The Sun Belt coaches' voted James Madison as the top team in the East division with Troy taking the West. The computer sets up a Coastal Carolina at South Alabama championship game and a title for the Jaguars.
JMU is actually NOT eligible for a bowl game for the Sun Belt title and cannot technically win the division. They would have played in the conference championship game last year, if eligible, and a bowl game, after routing Coastal Carolina 47-7 in the regular season finale in Harrisonburg.
The coaches actually disagreed greatly on which team was the best in the east, with five of the six programs garnering at least one vote. James Madison and App State each got 4, while Coastal Carolina topped 3 ballots. Marshall was picked by two coaches and Georgia Southern got one nod. The coaches were not allowed to vote for their own team.
The coaches' choice was much more clear in the West division with 10 picking Troy and 4 going with South Alabama. Last year, it was Troy's midseason 10-6 win in Mobile that wound up providing the tie-breaker for the Trojans in the west. Those two will meet at Troy on November 2.
The Trojans are looking to defend their 2022 title in which they won at home with a 45-26 whipping of Coastal Carolina. Troy led 45-13 going into the 4th quarter.
Gunnar Watson is back at QB for Troy, and defensive end TJ Jackson's team suspension has been lifted. Watson will have to be more reliable through the air after throwing 12 picks to go with 14 TD passes a year ago. That might be difficult with his two top targets gone. Running back Kimani Vidal may be called on to do even more after rushing for 1,132 yards and 10 TD's in 2022. Jackson was 7th on the team in tackles a year ago, but had the second-highest total among the 6 returning defensive starters.
South Alabama returns 9 starters on each side of the ball, including QB Carter Bradley who was 2nd in the conference in passing yards (3,334) and topped the Sun Belt for touchdown passes (28).
Coastal Carolina still has Grayson McCall at QB, but head coach Jamey Chadwell has moved on to Liberty. The new man in Conway is former NC State offensive coordinator Tim Beck. McCall led the conference in passer rating (3rd nationally) while throwing 24 TD passes and just 2 INT's. He added 195 yards and 6 more scores on the ground.
Georgia Southern has to replace the top QB in the Sun Belt passing yards from a year ago as Kyle Vantrease joins the broadcast team. Vantrease threw for 4,253 yards to rank 5th nationally. Only 4 starters return on defense for head coach Clay Helton whose team finished 6-7 in his first season in Statesboro.
Computer: South Alabama over Coastal Carolina
Media: Did not pick one
*-Ineligible for Sun Belt title.
*-Ineligible for or Bowl Game, unless short on qualifiers to fill slots
|*-ineligble for SB title or Bowl Game
3 Teams tied at 1-7.
- Arkansas State 1-1 vs. other 2. Loses at ULM, Beats Texas State
- ULM 1-1 vs. other 2. Beats Arkansas State. Loses to Texas State
- Texas State 1-1 vs. other 2. Loses to Arkansas State. Beats ULM
CHAMPION: South Alabama