its 2014 season. Steve Roberts was there for 9 years before resigning after the 2010 season with a 45-63 mark.
All of those changes haven't exactly killed the program. Hugh Freeze (2011) and Gus Malzahn (2012) captured outright Sun Belt titles and Harsin's squad earned a share of the crown. The trio led the team to three straight GoDaddy.com bowl appearances. But the computer says the revolving door of head coaches will cost the Red Wolves in 2014 as it lower's expectations to a 5-7 finish. It doesn't help that 3 of the school's 4 non-conference games are against Tennessee, Miami (Fla.) and Utah State. However, 3 of the 4 projected conference losses are by less than a point to Louisiana-Monroe, South Alabama and Texas State, and 2 of those 3 games are in Jonesboro.
Georgia Southern will begin its FBS chapter under the tutelage of former Sam Houston State head coach Willie Fritz. He was 40-15 in 4 years at Sam Houston State while leading that school to 3 trips to the FCS playoffs, including national championship game losses to North Dakota State in 2011 and 2012. His 2013 squad finished a 9-5 campaign with a second-round loss to Southeastern Louisiana.
Fritz replaces Jeff Monken who was named the head coach at Army on Christmas Eve. Monken was 38-16 in 4 seasons at Georgia Southern, losing in the FCS playoff semifinals each of his first 3 seasons. His team was not eligible for the playoffs last year as the school was in its first season of transition to the FBS.
The Sun Belt is allowing Appalachian State and Georgia Southern to compete for the conference title, but neither team can receive a bowl bid unless slots are still left open after all other options are exhausted.