2013 Pre-Preseason Sun Belt Rankings
ULM QB Kolton Browning
ULM QB Kolton Browning
Posted Jan 29, 2013

The too early look at how good the Sun Belt teams should be in 2013.

CFN 2013 First Look Rankings

Sun Belt

2012 CFN Final Season Rankings
The Top 10 | Rankings 11-29 | Rankings 30-48 | Rankings 49-67
- Rankings 68-86Rankings 87-105The Bottom 19

FINAL 2012 Rankings By Conference
- ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Big 12 | C-USA | Ind
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- Based On Opinion ... CFN 2012 FINAL Rankings, Top  25
- CFN 2012 Pre-Preseason SEC East Rankings

It might seem way too early, but considering the returning starters and the teams coming back, where does everyone stand before Signing Day and spring ball? Here's CFN's first look at all the teams for 2013 based on how good they appear to be at the moment. 
1. UL Lafayette (9-4)

Head coach Mark Hudspeth has done a terrific job with the Ragin' Cajuns over the last few seasons, finishing up last year with four straight wins and a bowl victory over East Carolina. This year he has the team in place to win the Sun Belt title thanks to a loaded offense that led the league in scoring last season. The O line that did suck a great job in pass protection loses tackles Leonardo Bates and Jaron Odom, but the interior is back to blast away for Alonzo Harris and Effrem Reed. Quarterback Terrance Broadway has the offense to himself now, but he loses top target Javone Lawson along with Harry Peoples. The defense that was so terrific at getting into the backfield loses end Cordian Hagans, but tackle Christian Ringo is one of the league's top interior pass rushers. Three starters are gone in the secondary with only strong safety Trevence Patt coming back. Losing kicker Brett Baer is one of the biggest Sun Belt holes to fill.

2. UL Monroe (8-5)

After a fun and interesting season that ended with a thud, the Warhawks have no excuse to not build on the 8-5 breakthrough season and do more. Eight starters are back to a big-time offense including quarterback Kolton Browning, who set the world on fire over the first few weeks of the season. Running back Monterrell Washington is also back to run behind a good-looking line with four starters returning, only losing guard Jonathan Gill. Top target Brent Leonard is a big loss, but Tavarese Maye and Je'Ron Hamm should be able to pick up the slack. The defense loses linebackers DaCorris Ford and R.J. Young, but that's it. The entire secondary returns, but needs to be far better, and interior pass rusher Gerrand Johnson is back up front to anchor a nice front three that started all underclassmen last season.

3. Arkansas State (10-3)

New head coach Bryan Harsin has a tough act to follow with Hugh Freeze and Gus Malzahn doing fantastic things with ASU over the last few years. He doesn't have the same team returning needing to replace all-star quarterback Ryan Aplin with either Phillip Butterfield or Fredi Knighten, and losing receivers Josh Jarboe and Taylor Stockemer is a problem, but the combination of David Oku and Frankie Jackson will keep the ground game moving. The line that was the key to the all the fun should be the best in the Sun Belt with four starters returning. The league's best scoring defense gets six starters back but needs more of a pass rush. Leading tackler Nathan Herold is done, but linebacker Qushaun Lee should have a big year. Tackle Ryan Carrethers and end Eddie Porter will anchor the front four, while three starters are back in the secondary. The nation's worst punting game has to find a replacement for Neely Sullivent.

4. Western Kentucky (7-6)

In an almost impossible turn of events, Western Kentucky lost head coach Willie Taggart to South Florida and actually upgraded its coaching situation w ith Bobby Petrino coming in. It might be a one-and-done for Petrino, but he has good team returning as long as the quarterback situation is figured out. Kawaun Jakes is gone, tight end Jack Doyle will be missed, and the right side of the line has to be replaced after losing guard Adam Smith and tackle Seth White, but all-around yardage machine Antonio Andrews is back at running back and Willie McNeal should do more as the No. 1 wide receiver. The pass rush takes a massive hit with the loss of Quanterus Smith, but Andrew Jackson is an All-America caliber defender who'll combine with Xavius Boyd to give the Hilltoppers one of the Sun Belt's best linebacking corps. All four starters are back to a solid defense led by ball-hawking free safety Jonathan Dowling.

5. Troy (5-7)

Can Troy rebuild and get back to a bowl level in the same season? The new world of the Sun Belt should make it more interesting, losing several key teams to other leagues, but the Trojans have to replace seven starters from the league's top offense. Fortunately, quarterback Corey Robinson is back to crank up the numbers for the nation's eighth-best passing attack. But leading rusher Shawn Southward is gone along with leading receiver Chip Reeves. Even so, Eric Thomas and Bryan Holmes are back to give Robinson targets to work with. The biggest problem is the line that loses four starters. The defense that can't seem to find much that works has to get more of a woeful pass rush. End Tyler Roberts has to become a factor, while linebacker Mark Wilson has to be one of the team's leading tacklers to make up for the losses of Brannon Bryan and Kanorris Davis. Safety Brynden Trawick will be missed from a rocky secondary.

6.Texas State (4-8)

After getting its feet wet in the WAC, Texas State is now ready to do more in the Sun Belt with 16 starters returning including eight on an offense that should be strong for the ground game. Four starters are back up front, only losing tackle Adley Eshraghipour, and quarterback Shaun Rutherford and running back Marcus Curry have to be replaced. Everyone else is back including all the top receivers including top target Andy Erickson and interior receiver Isaiah Battle. The Bobcats struggled too much against the run, but four senior starters man the front line. Middle linebacker Joplu Bartu is gone after leading the team in both tackles and sacks, and corner Darryl Morris and safety Jason McLean are also done. Xavier Daniels should be among the Sun Belt's best safeties.

7. South Alabama (2-11)

The Jaguars had a rough first season at the big level, only coming up with wins over Nicholls State and Florida Atlantic, but there's hope with 18 starters returning. The running game needs leading rusher Demetre Baker back, but the backfield is full of veterans with Kendall Houston and T.J. Glover back. Quarterback Ross Metheny had a decent season, but he has to cut down on his interceptions with all the top receivers returning. The line returns three starters, but they were underclassmen and they're decent ones to build around. The defense had a few nice moments overall and should get more production into the backfield with the return of end Alex Page. Linebacker Jake Johnson is gone, but Enrique Williams is a good tackler and should be one of the Sun Belt's top hitters. The secondary will be a strength despite the loss of free safety B.J. Scott.

8. Georgia State (1-10)

After going 1-10 with the only win coming against Rhode Island, new head coach Trent Miles has to hope that the building job done over the last few years will finally start to pay off with the move up to the Sun Belt. Ten starters return to an offense that couldn't run the ball, but Travis Evans, who took over late in the year when leading rusher Donald Russell was out, is back to run behind a line that gets all five starters back. Quarterback Ben McLane threw way too many interceptions as a freshman, but he has a year of experience and has a nice receiver to go to in Albert Wilson. Leading tackler Joseph Peterson is back after a strong freshman season at inside linebacker, but the defense needs to find some semblance of a pass rush with the entire two deep returning up front. All the corners are back to provide a nice rotation for a senior-laden group.