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Sunbelt Preview

The 2004 football season was a landmark of sorts for the Sun Belt as it placed two teams in bowl games for the first time ever. Neither North Texas nor Troy State won their respective postseason contests but the mere fact that they were there broke new ground for the conference. Furthermore, both of those teams made noise on other fronts in 2004, first with the Trojans knocking off national powers Marshall and Missouri to start the season, then with the Mean Green’s Jamario Thomas finishing the season as the country’s leading rusher at 180.1 YPG. Aside from that, there was very little that happened in 2004 that was unexpected, as the league continued to struggle in non-conference play, and North Texas continued to dominate the league standings. Darrell Dickey’s team won the conference for the fourth straight season, beating opponents by an average of 14 PPG. Though not as dominant as past seasons, it was still enough to secure the automatic berth in the New Orleans Bowl.

For 2005, there will be noticeable changes in the standings, if not only for the affect realignment has had. Idaho, Utah State, and New Mexico State have departed while 2004 1-A transitional teams Florida Atlantic and Florida International join the Sun Belt. North Texas, riding a 25-game league-winning streak, again figures to be the team to beat but could be challenged by previously mentioned Florida Atlantic, as well as Middle Tennessee State and Troy State. Incidentally, the two bowl participants of a year ago did not meet in the conference season, and FAU actually won in Denton, enhancing the opportunity for a potential new champion in the Sun Belt conference.

For more on the Sun Belt in 2005, including full team previews and predictions, pick up your copy of the 2005 StatFox Edge Football Annual now!

North Texas

Play On: Arkansas State 10/8

The Mean Green has punished Arkansas State over the last four years, outscoring them by 147-31 in winning all four games and covering 3 of 4.

Play Against: @LSU 9/3

The Eagles under Coach Dickey always play tough non-conference games and this will be no exception. North Texas is 0-10 SU and 3-7 ATS in road openers. Coach Dickey’s Eagles are 0-6 ATS in the first of back-to-back road contests.

Troy State

Play On: Florida Atlantic 11/5

This will be Troy’s only home game in a five week period. With superior athletes and big Homecoming celebration, the Trojans march to win and cover.

Play Against: @Missouri 917

Missouri was embarrassed on National TV last year in losing to Troy 24-14 as 11-point road favorites. HUGE revenge spot for the Tigers who take advantage of the fact the Troy only has 8 returning starters early in the season.

LA Monroe

Play On: Arkansas State 10/1

After a 3-game road trip, the Indians return home to face Arkansas State. UL Monroe lost as 6-point favorites last year to Ark. State. Look for UL Monroe to take advantage of the fact they return 8 starters on offense including QB Jyles.

Play Against: @North Texas 10/29

Rest does very little for this band of Indians who are just 1-9 ATS after a bye week.

Middle Tennessee State

Play On: @Alabama 9/3

With M.T.S a probable 17+ point underdog at Alabama, this should be a good spot for the Blue Raiders. The Crimson Tide are notoriously poor large home favorites in September and M.T.S. returns 18 starters from last year’s 5-6 team. The Blue Raiders seek to make it a perfect 7-0 ATS in road openers.

Play Against: @Troy State 11/26

The visitor has been an underdog in this series all three times and has dropped all 3 games both SU and ATS.

Arkansas State

Play On: Florida Inter. 9/24

After an arduous trip to Oklahoma State the week prior, the Indians open there home conference season against new member FIU. Arkansas State is 9-4 ATS in conference home openers.

Play Against: @Oklahoma State 9/17

Always tough and physical Cowboys lay the wood to these worn down Indians, who will no match for this style of play. Arkansas State is 4-13 ATS on artificial turf.

LA Lafayette

Play On: @LA Monroe 11/19

In this in-state rivalry, we find the visitor is the prime choice. The home team is 1-8 ATS with four of the last five games being decided by 5 or less points.

Play Against: @North Texas 11/5

The Ragin’ Cajuns have found no solitude in visiting Denton, Texas. Newly named Louisiana U. is 0-5 SU and ATS, no matter what name they want to call themselves.

Florida Atlantic

Play On: LA Monroe 9/24

This game is the only real opportunity for the Owls to win in there first five games. An apparently over ambitious schedule, makes this a “mustâ€Â

slam

posted by slam

Aug. 2 2005 12:46pm

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