Please note that power rankings are meant to rank teams based on current team strength on a neutral field. It is not necessarily a projection of where I think teams will finish or who has a better resume. It is forward thinking but does not factor in strength of schedule, schedule breakdown, etc.
ICYMI Other Conference Preseason Power Rankings:
2021 Sun Belt Preseason Power Rankings
- Louisiana: Billy Napier’s Ragin’ Cajuns bring everyone back from a 10-1 team that beat an Iowa State team that went on to win a New Year’s Six Bowl game. Levi Lewis is back at QB for the peppers (2,274 passing yards, 398 rushing yards, 24 total TD) and they have Phil Steele’s #1 ranked offensive line in the conference. The opener against Texas should be a fun test for them. They are the clear favorite in the West as the other 4 teams in their division are the last 4 teams in my Sun Belt power rankings.
- Appalachian State: Lots of people will have Coastal here but I give the edge to App State. They led Coastal 17-9 at half last year and 23-21 with 3 minutes left. They replace QB Zac Thomas with Clemson and Duke transfer QB Chase Brice and that may end up being an upgrade. They have the #1 RB, WR, LB, and DB units in the conference according to Phil Steele and they get Coastal at home this year.
- Coastal Carolina: The Chants were everyone’s darling last year as they went 11-0 in the regular season with non-conference wins against Kansas and BYU before losing to Liberty in their Bowl Game. They bring back the reigning conference player and freshmen of the year in Grayson McCall (2,488 passing yards, 633 rushing yards, and 33 total TD). They have another great team this year but they did benefit from +13 TO in 2020. That will be hard to duplicate again in 2021.
- Georgia Southern: The Eagles had the best total defense and rush defense in the conference in 2020. They lost some of those guys but still have a solid group coming back. They have two strong Running Backs in JD King and Logan Wright but replacing talented QB Shai Werts will be a challenge.
- Troy: Troy is a breakout candidate in 2021 since they are coming off a 5-6 record that featured an uncommon 1-4 record in one-score games. They almost upset Coastal Carolina in the season finale, were hit hard by Covid throughout the 2020 season, and now appear on the verge of breaking through. Gunnar Watson is back at QB to lead the Trojans and has a strong WR corps to throw to. The Trojans look like a tough out in 2021.
- Georgia State: HC Shawn Elliot has really improved the state of the program at Georgia State taking a team that was typically the doormat of the conference and getting them to respectability. They have a strong RB returning in Destin Coates and have Phil Steele’s #2 ranked offensive and defensive lines in the conference. They have 19 returning starters and could end up as high as #4 in these rankings.
- Arkansas State: Arkansas State has had a lot of success in the conference over the last ten years but losing HC Blake Anderson is going to hurt. Butch Jones has done it before at the power 5 level but it may take him some time. The passing game should continue to be strong for them but the defense gave up close to 40 points per game in 2020.
- South Alabama: I want to like this team. Jalen Tolbert is a stud WR (1085 receiving yards, 8 TD) and they are adding Utah transfer QB Jake Bentley to compete with Desmond Trotter. They have a new head coach which could take some time to get things gelling but if things break right this team could be fun. I’ve got my eye on them.
- Texas State: The Bobcats return almost everyone and they added a ton of transfers this offseason. It remains to see how all those additions will gel with the young roster they have returning. They were 0-4 in one score games in 2020 so the law of averages would suggest they will have a little better luck in 2021. Brady McBride is back at QB but he did miss some time in 2020 due to both covid protocols and just a coaches decision before coming back to finish the year on a higher note.
- ULM: HC Terry Bowden added a ton of transfers and brought in Rich Rodriguez to be his offensive coordinator. The newcomers have plenty of work to do as this was a team that was outscored by 25 points per game in 2020. They are the clear #10 in the conference.