NEW ORLEANS — The Appalachian State Mountaineers and Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns are the favorites to win the 2019 Sun Belt Conference Football East and West Divisions, respectively, as voted on by the league’s 10 head coaches. The Sun Belt released the preseason poll Thursday in advance of the Sun Belt’s annual media day that begins Sunday, July 21.
For the second consecutive season, the Sun Belt will continue with a Divisional format to determine a champion. The Championship Game will be played at the site of the divisional team with the best overall conference winning percentage on December 7, 2019.
Additionally, Appalachian State was picked as the overall favorite to win the Championship title in a vote that included selected members of the media, along with the 10 football head coaches.
The Mountaineers head into the 2019 season looking to repeat as East Division and overall Sun Belt Champions. App State claimed the inaugural Sun Belt Championship with a 30-19 win over Louisiana. App brings back 20 starters (10 offense; seven defense; three special teams), including 2018 Offensive Player of the Year, Zac Thomas. Thomas accounted for 32 total touchdowns in 2018 (21 pass, 10 rush, 1 receiving) as the Mountaineers led the league in scoring at 37.3 points per game.
The Mountaineers possessed one of the best defenses in the league as well, as they led in scoring defense, allowing 15.5 points and 288.7 yards per game. App went 7-1 in league play a season ago and claimed its fourth consecutive bowl game win with a 45-13 win over Middle Tennessee in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.
Louisiana was picked to win the West Division, garnering six first-place votes for a total of 46 points. The Ragin' Cajuns started conference play with a 2-3 record before rattling off three consecutive Sun Belt wins to close out the season and earn a spot in the inaugural Championship Game.
Louisiana head coach Billy Napier enters his second season at the helm of the Cajuns’ program and they return 17 starters from last year's squad (eight offensive; six defense; three special teams). Napier's Cajuns finished second in the league in scoring offense at 31.9 points per game and was third in total offense, averaging 424.3 yards per contest. A three-headed running attack in juniors Elijah Mitchell and Trey Ragas, and senior Raymond Calais lead the Cajuns rushing attack, which ranked third in the league at 218.7 yards per game.
The Mountaineers earned seven first-place votes in the East Division, earning 46 points. Troy was picked to finish second in the East with 39 points with one first-place vote, while Georgia Southern was picked to finish third with 35 points, earning the final two first-place votes.
Arkansas State was tabbed second in the West with 42 points and three first-place votes while ULM was picked to finish third with 27 points.
Sun Belt Media Day will be held in New Orleans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on July 22. Live ESPN3 coverage of the event begins at 8:30 a.m. CT and will run until 5:00 p.m. CT.
The 2019 season kicks off on Thursday, August 29, with Texas State heading to College Station to take on Texas A&M at 7:30 p.m. CT on the SEC Network. The rest of the league gets underway on Saturday, August 31 with a full slate of games starting at 11 a.m. CT. The 2019 Sun Belt Football Championship Game is scheduled for Saturday, December 7 and will be televised live at 11 a.m. CT/12 p.m. ET on ESPN or ESPN2.
2019 Sun Belt Football Coaches Predicted Championship Game Winner
2019 Sun Belt Football Coaches Predicted Order of Finish
First-place votes in parentheses
1. Appalachian State (7) - 46 pts
2. Troy (1) - 39 pts
3. Georgia Southern (2) - 35 pts
4. Coastal Carolina - 17 pts
5. Georgia State - 13 pts
1. Louisiana (6) - 46 pts
2. Arkansas State (3) - 42 pts
3. ULM - 27 pts
4. South Alabama (1) - 19 pts
5. Texas State - 16 pts