At the end of each conference run-through, I take a look at how I perceive the conference's balance of power heading into the season. This is in no way based on schedules, so they are not predictions. They're just how I would rank the teams after writing thousands of words about each of them.
From a ratings perspective, the Sun Belt broke into three tiers in 2014, with Georgia Southern, Arkansas State, and UL-Lafayette pulling ahead of the field and some familiar names (Idaho, Georgia State, New Mexico State, and bottom-tier newbie Troy) weighing the conference down.
What changes? Perhaps not much. Arkansas State has a chance to make a serious breakthrough with an exciting offense and a second-year coach (a new concept in Jonesboro), and if Appalachian State maintains its late-season pace in 2015, the Mountaineers could make a run at the conference title.
Really, though, I think last year's top three is this year's top three.
Both Georgia Southern and UL-Lafayette have pieces to replace. Perhaps that gives ASU the edge, though I'm sticking with the champs for now.
Either could end up in Tier 1, especially if Appalachian State closely resembles its version from last November. I'm going to stay conservative, but they were smoking hot.
Similarly, any of these could end up in Tier 2 with just a couple of successful answers to "if ..." questions. Yes, I'm including Idaho here. I'm not predicting bowl eligibility, but they're only a couple of breaks from that.
Troy made a nice hire but is starting from low on the totem pole. GSU and NMSU still need another year.
Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.
|Team||2014 Record (Conf.)||2014 F/+ Rk||5-Yr F/+ Rk||2-Yr Rec. Rk||5-Yr Rec. Rk||2014 TO Luck/Gm||Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)
||2014 2nd-order wins|
|Georgia Southern||9-3 (8-0)||57||52||84||104||+1.7||12 (5, 7)||9.4 (-0.4)|
|Arkansas State||7-6 (5-3)||66||65||88||86||+1.3||14 (9, 5)||7.3 (-0.3)|
|UL-Lafayette||9-4 (7-1)||72||86||103||93||+0.2||10 (6, 4)||8.6 (+0.4)|
|Appalachian State||7-5 (6-2)||104||110||97||117||-1.2||20 (10, 10)||7.1 (-0.1)|
|South Alabama||6-7 (5-3)||89||97||107||100||-4.7||7 (3, 4)||6.4 (-0.4)|
|Texas State||7-5 (5-3)||95||116||101||88||+1.9||14 (7, 7)||6.5 (+0.5)|
|UL-Monroe||4-8 (3-5)||97||100||119||123||+0.7||13 (5, 8)||4.3 (-0.3)|
|Idaho||1-10 (1-7)||112||122||126||124||+0.0||13 (7, 6)||1.9 (0.9)|
|Troy||3-9 (3-5)||125||107||117||113||+2.2||13 (7, 6)||3.7 (-0.7)|
|Georgia State||1-11 (0-8)||122||123||122||128||-5.8||18 (8, 10)||1.7 (-0.7)|
|NMSU||2-10 (1-7)||124||127||127||115||-1.3||17 (8, 9)||2.1 (-0.1)|