The Sun Belt adds Coastal Carolina as a 12th member, but will fall back to 10 teams in 2018 when Idaho is scheduled to step down to the FCS level and New Mexico State becomes an independent.
The conference will split into two divisions in 2018 when it also begins to stage a championship game. The East Division will hold Appalachian State, Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern, Georgia State and Troy. The West Division will have Arkansas State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, South Alabama and Texas State.
Arkansas State and Appalachian State split the 2016 Sun Belt crown. The Red Wolves have won or shared the title in 5 of the last 6 seasons.
Appalachian State is 20-4 in Sun Belt games since joining the conference in 2014 and is projected to tie Troy for the 2017 title, according to the Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com. The Mountaineers and Trojans do not meet each other on the gridiron to settle the matter.
Idaho is the No. 3 pick in the conference completing 2016 with its best season by win percentage since 1998. The Vandals also moved to 3-0 all-time in bowl games by rolling over Colorado State 61-50 in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Don't let the final score fool you, as the Vandals opened up a 41-7 lead and were still up by 33 with 7:40 to go in the game. By finishing 9-4, Idaho won as many games in 2016 as it did in the previous 5 seasons combined. All 3 bowl appearances by Idaho have been in Boise which is roughly 220 miles south of the Vandals' Moscow campus.
Arkansas State gets the computer's nod for 4th, but was picked to finish 7th a year ago and tied for the crown.
Georgia State is the only Sun Belt team that will kick off the 2017 season under the direction of a new head coach. GSU hired South Carolina assistant Shawn Elliott to replace Trent Miles who was dismissed on November 12 after a 37-23 loss to UL-Monroe dropped the Panthers to 2-8. In nearly 4 full seasons, Miles was 9-38 overall and 6-23 in the Sun Belt. He took GSU to the Cure Bowl at the end of the 2015 season and expectations were high for a repeat bowl trip in 2016. Tim Lappano was named his interim successor and, under his watch, Georgia State went 1-1.
Coastal Carolina will make its FBS debut with offensive coordinator Jamey Chadwell serving as interim head coach. Joe Moglia announced on July 28 that he is taking a 5-month sabbatical to address a bronchial asthmatic condition. Moglia expects to be able to return by the end of the season. The Chanticleers were 10-2 in a transition season in 2016, though they didn't play a single FBS school.
|6*||New Mexico State||5-7||4-4||83||61.39||104|
*-Tie-breakers: Appalachian State and Troy do not play each other, thus they would be co-champions. Arkansas State beats Louisiana-Lafayette. Louisiana-Monroe and New Mexico State do not play each other, thus they tie for 6th. Georgia State loses its only game vs the 2 teams it ties with. Georgia Southern and Texas State do not play each other.