2008 Sun Belt Lookbacks & Recaps
| Florida Atlantic
| Florida International
| Middle Tennessee
| UL Lafayette
| UL Monroe
2008 CFN All-Sun
2008 CFN Preseason All-SEC Team
2007 Sun Belt Lookback/Recaps |
2008 Sun Belt Lookaheads
2009 Sun Belt Lookheads
CFN Preseason Prediction: 5-7 Final Record: 6-6
changed its nickname to the Red Wolves, but the offense stayed potent
highlighted by a 83-10 win over Texas Southern following a
season-opening win over Texas A&M. However, the consistency wasn’t there
with four losses in a five game stretch with losses to UL Lafayette and
FIU killing Sun Belt title hopes. There was a rebound with wins over
Florida Atlantic and North Texas, but a regular-season ending loss to
Troy ended the bowl dream.
Offensive Player of the Year: QB Corey Leonard
Defensive Player of the Year: DE Alex Carrington
Biggest Surprise: Alex Carrington. He was a nice player in 2007
with a sack and five tackles for loss on his way to honorable mention
all-star honors, and then he became a killer. With size, quickness, and
a boatload of production, Carrington became the Sun Belt Defensive
Player of the Year with 10.5 sacks, 53 tackles, and 19 tackles for loss.
One more big season will mean a nice payday from the NFL in 2010.
Biggest Disappointment: The 22-21 loss to FIU. Coming off a 35-0
loss at Alabama, the Red Wolvers were looking to jump back into Sun Belt
play with a big win to get into the Sun Belt title race. The secondary
couldn’t stop the Golden Panther passing game, the ASU ground attack was
kept in relative check, running for 222 yards, and a ten-point FIU run
in the final 11:28 was enough for the killer loss.
Looking Ahead: Is this the preseason No. 1 team in the Sun Belt?
With the return of the devastating offensive backfield, and helped on
defense by end Alex Carrington leading the front, ASU should have a team
good enough to win the title. At the very least, it’ll be good enough to
finish with a winning season and be off to a bowl game.
Prediction: 7-5 Final Record: 7-6
was a tale of two seasons as the Owls started out 1-5, with the only win
coming against UAB and the losing run ending with Sun Belt title-dream
crushing losses to Troy and Middle Tennessee. And then the wins started
to come with the light portion of the schedule kicking in. Just when it
seemed like FAU was going to be in the championship hunt, it lost 28-14
to Arkansas State to end the fun. A wild overtime win over FIU gave the
Owls the sixth win needed to be bowl eligible, and they took advantage
with a 24-21 win over Central Michigan in the Motor City Bowl.
Offensive Player of the Year: QB Rusty Smith
Defensive Player of the Year: DT Jervonte Jackson
Biggest Surprise: The Motor City Bowl win over Central Michigan.
Yeah, FAU had won six games, but it’s not like it beat anyone of note.
The best victory of the year came against UL Lafayette, and there
weren’t any wins over anyone that finished with a winning record. CMU
was playing the equivalent of a home game, but it didn’t matter as Rusty
Smith threw for 306 yards and two touchdowns in the win.
Biggest Disappointment: The losses to Middle Tennessee and Troy.
FAU’s Sun Belt season was essentially over before it could really get
going. While the team bounced back and got to a bowl game, the 2007 Sun
Belt champions were expected to do far more. The defense struggled up
front, while the offense wasn’t consistent enough.
Looking Ahead: Howard Schnellenberger’s program keeps on
improving and it keeps on generating a buzz. With a new stadium coming
in 2010, there’s something to be excited about down the road. For now,
the team should be good enough to be one of the favorites to win the
2009 Sun Belt title as long as the defense can be a bit better and if
the offense can be more explosive.
Prediction: 2-10 Final Record: 5-7
seemed like it was going to be yet another disastrous season for the
suddenly woebegone FIU team. The offense scored 19 points in the first
three games, the defense struggled against BCSers Kansas and Iowa,
before showing up against South Florida in a 17-9 loss. No one was
shocked. And then came the 35-16 win oat Toledo, and the season took a
dramatic turn. While the final result was a losing record, the program
showed it could be competitive with an overtime loss to Florida Atlantic
and a 31-27 loss to UL Monroe before beating Western Kentucky to close
Offensive Player of the Year: QB Paul McCall
Defensive Player of the Year: CB Anthony Gaitor
Biggest Surprise: Paul McCall. The coaching staff appeared ready
to sink-or-swim for second straight season with Wayne Younger at
quarterback, even though he led the way to one of the worst offensive
seasons in college football history. But McCall was in the mix early on,
and then took over full-time with a four-touchdown-pass performance
against North Texas and the team was never the same.
Biggest Disappointment: The close November losses to ULM and
Florida Atlantic. The Golden Panthers had their chances to come up with
a big win late in the year, but lost a wild game against the emerging
arch-rival Owls with each team scoring 28 points in the fourth quarter.
The late rally fell short against ULM, and FIU missed out on a chance at
a .500 season.
Looking Ahead: Now the excitement is there for a FIU program that
appears to be quickly emerging as a Sun Belt power. There’s still work
to be done on an offense that was a bit too inconsistent and did nothing
on the ground, but considering where the team was in the 2008
off-season, things are night-and-day better.
Prediction: 5-7 Final Record: 5-7
Blue Raiders started out behind the eight-ball with a 31-17 loss to Troy
to open up the Sun Belt, as well as the 2008 season, and despite
stunning wins over Maryland and Florida Atlantic, the first half of the
year was a major disappointment. It took a late big play for Kentucky to
pull off a 20-14 win, and there were close losses to FIU and Mississippi
State, but those weren’t exactly moral victories on the way to a 2-6
start. And then the schedule eased up a bit in time for a three-game
winning streak, but the season ended in a 42-28 loss to UL Lafayette.
Offensive Player of the Year: QB Joe Craddock
Defensive Player of the Year: DT Trevor Jenkins
Biggest Surprise: The 24-14 win over Maryland. The Blue Raiders
might have gotten a flat Terp team on September 6th, but that
still doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good win. Joe Craddock came up with 256
passing yards and two touchdowns, while the defense was able to pick off
three Chris Turner passes. It was supposed to be the kickstart to the
season, and it almost was as the Blue Raiders came close to upsetting
Kentucky the following week. And then came the 31-14 loss to Arkansas
Biggest Disappointment: The running game. The offensive line
wasn’t bad and running backs Phillip Tanner and Desmond Gee were among
the fastest in the league. It didn’t matter as the running game
struggled to generate any consistent production all season long,
averaging just 107 yards per game. Just a little more balance would’ve
likely meant two more wins and a bowl game.
Looking Ahead: The program can’t seem to get over the hump and
win the Sun Belt title, and there might not be enough overall talent to
win the championship in 2009, but there’s plenty of experience
returning. There are good athletes in QB Dwight Dasher, RBs Phillip
Tanner and Desmond Gee, and top receivers Patrick Honeycutt and Eldred
King to work around.
Prediction: 3-9 Final Record: 1-11
second year of the Todd Dodge era didn’t exactly bring results with just
one win, coming against Western Kentucky, and big, blowout losses
against just about everyone else. The Mean Green lost by double digits
to everyone by WKU until the 33-28 season finale against Arkansas State.
The supposedly high-powered passing game was inefficient, and the
defense was the worst in America.
Offensive Player of the Year: WR Casey Fitzgerald
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Tobe Nwigwe
Biggest Surprise: That the passing game didn’t improve. There
were glimpses of greatness in 2007, and with QB Giovanni Vizza and WR
Casey Fitzgerald returning with a year of experience in the system, big
things were expected. Instead, UNT only threw for 300 yards in three
games and tossed just 15 touchdown passes on the year.
Biggest Disappointment: The inability to be even remotely
competitive against even the most mediocre of teams. Getting blown out
by LSU, Troy, and even Tulsa wasn’t a shock, but UNT got blasted by
Middle Tennessee, FIU, and was torched by Rice 77-20. The defense was
dead last in America in both points and yards allowed.
Looking Ahead: Dodge needs to show signs of improvement in year
three, or there will not be a year four. The Mean Green recruiting
classes have been solid so far, but the defense has to do something
right and the offense has to start living up to the high billing. Dodge
is a great offensive mind, and now his talents have to translate to
production on the field.
Prediction: 6-6 Final Record: 8-5
Trojans won the Sun Belt title by coming through when they had to. A
31-30 loss to UL Monroe was the lone hiccup in the conference season
with double digit wins over everyone else, including back-to-back key
victories over UL Lafayette and Arkansas State by a combined score of
83-12 to secure the title. The non-conference slate didn’t go as well,
but there were some interesting battles. The Trojans pushed Ohio State
in a 28-10 loss, and had LSU dead-to-rights, only to give up 30 points
in the fourth quarter in a 40-31 loss. As successful as the season was,
it ended on a down note losing in overtime to Southern Miss in the New
Offensive Player of the Year: WR Jerrel Jernigan
Defensive Player of the Year: LBs Boris Lee and Bear Woods
Biggest Surprise: Levi Brown. The one big question mark going
into the season was the quarterback situation after the graduation of
Omar Haugabook. Early on, Jamie Hampton was more than fine as a
replacement, but he got hurt. Tanner Jones gave it a try, but he quickly
gave way to Brown, a JUCO transfer who was able to step in and shine
from moment one. He became a clutch, effective playmaker as he led the
team to the Sun Belt title.
Biggest Disappointment: The fourth quarter against LSU. Troy was
terrific for three quarters against the defending national champion,
shutting down the Tiger offense and taking advantage of every
opportunity on the way to a 31-3 lead. And then the avalanche began, and
the Trojans couldn’t stop the 37 point run in the final 16 minutes. This
would’ve been the type of splashy win the Sun Belt, and Troy, would’ve
lived off of for years.
Looking Ahead: The program is at a point where it can fill in the
gaps and continue to win. If this isn’t the preseason favorite to win
the Sun Belt, it’ll be No. 2 mainly because the defense will be great …
again. Levi Brown should continue the production on offense as Troy is
expected to come up with another winning season, another bowl game, and
possibly, another Sun Belt championship.
Prediction: 4-8 Final Record: 6-6
Everything was set up for a big season with a four-game midseason
winning streak helping a 5-3 start, with two of the losses coming in
close shaves against Illinois and Kansas State, and then the Sun Belt
big boys came up. Following a loss to UTEP, the Ragin’ Cajuns lost to
Florida Atlantic and Troy, the first Sun Belt losses of the year, and
missed out on a shot at the conference title and was edged out of a bowl
bid. Even so, the win over Middle Tennessee to close out the year
allowed ULL to finish 6-6.
Offensive Player of the Year: RB Tyrell Fenroy
Defensive Player of the Year: SS Derik Keyes
Biggest Surprise: The 5-0 Sun Belt start. The team was supposed
to be good, but despite a woeful season from a defense that couldn’t
stop anyone’s running game, ULL managed to be a major player in the Sun
Belt title hunt helped by strong wins over Arkansas State and FIU. QB
Michael Desormaux, RB Tyrell Fenroy, and the ULL offense picked up the
Biggest Disappointment: The inability to come up with a key
defensive stop against FAU and Troy. The ULL defense got picked apart
all season long mostly because the defensive front struggled so much to
get into the backfield and got pushed all over the place by everyone’s
running game. But being unable to keep the league’s two top teams in
check turned out to ruin the season.
Looking Ahead: ULL will have to find a way to replace Desormeaux
and Fenroy, but the rest of the key offensive players return. The
defense that had so many issues will have some patching to do, and it
might have to carry the offense early on, instead of the other way
around, which was the case throughout last year.
Prediction: 5-7 Final Record: 4-8
came into the season as one of the Sun Belt’s sleepers for the title. A
1-5 start set the tone, and despite beating eventual champion, Troy,
31-30, the Warhawks lost too many games in the clutch to Sun Belt teams,
with a one-point loss to Florida Atlantic and a 24-21 loss to Middle
Tennessee. There was a good fight with Arkansas early in the year, but
ULM wasn’t even close against Auburn and Ole Miss, losing to the two
SECers by a combined score of 93-0. Even with all the problems coming up
with victories, the team pulled out a tough win to close out the year
Offensive Player of the Year: QB Kinsmon Lancaster
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Cardia Jackson
Biggest Surprise: The 31-30 win over Troy. ULM managed to beat
Alabama A&M, North Texas, and no one else on the way to a lousy 2-6
start. There was no way the Warhawks were supposed to be able to stay
with the mighty Trojans, but they were able to come up with a balanced
attack, a key fill-in 5-for-5 performance from backup QB Trey Revell,
and the game became the highlight of the season.
Biggest Disappointment: The line play. The ULM lines, on both
sides, struggled all season long having major problems in pass
protection while doing next to nothing to get into the backfield and
even less against the run. There weren’t any sackers the team could
count on. Even so, the running game wasn’t bad with the big offensive
front being able to push people around from time to time. There just
wasn’t enough overall production.
Looking Ahead: ULM is always the program that seems like it’s
just on the cusp of big things, but they haven’t been coming. Loaded
with veterans on both sides of the ball, once again, there will be some
who believe the Warhawks will be in the hunt for the Sun Belt title all
year long. Are they finally ready to make the step up? If they get
steady quarterback play, maybe.
Prediction: Not Available Final Record: 2-10
had a rough transitional season as it prepared for life in the FBS and
as a full-time Sun Belt program. The only two wins came against Eastern
Kentucky and Murray State before going on an eight game losing streak to
close out the year. The Hilltoppers suffered the indignity of losing to
North Texas and ended up going 0-5 against Sun Belt teams. There were
times when the defense was able to keep games close, but the offense,
hurt by the injury issues with QB K.J. Black, struggled,
Offensive Player of the Year: WR Jake Gaebler
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Blake Boyd
Biggest Surprise: Travis Watters. A little used reserve over his
first two seasons, Watters came on to lead the team in tackles from his
free safety spot. While he ended up serving as a backup behind Mark
Santoro, he still proved to be one of the team’s better open-field
playmakers and a last line of defense as he made stops all over the
Biggest Disappointment: The team’s inability to beat anyone with
a pulse. This was supposed to be the year when WKU made a big statement
before joining the Sun Belt, but instead it struggled against everyone
from Troy to Middle Tennessee to North Texas. The defense was fine,
allowing more than 27 points just four times on the year, but the
offense just never showed up.
Looking Ahead: The excitement is there after the big jump to the
big leagues, and now the production has to follow with a young team that
should quickly be among the Sun Belt’s most talented. The recruiting
classes have been good, while all the growing pains of last year should
pay off with a veteran team ready to make some noise in Sun Belt play.