|Sun Belt Season Begins Wednesday|
|Written by John McElwain|
|Monday, 25 August 2014 14:07|
The 2014 season gets underway in the Sun Belt this week with 10 of 11 teams in action. Games will be spread out from Wednesday to Saturday night - with plenty of viewing options for fans.
Georgia State hosts the first FBS game of 2014 as Abilene Christian visits the Georgia Dome for a 6 p.m. (CT) contest that will be nationally-televised on ESPNU.
The next night, ULM and Wake Forest will meet on the gridiron for the second consecutive season. ULM traveled to Winston-Salem, N.C. last season and came away with a 21-19 win at Wake Forest on Sept. 14, 2013. That game will also be televised on ESPNU. Also on Thursday, fans can watch New Mexico State host Cal Poly in an ESPN3 affair that AggieVision will produce.
Saturday’s action will begin early as three games kick off before noon (CT). Appalachian State returns to the site of their historic 34-32 victory over No. 5-ranked Michigan in 2007 and they are also playing their first-ever game as a member of NCAA Division I FBS and the Sun Belt Conference.
Georgia Southern will also make its Sun Belt debut as the Eagles face NC State in Raleigh. Georgia Southern owns a 22-10 mark in season openers and has won five straight.
Troy opens the season at in-state rival UAB. Troy has won four of the last five meetings against the Blazers with the lone loss coming by one point (34-33, 2010).
Afternoon and evening action features three Sun Belt teams opening the season at home against FCS opponents and Idaho travelling to Florida.
Abilene Christian at Georgia State - 6 p.m. (ESPNU)
Wake Forest at UL Monroe - 6 p.m. (ESPNU)
Cal Poly at New Mexico State - 7 p.m. (ESPN3)
Appalachian State at Michigan - 11 a.m. (ESPN2)
Troy at UAB - 11 a.m. (Fox College Sports)
Georgia Southern at NC State - 11:30 a.m. (ACC/ESPN3)
Montana State at Arkansas State - 6 p.m. (ESPN3)
Idaho at Florida - 6 p.m. (ESPNU)
Southern at UL Lafayette - 6 p.m. (ESPN3)
Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Texas State - 6 p.m. (ESPN3)
All times Central (CT) and subject to change
* denotes Sun Belt Conference game
Around the Sun Belt Conference
Sun Belt sets win record vs. Non-Conference Foes
The Sun Belt Conference’s 21 non-conference wins in the 2013 season eclipsed the previous record mark of 19 set in 2012. Additionally, of note for the league’s non-conference win total was that the Sun Belt fared well against its peer opponents in the non-AQ BCS ranks during the 2013 season. The Sun Belt finished the year a combined 8-1 against members of Conference-USA (4-1), the Mid-American Conference (3-0) and the Mountain West Conference (1-0). The Sun Belt also had the best overall non-conference win percentage when comparing the four non-AQ conferences.
Sun Belt Membership
The Sun Belt Conference will contest the 2014 football season with 11 members – Appalachian State, Arkansas State, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Idaho, UL Lafayette, UL Monroe, New Mexico State, South Alabama, Texas State and Troy. UALR and UT Arlington compete as non-football playing members. The Sun Belt will have four new members in the league this year as Appalachian State and Georgia Southern were added as all-sports members and Idaho and New Mexico State were added as football playing members. Both Appalachian State and Georgia Southern bring with them highly successful football programs and each team will begin the process of transitioning to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) immediately. The 2014 Sun Belt football season will mark the debut of both in the league schedule and standings. Additionally, both the Mountaineers and Eagles will be able to compete for the league championship in football for the 2014 season. Both teams will first be eligible to compete in a spot for a postseason bowl game come the 2015 season. Idaho and New Mexico State are familiar partners of the Sun Belt Conference, having been football members from the league’s inaugural year of football in 2001 through the 2004 season. Both members played an integral part of forming the Sun Belt Conference for football and now add strength to the league. Both teams will be immediately eligible to compete for the Sun Belt football championship and also for a spot in postseason bowl games.
Sun Belt Undefeated in 2013 Bowl Games
The 2013 football season saw two teams take home bowl championship trophies, as UL Lafayette won its third consecutive R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl and Arkansas State won its second consecutive GoDaddy Bowl. The Red Wolves won their second consecutive GoDaddy Bowl by defeating Ball State 23-20. The previous season the Red Wolves defeated Kent State in the annual bowl game played in Mobile. The Red Wolves have made three consecutive appearances in the game, having lost to Northern Illinois in their first appearance. The Ragin’ Cajuns closed the 2013 football season with a 9-4 record that included a share of the 2013 Sun Belt Conference title and a 24-21 win over Tulane in the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.
Preseason Awards Candidates
Paul Hornung Award Watch List - Rashon Ceaser, UL Monroe, J.D. McKissic, Arkansas State; Lou Groza Award Watch List - Maxwell Johnson, New Mexico State; Ray Guy Award Watch List - Austin Rehkow, Idaho Justin Manton, UL Monroe; Rimington Award Watch List-Bryce Giddens, Arkansas State, Mike Marboe, Idaho, Valerian Ume-Ezeoke, New Mexico State; John Mackey Award Watch List- Darion Griswold, Arkansas State; Wes Saxton, South Alabama; Jim Thorpe Award Watch List - Sterling Young, Arkansas State, Rocky Hayes, Arkansas State; Biletnikoff Award Watch List -Rashon Ceaser, UL Monroe, Wes Saxton, South Alabama, Shaverez Smith, South Alabama, Jamal Robinson, UL Lafayette; Rotary Lombardi Award Watch List - Justin Hamilton, UL Lafayette,Gerrand Johnson, UL Monroe, Qushaun Lee, Arkansas State, Mykhael Quave, UL Lafayette, Daniel Quave, UL Lafayette, Tyler Roberts, Troy, Dominique Tovell, UL Lafayette, David Mayo, Texas State, Davey O’Brien Watch List - Terrance Broadway, UL Lafayette; Dick Butkus Award Watch List - Michael Orakpo, Texas State; Doak Walker Award Watch List - Marcus Cox, Appalachian State, Michael Gordon, Arkansas State, Alonzo Harris, UL Lafayette, Robert Lowe, Texas State; Maxwell Award Watch List - Qushaun Lee, Arkansas State; All-State Sugar Bowl Manning Award Watch List - Terrance Broadway, UL Lafayette.
Sun Belt Bowl Games
The Sun Belt Conference maintains primary bowl tie-ins with the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, the GoDaddy Bowl and the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl. A team from the Sun Belt Conference has played in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl since its inception in 2001. The SBC has won five consecutive R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl games and seven out of the last eight. The GoDaddy bowl matches teams from the Sun Belt Conference and Mid-American Conference. Arkansas State has helped lead the Sun Belt to two consecutive wins in the GoDaddy Bowl. The Camellia Bowl will match-up the Sun Belt Conference against the Mid-American Conference beginning in December. The game will be played yearly at the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Ala.
Come 2015, the Cure Bowl will feature a team from the Sun Belt Conference against the American Athletic Conference. The game will be played yearly at the newly renovated Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla., the weekend before the Christmas holiday. The Cure Bowl is the first of its kind to combine the passions of college football with the goal of supporting breast cancer research.
The Sun Belt Conference will also be part of the rotation for the newly created Bahamas Bowl and Miami Beach Bowl.
With the 2014-15 year marking the debut of the College Football Playoff (CFP) the Sun Belt continues to find itself among the 10 premier college football conferences and the new system is guaranteed universal access based on performance – there are no automatic qualifiers for the playoff system. Additionally, the CFP will mean that a spot among the premier bowl games of college football will be guaranteed to the highest-ranked champion from the “Group of Five” conferences: the Sun Belt Conference, American Athletic Conference, Mountain West Conference, Mid-American Conference and Conference USA.
Sun Belt Bowl Game Winning Percentage
Over the last five years the Sun Belt Conference ranks second out of the 10 FBS conferences in postseason bowl game winning percentage. In fact, the Sun Belt Conference ranks ahead of noted leagues – the ACC, Pac-12 and the Big Ten.
Conference Winning %
Sun Belt 0.571
Mountain West 0.538
Big 12 0.513
Big Ten 0.385
All-Time Sun Belt Standings for Current Members (Sorted by Winning Percentage)
School Wins Losses Percentage Years in Sun Belt
Troy 49 25 0.662 11
New Mexico State 15 11 0.577 6
Arkansas State 47 39 0.547 14
UL Lafayette 50 44 0.532 14
UL Monroe 46 48 0.489 14
Idaho 7 19 0.269 6
Georgia State 0 7 0.000 2
Texas State 2 5 0.286 2
Appalachian State 0 0 0.000 1
Georgia Southern 0 0 0.000 1
Sun Belt Conference Head Football Coaches Teleconference
Every Monday from 10:30 a.m. to 11:47 a.m. beginning August 25 to November 24
All times Central (CT) and subject to change
10:30 a.m. – Announcements – If Necessary
10:30 a.m. – Scott Satterfield, Appalachian State
10:37 a.m. – Willie Fritz, Georgia Southern
10:44 a.m. – Dennis Franchione, Texas State
10:51 a.m. – Larry Blakeney, Troy
10:58 a.m. – Paul Petrino, Idaho
11:05 a.m. – Doug Martin, New Mexico State
11:12 a.m. – Blake Anderson, Arkansas State
11:19 a.m. – Mark Hudspeth, UL Lafayette
11:26 a.m. – Todd Berry, UL Monroe
11:33 a.m. – Trent Miles, Georgia State
11:40 a.m. – Joey Jones, South Alabama
Sun Belt Conference Video Feed
Team News and Notes
Appalachian State Mountaineers
Appalachian State University football begins a new era at the site of the most notable victory in program and, perhaps, college football history when it opens the 2014 campaign against the nation’s all-time winningest program, Michigan. The storylines are two-fold for Appalachian State. Not only are the Mountaineers returning to the site of their historic 34-32 victory over No. 5-ranked Michigan in 2007 but they are also playing their first-ever game as a member of NCAA Division I FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision — formerly Division I-A) and the Sun Belt Conference. In the 2007 season opener (Sept. 1), Appalachian State became the first NCAA Division I FCS (Football Championship Subdivision — formerly Division I-AA) program to ever defeat a nationally ranked FBS opponent. The historic win over Michigan and the Mountaineers’ three-straight NCAA Division I FCS national championships (2005, 2006, 2007) were the primary catalysts for Appalachian State’s jump to FBS. App State accepted an invitation to join the Sun Belt Conference on March 27, 2013 and officially became a member of the league on July 1, 2014. Unlike 2007, when Michigan came into the season expected to contend for a national title and Appalachian State was coming off winning two-straight FCS crowns, both programs enter this season coming off uncharacteristically subpar campaings in 2013.
Ineligible to win a Southern Conference championship or qualify for the FCS playoffs due to beginning the transition to FBS and besieged by injuries and off-field issues, App State lost six of its first seven games in 2013 before rallying to win three of its final five contests en route to a 4-8 campaign. The losing record was Appalachian’s first since 1993 (4-7). Michigan jumped out to 5-0 start in 2013 and was ranked as high as No. 11 in the AP poll. However, the Wolverines lost six of their final eight games, including a 31-14 defeat to Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, and finished 7-6.
Appalachian State returns 20 starters from last year’s squad, including nine on offense, seven on defense and four specialists. Despite the Mountaineers’ experience in the starting lineup, Appalachian State still fields one of the nation’s youngest rosters. App State has 49 freshmen on its roster (33 true, 16 redshirt) and 64 of the squad’s 102 student-athletes are in their first or second year in the program.
Appalachian State is opening its season on the road for the 13th-straight year. The Mountaineers are 47-34-3 (.577) all-time in season openers but just 3-9 in their last 12, which have all been played away from the friendly confines of Kidd Brewer Stadium.
Arkansas State Red Wolves
Arkansas State, the three-time defending Sun Belt Conference champions, reported for fall camp July 31 and is now set to open its 2014 campaign against FCS and Big Sky opponent Montana State on Saturday at Centennial Bank Stadium in an ESPN3-televised game . . . A-State has won 28 games over the last three seasons, which is tied for the 20th most in the nation among FBS schools . . . A-State, picked to finish second in the preseason Sun Belt Conference coaches poll, enters the 2014 season under the direction of Blake Anderson, its fifth head coach over the last five years . . . Arkansas State and Montana State played three times between 1960-84, and the Bobcats captured a victory all three times . . . Arkansas State will play its season opener in Jonesboro for the second consecutive year for the first time since the 1997 and 1998 seasons. The Red Wolves will open their season in Jonesboro for just the fifth time since moving to the FBS in 1992 . . . Arkansas State has won its last nine home openers at Centennial Bank Stadium dating back to the 2005 campaign. The Red Wolves stand 29-11 all-time in home openers at the stadium and are also 15-6 in such games since moving to the FBS in 1992 . . . A-State claimed a 62-11 win over UAPB in last year’s season opener, but has not won back-to-back season openers since the 2008 and 2009 seasons . . . Dating back to the 2002 campaign, the Red Wolves have won their last nine games against FCS foes by a combined 488-71 score . . . The Red Wolves were picked second in the preseason coaches poll announced in conjunction with the league’s annual Media Day. A-State received 102 points behind Louisiana-Lafayette, which received 121 points and all 11 first-place votes . . . Arkansas State placed 10 players on the 2014 Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference Team, which tied Louisiana-Lafayette for the most in the league. Senior linebacker Qushaun Lee was named the conference’s Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, and he was joined on the first team by four other teammates . . . Arkansas State will kick off its 100th season of football . . . A-State is 41-9 at Centennial Bank Stadium since the 2005 season and has won 16 of its last 18 home games . . . Dating back to the 2010 season, Arkansas State has posted at least 300 yards of total offense in 45 of its last 51 games . . . A-State has posted at least 30 points in 25 of its last 35 regular-season games dating back to the 2011 season. The Red Wolves have won 15 of their last 16 games when scoring at least 30 points . . . Arkansas State’s collective offensive line will enter the 2014 season with the nation’s third fewest combined starts in the nation. The Red Wolves return just two offensive lineman with starting experience, including sophomore Colton Jackson with 13 and senior Alan Wright with nine. The 22 combined starts are the fewest behind just Tennessee (six) and Ohio State (20). Following A-State is San Jose State with 23 and Army with 24.
Georgia Southern Eagles
Georgia Southern begins its first year in the Sun Belt Conference and first in FBS in 2014, opening its season with the first of two Atlantic Coast Conference opponents in N.C. State on Saturday, August 30th. Kickoff for the Eagles and Wolfpack, which will see two Shawnee Mission, Kansas, natives in Willie Fritz and Dave Doeren face off against each other as head coaches, is at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time. The game will be broadcast on the ACC Network and available on ESPN3.
Coach Fritz brings 176-67-1 career record to his first season as the Georgia Southern head coach with an 18-3 mark in season openers including a streak of three-straight wins. This is the first-ever meeting between Georgia Southern and N.C. State and only the sixth meeting between the Eagles and a current ACC institution (modern era), the most recent a 2009 loss to North Carolina. For Fritz, it is his first contest against an ACC opponent. Entering his 22nd year as a head coach and first as the leader of an FBS program, Fritz guided his 2011 Sam Houston State team to a 48-45 overtime win over FBS opponent New Mexico in Albuquerque.
Georgia Southern owns a 22-10 mark in season openers and has won five straight. The Eagles have played only seven games in the month of August in its 32-year modern history, posting a 3-4 mark. As the calendar is set, the 2013 and 2014 seasons will be the first with Eagle openers in August in back-to-back years since 1996 and 1997 (wins in both). Coach Fritz is 11-1 in games played in the month of August including a season-opening win in 2013.
Two Eagles, senior tackle Garrett Frye and senior linebacker Edwin Jackson were selected for all-Sun Belt Conference preseason honors (2nd team) this summer. Frye, a starter in his last 25 games, has been an instrumental part of Georgia Southern’s offense as the NCAA Division I team rushing leader in 2012 and 2013. Jackson was Georgia Southern’s leading tackler in 2013 and was credited with double-digit tackles four times during last season. Thirteen of the Eagles’ seniors have played in at least 30 games in their careers headed into the 2014 season.
Offensively, Coach Willie Fritz brings a new perspective to the option in Statesboro with his gameplan for Georgia Southern to include a passing attack to complement the Eagles’ traditionally powerful ground game. Sophomore quarterback Kevin Ellison came out of preseason camp in the top spot at that position with a solid corps of wide receivers ready to implement the new offensive objectives.
Georgia State Panthers
Georgia State hosts the first FBS game of 2014 as Abilene Christian visits the Georgia Dome for a 7 p.m. contest that will be nationally-televised on ESPNU. Both programs have been on the move, with Georgia State completing its transition to the FBS level, while Abilene Christian is a newcomer to Division I after making the climb from Division II to FCS.
Entering its second season under head coach Trent Miles, Georgia State returns 12 starters and 34 letterwinners, led by preseason all-conference linebacker Joseph Peterson. The defense also features young standouts like defensive end Shawayne Lawrence and outside linebacker Mackendy Cheridor, both sophomores. The Panthers’ top returnee on offense is also a sophomore in wide receiver Robert Davis, who was one of the nation’s top freshmen pass-catchers a year ago with 44 receptions for 711 yards. Junior college transfer Nick Arbuckle will make his first start at quarterback. Senior punter Matt Hubbard is an all-star candidate with a career average of 42.3 yards per kick.
For the fifth time in five seasons of football, Georgia State is opening the season on a weeknight at the Georgia Dome, including two Thursday night games and two Friday night contests before this year’s Wednesday night affair. The Panthers are 2-2 in season openers.
Georgia State’s depth chart features 11 new starters, including eight players on offense who are projected to make their first start. Nick Arbuckle will be the Panthers’ fifth different opening-day starting quarterback in five seasons. The situation is reversed on defense, where eight of the 11 projected starters have previously started at least one game. The three first-time starters are all in the secondary in cornerbacks Bruce Dukes and Marcus Caffey and safety Nate Simon.
Placekicker Wil Lutz and punter Matt Hubbard are returning starters, but long-snapper Daniel Zeigler is a first-time starter.
Georgia State’s top returnee on defense is junior linebacker Joseph Peterson, aka Joe Pete. The 6-0, 225-pounder has led the Panthers in tackles the last two seasons, collecting a total of 168 career hits to rank second in GSU history. In 2013 he was third in the Sun Belt Conference with 9.4 tackles per game. After earning honorable mention All-Sun Belt honors last fall, Peterson enters 2014 as a preseason all-conference pick.
Sophomore wide receiver Robert Davis enters his second season as Georgia State’s top offensive weapon after a strong freshman campaign. He was a preseason All-Sun Belt Conference pick by Athlon (third team). The 6-3, 198-pounder was the Panthers’ second-leading receiver in 2013 with 44 catches for 711 yards and four touchdowns. He finished the season with a career-high 110 yards receiving on four catches vs. South Alabama, highlighted by an an 80-yard touchdown catch. Only four freshmen in the nation averaged more receiving yards per game than Davis in 2013, and only eight rookies had more catches. Not bad for a player who was very lightly recruited after playing in a run-oriented offense at Northside-Warner Robins High School, where he caught only 11 passes as a senior.
Idaho first played in the Sun Belt Conference during the league’s inaugural season in 2001. The Vandals remained a member of the league through the 2004 season before heading to the Western Athletic Conference (2005-12). They were an FBS independent last season.
This is the Vandals’ first trip to the Swamp to take on the Gators. It isn’t their first venture to the Sunshine State. They played at Florida State in 2013 and at Central Florida in 1997.
Center Mike Marboe, who is on the Rimington Award Watch List for the third successive season, has 36 consecutive starts at center, which ranks fourth among the nation’s active offensive linemen.
Marboe, along with sophomore punter Austin Rehkow, were chosen first-team preseason all-Sun Belt Conference in a vote of the league’s coaches. Also honored on the team as a second team selection is senior defensive end Maxx Forde. Marboe and defensive tackle Quayshawne Buckley were first-team all-Sun Belt choices by Athlon Sports, while Forde and Rehkow were second team selections. On Phil Steele’s preseason Sun Belt team, Marboe and Rehkow were first-team choices.
Austin Rehkow not only led the nation in punting last season – and secured the position on the Walter Camp Team, he set the NCAA punting record for a freshman and broke the NCAA’s record for a punter with 75 or more kicks. His 47.8 yards per kick is an Idaho record and he was the Special Teams Player of the Year by the FBS Independents. In 2013, he was one of just two players to handle his team’s punting and kicking chores. As the Vandals head to Florida, he is one of just five comprehensive kickers nationwide. The others are Auburn freshman Daniel Carlson, UL Monroe sophomore Justin Manton, North Carolina State senior Niklas Sade, and Oregon sophomore Matt Wogan.
There are nine sons on the rosters whose fathers played at Idaho. Eight of the nine dads were football players with the lone exception former basketball standout Deon Watson. Two dads – Scott Linehan (Dallas) and Tom Cable (Seattle), coach in the NFL.
The Vandals have players from 17 states and four foreign nations. Idaho is tops in the nation in the number of foreign countries represented. Marius Burgsmueller is from Germany, Mason Woods is from Canada, Roberto Asencio is from the Dominican Republic and Kato Fawkes is from the Bahamas.
UL Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns
The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns will open their 113th season of intercollegiate football tonight when it plays host to in-state opponent Southern University at Cajun Field.
Kickoff is scheduled for 6:04 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN3 with Matt Stewart (pxp) and Cole Cubelic (color) providing the commentary. The game can be heard statewide on the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Radio Network with Jay Walker (pxp), Gerald Broussard (color) and Steve Peloquin (sideline) providing commentary.
The Cajuns (9-4 in 2013), who captured its first Sun Belt Conference regular-season title since 2005, are coming off a third-consecutive nine-win season that was culminated by a 24-21 victory over Tulane in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. The win marked the Ragin’ Cajuns third straight bowl victory in New Orleans after ending a 41-year postseason drought in 2011.
Under fourth-year head coach Mark Hudspeth, UL Lafayette returns 61 letterwinners and 17 starters. Eight starters return on offense for the Ragin’ Cajuns, highlighted by senior quarterback Terrance Broadway, who is named to both the Davey O’Brien Watch List and the Manning Award Watch List.
Four starters on the offensive line - LT Mykhael Quave, LG Terry Johnson, RG Daniel Quave, RT Octravian Anderson - return for the Ragin’ Cajuns after each started in all 13 games last season. Johnson will move to center in 2014 as he replaces three-year starter Andre Huval.
Running back Alonzo Harris and receivers Jamal Robinson and James Butler are the returning starters at the skill positions for UL Lafayette, along with running back Elijah McGuire - the 2013 Sun Belt Freshman of the Year and a Freshman All-America selection.
Seven starters return on defense for UL Lafayette, paced by preseason first-team All-Sun Belt conference selections Justin Hamilton (DT), Dominique Tovell (LB) and Trevence Patt (DB). Christian Ringo (DT), Corey Tim (CB), Sean Thomas (FS) and T.J. Worthy (SS) on a Ragin’ Cajuns defensive unit that was third in the Sun Belt Conference in total defense in 2013.
UL Monroe Warhawks
ULM and Wake Forest will meet on the gridiron for the second consecutive season as the two programs complete a home-and-home series on Thursday, Aug. 28 at 6 p.m... ULM traveled to Winston-Salem, N.C. last season and came away with a 21-19 win at Wake Forest on Sept. 14, 2013. The win over the Demon Deacons was the first ACC win for ULM... The Warhawks are now 1-2 all-time against ACC competition (L, at No. 25 Clemson, 2007; L, at No. 5 Florida State, 2011)... The Warhawks are 2-2 all-time against Louisville, but those meetings were prior to the Cardinals joining the ACC.
ULM will open the season at home for the first time since the 2007 season as they welcome Wake Forest to JPS Field at Malone Stadium for the Thursday night showdown... The last time ULM opened the season at home, they welcomed Tulsa to Monroe for a nAug. 30, 2007 showdown on ESPN2. Dating back to the 2008 season, the Warhawks have won their first home game of the season five out of six times... The only loss during the recent span was a 47-42 shootout against Baylor on Sept. 21, 2012.
ULM begins the season with three of its first four games at home as the Warhawks host Wake Forest in the opener followed by Sun Belt Conference games against Idaho (Sept. 6) and Troy (Sept. 27)... The only road game for the Warhawks before the month of October is a non-conference tilt at LSU on Sept. 13... Prior to 2014, the Warhawks have had just two seasons since moving up to the FBS ranks in 1994 when three of their first four were at home (1996 and 2001).
The Warhawks have won 14 games over the last two seasons and that is the most in any two-year span during the FBS-era (1994-pres.)... ULM won eight games in 2012 and made its first bowl game (AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl)... In 2013, the Warhawks tallied six wins and reached bowl eligibility for the second straight season... It also marked the first time during FBS-era that the Warhawks were bowl eligible in back-to-back seasons.
The ULM defense recorded three interceptions in last season’s finale at UL-Lafayette... By forcing a turnover, the Warhawks have now recorded a turnover in 26 consecutive games... The mark of 26 consecutive games ranks third in the nation (Missouri leads the way with 44 consecutive games with a turnover, followed by Arizona State with 29).
ULM’s roster features 33 players from the state of Texas... Among FBS programs outside of the Lone Star state, the Warhawks rank third nationally... Oklahoma State leads all non-Texas programs with 69, while Oklahoma ranks second with 42.
New Mexico State Aggies
New Mexico State’s opener is set for Aug. 28, at Aggie Memorial Stadium against Cal Poly.
The game is being marketed as Ag Day, with over 40 New Mexico agriculture companies on display during tailgating.
New Mexico State will mark its second tour in the Sun Belt this season - having previously played in the league from 2001 through 2004.
Aggie freshman running back Larry Rose III was named to the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award Watch List Aug. 20, one of 43 players and one of only two freshman named to the list. The Earl Campbell Tyler Rose award recognizes the top offensive player in D-I football who also exhibits the enduring characteristics that define Earl Campbell: integrity, performance, teamwork, sportsmanship, drive, community and tenacity.
Head coach Doug Martin and his staff continue to push their team towards success and continue to teach their student-athletes different packages and looks. Coach Martin also mentioned that sophomore quarterback Tyler Rodgers is currently the starter for the season opener, however, there is a battle going on for the back-up position between Andrew Allen and Nick Jeanty.
The Aggies open the season against Cal-Poly University on Thursday, Aug. 28 at 6 p.m. (MT) and have faced the Mustangs on three occasions prior to this upcoming meeting. Last season Cal Poly finished their season with an overall record of 6-6 and a 5-3 record in conference play. The Mustangs rely very heavily upon their run attack as they ran the ball 680 times for 3,710 yards, compared to only 232 passing attempts for 1,614 yards in 2013. The game will be aired on AggieVision and ESPN3.com, as well as Aggie Access.
South Alabama Jaguars
For the first time since making the transition to the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision, the Jaguars will not play on the opening weekend of the season; USA does not take the field until visiting Kent State in the last of a three-game contract on Sept. 6. … No Jag has received more preseason honors than senior tight end Wes Saxton, who is on three different watch lists entering the 2014 campaign. In addition to being on the Reese’s Senior Bowl Watch List as a potential participant in the postseason all-star contest, Saxton is on the watch lists for the John Mackey and Biletnikoff Awards. … QB Brandon Bridge was also named to the Reese’s Senior Bowl Watch List, as he is slated to start for the Jaguars in his final season on the collegiate level. … The only other Jags on preseason watch lists also play on the offensive side of the ball — Shavarez Smith joined Saxton on the Biletnikoff Award Watch List while OL Ucambre Williams was named to the Rotary Lombardi Award Watch List. … The Jag defense returns four of its top five tacklers from last year, with Qudarius Ford’s 76 the most among players coming back. He, Montell Garner, Maleki Harris and Antonio Carter combined to account for 23 of the unit’s 46 passes broken up as well as six of the 11 interceptions posted by the Jaguars in 2013. … USA brings back Aleem Sunanon to handle placekicking duties — the sophomore ended last season making each of his last 12 field-goal attempts — but will opening the campaign with a new punter as Scott Garber graduated after holding down the position for five years. … While USA does not open at home until Mississippi State visits Ladd-Pebbles Stadium on Sept. 13, tickets on both sidelines have already sold out; all the remains are general admission end zone seats. The largest attendance figure the Jaguars have recorded in their first five seasons of competition remains the program’s debut, when 26,783 were on hand to watch USA defeat Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy, 30-13, on Sept. 5, 2009.
Texas State Bobcats
The Texas State football team opens its 2014 season on Aug. 30 when the Bobcats play host to Araknsas-Pine Bluff in a non-conference game that kicks off at 6:00 p.m. on Jim Wacker Field at Bobcat Stadium.
Texas State begins its second season as a member of the Sun Belt Conference and is playing an NCAA Division I FBS schedule for the third straight year. This marks the first time that the Bobcats will open a season with a home game since 2009 when Texas State defeated Angelo State, 48-28. The Bobcats opened the last four seasons at Houston in 2010, at Texas Tech in 2011, at Houston in 2012 and at Southern Miss in 2013.
The Bobcats come into the game with a two-game winning streak in season openers, beating Houston 30-13 in 2012, and Southern Miss, 22-15 last season
This marks the 107th season for Texas State football. The Bobcats played their first game in 1904, but did not play any games from 1943-45 due to World War II.
The Bobcats enter the Arkansas-Pine Bluff game with a record of 58-39-2 in season-opening games after winning their last two season-openers at Houston (30-13 in 2012) and Southern Miss (22-15 in 2013). The two victories gives Texas State eight wins in their last 10 season-opening games. The school’s longest winning streak in season openers is seven games in 1962-68 and 1978-84.
This season marks the first time in five years that the Bobcats will open their season with a home game since 2009.
Texas State enters the Arkansas-Pine Bluff game looking to win its 18th home opener in the last 19 years after defeating Prairie View A&M 28-3 last season. The Bobcats had won 17 straight home openers dating back to 1996 before dropping the first home game in 2012 against Texas Tech. Texas State has an all-time record of 44-21-1 in home openers dating back to 1948.
Texas State is 11-7 in home games during the last three seasons at Bobcat Stadium.
Troy head coach Larry Blakeney has 175 career victories in his 23 seasons at Troy; the other 10 head coaches in the Sun Belt have COMBINED for 88 victories at their current school … The Trojans are 98-19-1 at home under head coach Larry Blakeney … The last three times Troy broke in a new starting quarterback the Trojans went 8-5 and won the Sun Belt Conference championship … Troy is one of just 11 teams in the country to have averaged over 400 yards of offense in six of the past seven seasons … Troy has played in more bowl games than any other Sun Belt Conference school … Troy is 72-7 under Larry Blakeney when scoring at least 35 points … Troy has the highest all-time winning percentage in Sun Belt games in league history; 49-25, .662. New Mexico State is second with a .577 winning percentage … Larry Blakeney is one of just two active coaches in the NCAA to coach on the field that is currently named for him; Kansas State’s Bill Snyder is the other … Forty-five percent (23-of-51) of Troy’s touchdown drives last season were less than two minutes … Bryan Holmes returned five punts last season - three went for returns of 42, 32 and 28 yards ... if he had enough returns to qualify, Holmes would have ranked second nationally with his 20.6 per return average … The entire Troy football team took part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge thanks in part to the City of Troy Fire Department and their 75-foot ladder truck … Head coach Larry Blakeney is one victory shy of tying legendary Auburn head coach Shug Jordan for the third-most wins by a coach in the history of the state … Troy has led the Sun Belt in scoring offense in four of the past seven seasons; Troy has led the SBC in passing offense five straight years … Troy’s quarterbacks have four games of combined experience heading into the season (all by Dallas Tidwell). Only NM State & UAB have fewer (zero) … Six Trojans have already earned their degree heading into the fall semester. Additionally, eight current players are on track to graduate in December … Troy had 14 passes of 50+ yards last season by the Trojans, the second most in the NCAA. Troy had 19 passing plays of 40+ yards, also second best in the NCAA … Jordan Chunn’s 14 rushing touchdowns were the most in the country by a freshman and set a Troy freshman record … Troy has 16 former players on active NFL rosters, which is the most in the Sun Belt … The Trojans are 54-37-1 against the current members of Conference USA.
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