The Big 10 Conference used to be called the Big Two and Little Eight Conference because
That should change in 2005.
The official 2005 preseason Sunbelt poll placed North Texas, Troy, MTSU, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana Monroe, Arkansas State, Florida Atlantic, and Florida International in that order. As you will see by my ratings, I disagree quite a bit.
This is a league where the home team wins more than the normal amount of times. Much of that has come from long road trips. With the two westernmost schools leaving for two schools in the East, the abnormal home field advantage should return to normal for this lower-tier conference. All
1. M T S U PiRate: 98 HFA: 3
This should be the Blue Raiders best team under Coach Andy McCollum. MTSU could easily go 7-0 in the league and win eight or nine games overall. Quarterback Clint Marks rates as the top passer in the league. Cleannord Saintil may be the next Tyrone Calico, while diminutive Chris Henry gives the Blue Raiders the best pair of receivers in the league.
The running game was weak last year, but with a dominant offensive line, MTSU should fare much better on the ground. Tackles Willie Hall and Germayle Franklin both have legitimate shots at playing on Sunday.
Defensively, MTSU returns 10 starters from last season. The stop troops improved by five points per game last year and should do so again this year if not better.
The Mean Green are not about to concede the title to MTSU.
The Ragin' Cajuns haven't enjoyed a winning season since they were called
4. Troy PiRate: 89 HFA: 3
The Trojans put the Sunbelt on the map last year by upsetting
The Indians (oops, I guess this article will be banned by the NCAA) just missed out on a winning season. Like ULL, their last winning season came when they were known as
The Indians will have trouble stopping the opposition this year. Their secondary is suspect, and they could give up 40 points more than once or twice. Head Coach Charlie Weatherbie is good for an extra win, so La-Monroe should compete with
Owls Coach Howard Schnellenberger somehow produced nine wins in FAU's first season of I-A football. I don't see him doing that again with this squad. The Owls lost eight offensive and six defensive starters last year, including their quarterback, top rusher, and top pass catcher. The FAU defense should be weaker in the line, at linebacker, and in the secondary, so expect about 10-15 more points per game allowed. FAU should escape the cellar, but not by much. Assistant head Coach Kurt Van Valkenburg was a defensive assistant on the staff of George MacIntyre at Vanderbilt in the early 1980's.
This is another school that may have to change their nickname, as they are also Indians. In 2002 and 2003, the Indians were on the cusp of realizing winning seasons, but they regressed in 2004. Coach Steve Roberts is starting his fourth season, and if he wants to see a fifth, he will have to improve on 3-8. It could be difficult. The offensive line is much weaker this year, and quarterback Nick Noce may look more like a fox at a hunt.
The ASU defense will not strike fear in any opponent, as the Indians should once again surrender more than 30 points per game. Playing both of the
Head Coach Don Strock isn't used to losing. The former Miami Dolphin quarterback saw his charges drop seven out of 10 games last year, and even with a stronger team in every department, the Panthers may not be able to top that mark this year. The FIU offense should churn out yardage and score points. I see them approaching 30 points and 400 total yards per game. The only problem is they gave up 33 points and 480 yards per game last year to a much easier slate of opponents.
If All Games Were Played September 1st
(in other words, these ratings are only good for the first week of the season)
(and predicted records may move a team up or down due to HFA)
Team Conf. Overall
M T S U 7-0 8-3
Louisiana-Lafayette 4-3 7-4
Troy 3-4 4-7