NEW ORLEANS -- While league favorite Appalachian State just might have the easiest schedule in the Sun Belt this season there is no question who has the toughest.
Already saddled with the cellar pick in the league this season, UL-Monroe also has a lot of other factors that does not bode well for the Warhawks.
ULM plays five of the six top teams in the league, based on the coaches preseason poll, and four of them are away from Jonesboro. They do get to play two of the bottom three teams in the poll, New Mexico State and Texas State.
Ranking the schedules based on who they play with each place receiving points based on their rankings, ULM easily won that ranking with 40 points. Next in line were New Mexico State, Troy and Georgia State.
Coming in with the easiest schedules are Arkansas State and Appalachian State, which were ranked first and second in the coaches poll. App State had 56 points for the easiest while the Red Wolves were 55. That duo also had an advantage because they are the top two teams in the poll and will not meet this season.
Looking at other factors, Appalachian also edges the Red Wolves. Both play four of the top 6, with three of those on the road, and the bottom three in the league. The Mountaineers, one of the two most difficult destinations in the SBC, alternate home and away conference games while the Red Wolves are just one of two teams -- the other Idaho -- to have three straight conference road games.
Third-place pick Georgia Southern has one of the toughest. The Eagles had a 45 composite but also have to play five of the top six -- three at home -- and just two of the bottom three.
A team to keep an eye on is UL-Lafayette. The Cajuns composite is fourth easiest and you can throw in they only play three of the top six, and two of those (Arkansas State and App State) are at home. They also play all of the bottom three. They are also one of two teams that alternates home and away league games.
The 2016 scheduled is a one-year arrangement. In 2017 Coastal Carolina joins and in 2018 New Mexico State and Idaho leave.
Composite hardest rankings: 1. ULM, 2. NM State; 3. Troy; 4. Georgia Southern; 5. Texas State; 6. USA; 7.Georgia State; 8. ULL; 9. Idaho; 10. Arkansas State; 11. App State.