The Sun Belt has become one of the best Group of Five conferences in college football, flush with elite defenses and exciting offense that has has made this a competitive group of teams.
Last season, Troy dusted Coastal Carolina in the Sun Belt Championship game and is the favorite to repeat as champs, but the team faced tough tests during the season from the likes of South Alabama, the second choice in 2023.
It's worth noting that a title contending team last season still isn't eligible for the conference title game as James Madison is still forced to sit out postseason contention in year two of its transition from FCS to FBS.
There are plenty of worthy teams in 2023 that can compete on a high level, how will it all shake out? Let's dive into the odds before picking some winners and dark horse bets:
Sun Belt Win Totals
- Arkansas State: 4.5 (Over -122/Under +100)
- Appalachian State: 6.5 (Over -132/Under +108)
- Coastal Carolina: 7.5 (Over -122/Under +100)
- Georgia Southern: 5.5 (Over -170/Under +138)
- Georgia State: 5.5 (Over +138/Under -170)
- James Madison: 8.5 (Over +138/Under -170)
- Louisiana: 7.5 (Over +104/Under -128)
- Louisiana-Monroe: 3.5 (Over +138/Under -170)
- Marshall: 7.5 (Over +118/Under -144)
- Old Dominion: 3.5 (Over -110/Under -110)
- South Alabama: 7.5 (Over -172/Under +140)
- Southern Mississippi: 5.5 (Over +118/Under -150)
- Texas State: 4.5 (Over +118/Under -144)
- Troy: 8.5 (Over -115/Under -105)
Odds courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook
Sun Belt Conference Winner
Sun Belt Dark Horse: Georgia Southern (+1900)
The Eagles transitioned quickly from the triple option offense to a pass-happy group under first year coach Clay Helton around transfer quarterback Kyle Vantrease. The team burst on the scene in the Sun Belt, posting a top 30 EPA/Play mark and was 37th in yards per play, allowing only seven sacks on the year. Overall, the team won six games.
The Eagles were a lopsided bunch, struggling on defense but had little issue putting up points against some of the Sun Belt's elite defenses, and now inject another transfer quarterback into the mix with Tulsa's Davis Brin joining the team.
Brin was top 30 in EPA/Play last season amongst QB's despite playing through injuries on a lackluster Tulsa squad. He should outperform Vantrease's marks in 2023 with a strong supporting cast, including 1,000 yard receiver Kaleb Hood and Derwin Burgess Jr. in addition to Jalen White, who rushed for five yards per carry.
This offense could be the best in the Sun Belt in 2023 with a handful of returning seniors, but the question comes if the defense can go from one of the worst in the country to simply passable.
The team allowed the fifth most yards per play (6.6) and couldn't get in the backfield whatsoever (17 sacks was 116th in the country). the team does return leading tackler Marques Watson-Trent and third leading tackler Khadry Jackson at linebacker, but this team is likely going to need to piece it together once again.
If the team fails, it's probably because of the defense, but the offense is going to push the ceiling higher than anyone in the Sun Belt.
The team does have to go to Marshall and Appalachian State in massive conference matchups, but gets a bye ahead of a matchup at James Madison that counts for conference standings. Further, the team hosts Coastal Carolina, the division favorite in 2023.
It's not an easy schedule, but the Eagles nearly dethroned Coastal Carolina and South Alabama in 2022, and even knocked off Appalachian State and James Madison due to it's loaded offense. That side of the ball will be even better in 2023 and it makes me bullish on some high-end outcomes.
Sun Belt Championship Pick: South Alabama (+330)
Troy is the rightful favorite as the team hosts the Jaguars in the game that will likely decide the Sun Belt West, but I'm going to take the second choice to win it all in 2023.
The two teams had comparable profiles last season, bolstered by elite defenses and above average G5 offenses, but the Trojans had one of the best defenses in the country. However, Troy returns about 50% of the team's production on defense and lost the team's defensive coordinator Shiel Wood late in the cycle. The defense will still be elite, but may take a step back from the 17th best total EPA mark last season.
Meanwhile, South Alabama returns on both side of the ball, including starting quarterback Carter Bradley and 1,000 yard running back La'Damian Webb. The team was more potent than Troy on offense last year, averaging nearly six yards per play and was top 30 in allowing tackles for loss, and I believe the Jags will outpace the Trojans again.
There's not much separating the two teams, but the Jaguars are top 20 in returning production and the reason why it wasn't in the Sun Belt title game was a 10-6 home loss to Troy last season. Can USA get some revenge in 2023 with a ton of key contributors back?
I think so.
Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.