The big story in the Sun Belt is conference realignment which saw the conference get stronger by adding FCS powerhouse James Madison and plucking Marshall, Old Dominion and Southern Miss from Conference USA.
Last year's preseason Sun Belt forecast, based on the Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com, called for Louisiana to fall at Texas in the season opener before reeling off 11 straight victories, clinching the West, and then claiming its first outright title. That's exactly what happened as the Ragin' Cajuns went on to knock off Appalachian State 24-16 in the conference title game.
Head coach Billy Napier had been announced as the new head coach at Florida a week earlier, but stayed on to coach that game. Louisiana promoted from within and announced Michael Desormeaux as its new head coach. Desormeaux has been on the staff of the Ragin' Cajuns for the past six seasons and served as co-offensive coordinator this past season.
Napier was 40-12 with the Ragin' Cajuns, including 12-1 last year. Over the last three seasons, his teams were 33-5 over-all, 22-2 in the Sun Belt, and 2-0 in bowl games. Louisiana went on to defeat Marshall in the New Orleans Bowl in Desormeaux's debut as head coach as the team finished the season on a 13-game winning streak..
Louisiana is actually the consensus favorite in the West, while Appalachian State is favored by most prognostications to capture the East and set up another Cajuns/Mountaineers title game.
However, the computer strays from that consensus and takes Georgia State to claim the East as 15 starters return for Shawn Elliott who enters his 6th season as head coach in Atlanta. The Panthers are then favored by 9.54 over Louisiana in the title game..
Aside from Desormeaux at ULL, the Sun Belt also has new head coaches at Georgia Southern and Troy.
The Eagles surprisingly landed former USC head coach Clay Helton. After Helton was fired from the Trojans in mid-September, Georgia Southern announced his hiring on November 2nd. Georgia Southern had fired its head coach, Chad Lunsford, on September 26 after a 1-3 start. Cornerbacks coach Kevin Whitley was appointed interim head coach after Lunsford's dismissal and went 2-6.
The new man in charge at Troy is Jon Sumrall. The former Troy assistant (2015-2017) helped spearhead the Trojan's 24-21 upset at LSU on September 30, 2017 when he was the assistant head coach under Neal Brown. Sumrall has spent the past three seasons at Kentucky where he was recently promoted to defensive coordinator. Troy announced on Monday, November 22 that Chip Lindsey had been fired. He was 15-19 in three seasons and 5-6 last year. Defensive coordinator Brandon Hall was named interim head coach, under whom the Trojans lost their final game of the season 37-10 at Georgia State.
|*Georgia State hosts and defeats Louisiana-Lafayette in the Sun Belt Championship game|