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Previewing the Sun Belt West Division
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Previewing the Sun Belt West Division

Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns:

This team very quietly went 10-1 in 2020 losing only to Coastal Carolina in the regular season. There are 19 starters back from that team and they are loaded at the skill positions and both the defensive and offensive lines. Their non-conference schedule is difficult but it should prepare them for the conference season. They are heavy favorites for the West Division title and to advance to the Sun Belt conference championship game.

Players to Watch: QB, Levi Lewis (238 total offense per game with 19 TDs), RB, Chris Smith, WR, Peter LeBlanc, LB, Lorenzo McCaskill (83 tackles), DE, Zi’Yon Hill, S, Brelan Trahan

Must Wins: Nicholls State, at South Alabama, Texas State, Georgia State, Louisiana-Monroe, at Arkansas State

Toss-Up Games They Need to Win But Could Lose: Ohio, at Georgia Southern, Appalachian State, at Troy

Probable Losses: at Texas, at Liberty

Predicted Finish: 1st Place in the Sun Belt West Division Overall Record: 10-2

Texas State Bobcats:

The Bobcats suffered through a frustrating 2-10 season that saw them lose four games by three points or less and two others by ten points each. They have 15 starters back and that includes an excellent quarterback, experienced running backs, and a quality receiver on offense. On the defensive side, they were poor against the run in 2020 and the pass-rush needs improvement. There are problems at linebacker with two spots that need to be filled. The secondary is solid. If they can improve their front six they have a chance to move up.

Players to Watch: QB, Brady McBride, RB, Brock Sturges, WR, Marcell Barbee, DT, Nico Exidore (66 tackles), CB, Jarron Moore (69 tackles, 4 interceptions)

Must Wins: UTW, at Eastern Michigan, South Alabama, Louisiana Monroe

Toss-Up Games They Need to Win But Could Lose: at FIU, Troy, at Georgia State, Georgia Southern, at Arkansas State

Probable Losses: Baylor, at Louisiana, at Coastal Carolina

Predicted Finish: 2nd Place in the Sun Belt West Division Overall Record: 6-6

Arkansas State Red Wolves:

Arkansas State is coming off their first losing season since 2010 and lost some key players off of that team plus the head coach. Veteran Coach Butch Jones was a good hire and will eventually get the Wolves back on the winning track. The non-conference schedule is tough and will be hard to negotiate. This could be a rebuilding season.

Players to Watch: QB, Layne Hatcher, RB, Marcel Murray, DE, TW Ayers, CB, Sammy Johnson, S, Elery Alexander

Must Wins: Central Arkansas, at South Alabama, at Louisiana-Monroe

Toss-Up Games They Need to Win But Could Lose: at Georgia Southern, at Georgia State, Texas State

Probable Losses: Memphis, at Washington, at Tulsa, Coastal Carolina, Appalachian State, Louisiana

Predicted Finish: 3rd Place in the Sun Belt West Division Overall Record: 4-8

South Alabama Jaguars:

The Jags brought in Kane Wommack, as the new head coach. He did wonders as the defensive coordinator at Indiana last year. He has immediately improved the energy and culture of the program and there is optimism that this could be a break-out year. Probably a little more patience is needed. However, they have a proven transfer QB, in Jake Bentley and that is a good place to start. They have to improve their offensive line and up the production. The defense was acceptable last year and under Wommack’s guidance should become a strong point.

Players to Watch: QB, Jake Bentley (8,409 career passing yards), WR, Jalen Tolbert (Its Team All Sun Belt), LB, Quentin Wilfawn, LB, A.J. DeShazor

Must Wins: Alcorn State, at Louisiana Monroe, Arkansas State

Toss-Up Games They Need to Win But Could Lose: Southern Miss, at Bowling Green, Georgia Southern

Probable Losses: Louisiana, at Texas State, at Troy, at Appalachian State, at Tennessee, Coastal Carolina

Predicted Finish: 4th Place in the Sun Belt West Division Overall Record: 3-9

Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks:

Veteran Coach Terry Bowden takes over a program coming off a 0-10 season a year ago and there is so much that needs to be done to get this ship above water. The offense was offense was awful last year but somehow Rich Rodriguez was persuaded to take over as the offensive coordinator. So, those are pretty big-coaching names roaming the sidelines at possibly the worst team in the nation On top of everything else, the schedule is brutal. The goal has to be to get a foundation in base and stick to building it.

Players to Watch: QB, Rhett Rodriguez (the coaches’s son), WR, Jahquan Bloomfield, LB, Traveion Webster, S, Austin Hawley

Must Wins: Jackson State, South Alabama

Toss-Up Games They Need to Win But Could Lose: Troy, Arkansas State, Georgia State

Probable Losses: at Kentucky, at Coastal Carolina, Liberty, at Appalachian State, at Texas State, at LSU, at Louisiana

Predicted Finish: 5th Place in the Sun Belt West Division Overall Record: 1-11

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