Sun Belt Odds, Picks, Predictions: 3 Win Totals to Bet, Including Marshall & Arkansas State
Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Rasheen Ali.
The Sun Belt Conference has been a three-horse race over the last two seasons.
Coastal Carolina, Appalachian State and Louisiana have dominated the competition, boasting a combined 64-12 record since 2020. The rest of the conference has won just 37% of its 152 games in that span.
But the Sun Belt has been rejuvenated with some new contenders who look to make some noise in the 2022 season. Old Dominion, Marshall and Southern Mississippi all left Conference USA to join the Sun Belt this season. James Madison hopes to translate its winning ways from FCS in its inaugural season in FBS.
The new-look “Fun Belt” is poised to be one of the more competitive conferences in the country. Over half a dozen teams are live in the fight for the conference title. which helps present value on the regular season win totals.
Arkansas State Under 5 Wins (-115 · Caesars)
Butch Jones had a brutal start to his tenure with Arkansas State, winning just two games — the program’s worst mark since 2001. Those victories came against Central Arkansas and a two-point victory over the doormat of UL-Monroe.
The defense couldn’t stop a nosebleed, allowing just shy of 40 points per game and a horrid 7.2 yards per play. The struggles started with the inability to stop the run. Opponents put up 260 rushing yards per contest and 6.4 yards per carry.
Things weren’t much better through the air, as opponents averaged 8.4 yards per pass attempt. The future of this defense looks bleak as the program now deals with massive turnover at all three levels.
The offense finds itself in full rebuild mode this season as well. The offensive line returns only one starter from a group that managed 2.8 yards per carry and allowed 48 sacks.
Quarterback Layne Hatcher transferred to conference foe Texas State, which leaves former Florida State quarterback James Blackman to lead the offense.
The Red Wolves have three inevitable losses against Ohio State, Memphis and Louisiana on the schedule. They should open the season with a victory over Grambling State and may be slight favorites over UL-Monroe and UMass. But it’s possible they lose each of those with one of the worst defenses in the country.
My numbers project the Red Wolves for 3.9 victories. I can’t envision a scenario in which this Arkansas State roster makes it to a bowl game.
Marshall Over 7 Wins (-140 · DraftKings)
Marshall has a chance to take the Sun Belt Conference by storm in its inaugural season.
Though the program lost starting quarterback Grant Wells to Virginia Tech, head coach Charles Huff brought in Texas Tech transfer Henry Colombi to replace him.
Colombi will be surrounded by playmakers all over the field, including running back Rasheen Ali, who put up 1,455 yards on 5.6 yards per carry last season. Ali was added to the Walter Camp National Player of the Year watch list for a good reason.
This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for Rasheen Ali (@fsosheen1), the leading scorer in FBS. And here's a quick look at every time he lit up the scoreboard this year… pic.twitter.com/EL1dLHksef
— Herd Thoughts (@HerdThoughts) November 25, 2021
Clint Trickett earned a promotion to offensive coordinator after the unit finished top-35 in Success Rate, Finishing Drives and Havoc Allowed.
In a conference highlighted by some elite quarterbacks, Marshall will lean on its reliable defense from last season. The group ranked 36th nationally in Passing Success Rate, 17th in Pass Rush and sixth in limiting big plays.
The Thundering Herd’s schedule sets up nicely for them in their inaugural season in the Sun Belt. They match up against two FCS teams in Norfolk State and Gardner-Webb in their first five games.
The group should have no problem taking care of business as at least 7-point favorites over Georgia Southern, Old Dominion, James Madison and Bowling Green. Those games likely add up to six wins right there.
I have the Herd marked as a slight favorite in five of their final six matchups. Marshall has the luxury of facing its four toughest conference foes — Appalachian State, Louisiana, Coastal Carolina and Georgia State — at home this season.
In addition to playing the over on the regular season wins, I’m looking to grab Marshall to win the conference at +500 odds or better.
South Alabama Over 5.5 Wins (-110 · BetMGM)
Last season was a tale of two halves for first-year head coach Kane Wommack. The Jaguars opened the season 4-2, with both losses coming by two points to Louisiana and Texas State.
The defense proved to be stout, ranking eighth in Success Rate while holding opponents to just 20 points per game during that span. But as the schedule toughened, the Jaguars floundered and lost losing five of their final six games.
The offense struggled to stay on the field and will now replace quarterback Jake Bentley and with stud receiver Jalen Tolbert. But the offense returns eight starters from what was one of the youngest groups in college football.
The defense has the potential to be the top unit in the conference with tremendous upside. The Jaguars bring back seven starters, along with two interior starters from 2020 who missed last season with injury. That unit amounted 29 sacks and forced 20 turnovers in 2021 with a dominant front-seven.
If South Alabama can find any stability on offense, it will be contending in the Sun Belt West. The Jaguars avoid the top four teams from the East and have a schedule that sets up favorable.
The program has two likely losses on its schedule, facing UCLA in Week 3 and traveling to Louisiana to open October.
After those two matchups, the Jaguars have nine very winnable games. They should have no problem finding victories over Nicholls, UL Monroe and Texas State. The remaining seven games should be within a touchdown spread, and with a defense as strong as the Jaguars’, I feel confident they can pull out at least three victories.
South Alabama will scrape together at least six wins and find itself in a bowl game for the first time since 2016.
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