NCAA Football 2012 Conference Betting Previews- Sun Belt
The only change to the Sun Belt Conference for this season is the addition of South Alabama to raise the total number of teams to 10. The following is a look at a few of the top contenders to win this season’s Sun Belt title along with their current odds as provided by 5Dimes.
The Florida International Golden Panthers only won three games in 2009 but after posting back-to-back winning seasons including an 8-5 record last year, they appear poised to take the next step as +240 favorites to win this year’s conference title. Head coach Mario Cristobal continues to do a great job recruiting some top-notch talent in his own backyard which would had probably never considered attending FIU in the past. The Panthers also return some key skill players from last season including running back Kedrick Rhodes, who led the team in rushing with 1,149 yards on 234 carries. It looks like Jake Medlock will get the call at quarterback for the departed Wesley Carroll and wide receiver Wayne Times appears ready to step-up as the No.1 target in the passing game for the departed Ty Hilton.
The Arkansas State Red Wolves welcome Gus Malzahn its new head coach as they try and make a run at a second-straight Sun Belt title. Last season, the Red Wolves went a perfect 8-0 in conference play and feel confident they should remain on top with a number of starters back from that squad. One of those players is Ryan Aplin, who emerged as a duel-threat at quarterback in 2011 with 3,588 yards passing and another 802 yards on the ground. Arkansas State has been opened as a +350 second favorite to win this seasons title, but much of its chances will hinge of its defense’s ability to shut teams down much like it did in last year’s championship run.
The 2011 season was a rough go of it for the Troy Trojans with a 3-9 record overall after posting an 8-5 record in 2010 that included a 6-2 record in conference play. The football odds makers must know something since 5Dimes has opened Troy as a +450 third-favorite to win the Sun Belt this year. Quarterback Cory Robinson will need to do a better job of taking care of the ball after getting picked off 15 times, but he did throw for 3,411 yards and 21 touchdowns. The Trojans’ defense will also have to tighten things up after giving-up an average of 33.7 points a game in 2011.
The fourth-favorite to win the Sun Belt this season at +500 is the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns. They are coming off a very successful 9-4 campaign in 2011 that included a 6-2 record in conference play and the first bowl game appearance in school history. The good news is that head coach Mark Hudspeth will have the majority of last year’s offense intact, but his defense could be a whole other issue. It has a number of holes to fill on a unit that was not that good to begin with considering it finished the season ranked 84th in the country in points allowed.
The odds to win the conference for the rest of the teams in the Sun Belt are Louisiana-Monroe +850, Western Kentucky +900, North Texas and Middle Tennessee at +1600, Florida Atlantic +300, and newcomer Southern Alabama at +8000.
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