No Sleep Till Football

Like Brooklyn Except It's Football

Ranking the Bowls for the Sun Belt

Continuing on with the Sun Belt! I think the Sun Belt is an interesting conference. For as much as we talk about the MAC being a fertile ground for head coaching talent, the Sun Belt isn’t doing too bad for itself either. This season we had Hugh Freeze at Arkansas St., Mark Hudspeth at Louisiana, Mario Cristobal at Florida International, Dan McCarney at North Texas and Willie Taggart at Western Kentucky. Those are some solid coaches on the up & coming! Freeze has already left the conference for the comfy confines of Oxford & the Ole Miss Rebels. Lots of rumors about Hudspeth & Cristobal following suit. Whatever the case, the Sun Belt has definitely graduated into a pretty decent conference. It’s a fun one to watch also so this bowl season should be a treat! Let’s get after it!

I don’t think there has ever been an Arkansas St. team that won double digit games. I also don’t think there has ever been a Sun Belt champion that won 10 games either, yet here is Arkansas St. getting both done in 2011. The Red Wolves were able to get this done by beating Central Arkansas & Memphis out of conference and then rolling the Sun Belt. With Hugh Freeze being the head coach, you might think that Arkansas St. would be all about the offense, and while they were plenty good scoring 33.5ppg & ranking 28th in the nation, the defense might have been the strongest attribute seeing how Arkansas St. allowed only 19.3ppg which ranked 15th in the nation! Arkansas St. won games with their defense this season! We can go into specifics of the team, but the more important question regarding Arkansas St. is the head coaching spot. Hugh Freeze coached up the Red Wolves to a 10-2 record & a Sun Belt championship. However, Freeze’s time in Jonesboro was brief as he parlayed his only year there into the head coaching gig at Ole Miss. Sucks to be Arkansas St. right? Not so fast! Arkansas St. got a Christmas gift early this season as Auburn OC Gus Malzahn decided to leave the state of Alabama to coach the Red Wolves! It was a stunning development seeing how Malzahn was thought to be destined for bigger jobs, but Arkansas St. is as good a stepping stone as any other I suppose. Something to keep in mind with Arkansas St. is the future of DC Dave Wommack. Last year Arkansas St. gave up 30.8ppg. In Wommack’s first season they gave up 19.3! They need to lock that guy up! I’ve already discussed NIU and the bowl in the MAC write up. I think Arkansas St. wins this one. ARKANSAS ST.  (-1.5)

NO SLEEP TILL FOOTBALL BET: Take Arkansas St. & the points. The O/U is 62.5 & I think I’d take the over on that one. Should be a track meet although Ark St. could “D” up.

To give you an idea of what an OUTSTANDING job Louisiana HC Mark Hudspeth did this year with the Ragin’ Cajuns, consider that Phil Steele in his annual picked ULL to finish dead last in the Sun Belt conference! Instead, ULL finished 8-4 overall & finished 3rd in the Sun Belt with a 6-2 record! all Hudspeth did in his VERY FIRST SEASON in Lafayette is lead ULL to the most wins they’ve had since 1993 & the first bowl game they’ve ever been to! Hudspeth vastly improved ULL’s offense. ULL averaged 10 more points a game in 2011 than they did in 2010 & it showed up in the win column. Remember that Hudspeth was the passing coordinator at Mississippi St. under Dan Mullen before coming to ULL. QB Blaine Gautier showed vast improvement this season passing for 2,488 yards along with 20TD to only 5INT while completing 63+% of his passes! That’s much better than ULL had last season in their passing attack. It would earn Gautier 2nd Team All-Sun Belt honors. WR Javone Lawson & TE Ladarius Green were 1st team selections who combined for 1300+ receiving yards & 13TD. The ULL defense isn’t that fanstastic to be honest, but they didn’t necessarily have to be great, plus Hudspeth can only do so many things at once. It’s fairly amazing that Hudspeth is still around given his pedigree & success. Rumor has it that if Dan Mullen finds himself as Penn St.’s new HC, Hudspeth will follow him to Mississippi St. San Diego St. should be a pretty good test for ULL. They have a solid pass defense and can score 30ppg. Hudspeth has made some tremendous strides in his first season, but a bowl win might be a stretch. ULL has a ton coming back on offense next season so Hudspeth has to take a hard look at the defense starting now. SAN DIEGO ST. (-6)

NO SLEEP TILL FOOTBALL PREDICTION: San Diego St. should roll in this one. They have too much offense & ULL’s defense is fairly poor. The O/U is 59 and I’d take the over. Lotta points put up in this one.

Mario Cristobal has done a tremendous job down in Miami at Florida International. People have to remember that FIU wasn’t playing D1 football until 2004. In the season before Cristobal got to FIU, the Panthers were 0-12 in Don Strock’s final season. In his first year Cristobal was just one game better at 1-11. Year 2 brought a promising 5-7 season although FIU regressed in 2009 to 3-9. Last year really turned the tables for Cristobal as he led FIU to a 6-6 season which gave the Panthers their first bowl berth ever! They didn’t disappoint beating Toledo 34-32 in the Little Caesar’s Bowl to finish 7-6! Cristobal once again did a splendid job leading FIU to a follow up 8-4 season including a 2nd straight bowl appearance! Despite just the one extra win, FIU is actually a much better team. Last year’s 7-6 squad was fueled by close wins as FIU only outscored their opponents by 1.5ppg! This year FIU is winning big & is outscoring their opponents by 7ppg! Not only that, but FIU is doing it with defense, ranking 16th in nation in allowing just 19.4ppg! Even more amazing? FIU didn’t have a single player from their defense be named to the 1st team all-Sun Belt team! If nobody leaves the program early, FIU stands to bring back their top-9 tacklers & 14 of their top 15! FIU’s best case record this season is 11-1 so they might be better than even their record shows. Now the only question becomes how much longer can the FIU faithful expect Cristobal to roam the sidelines for Miami’s “other” football university? Marshall shouldn’t be too much of a problem for FIU. Marshall is actually being outscored on average by 10ppg! They can’t score nor can they defend well. Their “worst” case record is 1-11 so I’d expect FIU to get this one done. FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL (-4)

NO SLEEP TILL FOOTBALL PREDICTION: Take FIU & the point as they’ll win by at least a TD. The O/U is 48 and I’ll take the over. FIU might score 35-40 & Marshall will score a couple garbage TDs.

I have the Sun Belt going 2-1 this season in the bowl schedule which is pretty good, but it only matches last year’s 2-1 mark! Can Louisiana get an upset win over San Diego St. to make it a perfect 3-0!? It’s worth checking out.


December 17, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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