2012 Sun Belt Conference Football Vegas Odds and Expert Predictions: Favorites and Sleepers to Win Championship Sun Belt Conference Football 2012 – With a solid core of teams at the top and the addition of some of the top FBS programs, the Sun Belt Conference is setting itself up for future viability amid this era of realignment. South Alabama joins the fold this year, and although North Texas and Florida International will depart after the season for Conference USA, Texas State and Georgia State are set to join the conference in 2013-14 to keep 10 teams in the league. It will be interesting to see if the Sun Belt can go from the doormat of the smaller conferences to one of the better non-BCS leagues in the years come. While that remains to be seen, here is a look at how this year’s teams stack up.
2012 Sun Belt Conference Football Odds, Picks and Predictions
Last year, the Arkansas State Red Wolves led the Sun Belt in both scoring offense and scoring defense, and at least on the offensive side of the ball, this year’s team could be even better. Quarterback Ryan Aplin is back for his senior season, coming off a year when he threw for nearly 3,600. More importantly, former Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn is taking over as coach and bringing his spread offense with him. Aplin could go crazy is the pass-first system, and the Red Wolves should once again have the best offense in the conference. Even with a rebuilding offensive line and a somewhat inexperienced defense, Aplin and the passing game should power Arkansas State to a conference title.
The Dark Horse
The Florida International Golden Panthers will be in a bit of a rebuilding year on the offensive side of the ball this season, but a nasty defense should still give them an excellent shot at a conference title. FIU will have a first-year starter at quarterback and speedy receiver T.Y. Hilton is also gone, but with plenty of starters back for a defense that gave up less than 20 points a game last year, the Golden Panthers shouldn’t have to score as much as last season to win games. Like Arkansas State, Florida International has a big of an overall talent edge on most teams in the Sun Belt, and the speed and athleticism of their defense is unmatched in the conference. FIU will smother opponents with its defense, and a strength-on-strength battle with the high-powered offense of the Red Wolves will likely decide the conference.
The Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns not only have one of the coolest mascot names in the conference, but they also have the best chance at making a run at the top two teams. The Ragin’ Cajuns averaged the second-most points per game in the conference last season, and eight starts are back on offense. Among the returners are UL Lafayette’s best running back, receiver and offensive tackle from a year ago, along with quarterback Blaine Gautier. Gautier set a school record for passing yards last year, and the team went 9-4 under first-year head coach Mark Hudspeth. Needless to say, the offense should be even better with so many starters back with a year of experience running Hudspeth’s system. On the flip side, the defense loses a ton of starters from a group that returned seven interceptions for scores last year. Still, offense was this team’s strength last year, and the Ragin’ Cajuns should only be better in that area this season. Throw in the fact that they get Arkansas State and Florida International at home, and Gautier and company have a shot at stealing the Sun Belt crown.
2012 Odds to Win the Sun Belt Conference Football Championship
Florida International +240
Arkansas State +350
Western Kentucky +950
North Texas +1600
Middle Tennessee +1600
Florida Atlantic +3000
South Alabama +8000
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