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Pre-Spring Sun Belt Power Rankings

By Kenzie Stanford
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Taking a look at the power rankings in the Sun Belt prior to most teams nationally starting up spring practice.

After thinking long and hard about the 2014 season and what we know about the additions that each team has made throughout the offseason, it’s time to lay down the power rankings. These are unbiased and merely statistical rankings based on what we know about each team to date.

It’s not to say that these are so-called “predictions,” but more along the lines of an educated guess about how each team will stack up in the Sun Belt Conference come September. Sure, it might be far too early to make any assumptions, but the numbers are there, and whether or not a lot will change from the 2014 season is up for debate.

Here are the top three that are likely to stay cemented from their 2014 seasons:

1. Georgia Southern

The Eagles have lost four of their offensive line starters, but head coach Willie Fritz set this team up to where they will not be lacking any experience. They lose key players like Garrett Frye and Manrey Saint-Amour up front, but Fritz was able to redshirt Tristan Hill, Christian Taylor, and Trayvon Williams – all three-star prospects in 2014. Plus, Georgia Southern is able to duck past Louisiana and Arkansas State in its schedule again this year, which only pushes the Eagles closer to a potential 16-0 conference run in their second year as FBS contenders.

2. Arkansas State

The Red Wolves bring back most of their experience and they also boast an improved run defense. They return dynamic names like Chris Stone and Ja’Von Rolland-Jones, who will help generate a very strong pass rush. And one huge gain for Arkansas State is its game against Louisiana will be on its home turf. That will be a key win if the Red Wolves can pull it off. That “if” is mostly geared towards whether or not their secondary and offensive line come in with the necessary improvements. Also, Arkansas State will have consistency on the coaching staff this year – not something that is normal for them with five head coaches in the past five years. Blake Anderson will have the opportunity to bring success to ASU during his second year as head coach and the odds look to be in his favor.

3. Louisiana

Terrance Broadway has made his departure from Lafayette, but that does not mean that the Ragin' Cajuns are doomed. With Broadway’s multiple injuries last season, we had a chance to take a look at the names down the list – Brooks Haack, Jalen Nixon, and Jordan Davis. The Cajuns have a list of option to choose from in order to make their system work. Elijah McGuire also makes his return as the star running back during his junior season. He ended his sophomore season with a total of 1,767 yards and he also received nominations for Sun Belt Player of the Year. McGuire will take some of the pressure off of the new quarterback, but that also assumes he stays healthy throughout the season. Head coach Mark Hudspeth will enter his fifth season with a squad that looks respectable considering the odds of losing such a dramatic amount of experience on their roster from 2014. But if anyone can develop talent, it’s Hudspeth – and that’s exactly what he is doing.

* * * * * * *

Now here is a lineup of the remainder of the power rankings. Keep in mind that these could drastically change throughout the season. If there is any speculation about which team could cause some bumps in the road for one of the top three spots, it would be Appalachian State. Don't completely rule out South Alabama either – the Jaguars bring a lot more talent to the table this season than we have seen in recent years, and they might just have enough momentum to push them past some big teams on their schedule.

Whether or not these power rankings are correct come September is irrelevant, because, from what we can see, this season will be a battle for the top spots in the Sun Belt Conference. Nothing is set-in-stone - so stay tuned for what looks to be a phenomenal 2015 season of college football.

4. Appalachian State

5.  South Alabama

6. Texas State

7. UL-Monroe

8. Troy

9. Idaho

10. New Mexico State

11. Georgia State

Kenzie Stanford - Kenzie Stanford is a Georgia Southern student and Atlanta native who spent her summer as an intern at Turner Sports and spent her last semester as the Sports Director for WVGS 91.9 “The Buzz.” She was apart of the women’s soccer team at Georgia Southern, but her passion for sports goes far beyond that. Per her graduation in May, she is planning to keep the dream alive and work in the sports industry. Watch for Kenzie’s coverage of the Sun Belt Conference and Georgia Southern University here at Southern Pigskin.