11. 2013 Bold Predictions: Sun Belt
Conference Champ: Louisiana-Monroe is the clear favorite to win it all and go the the New Orleans Bowl and the Warhawks will. But watch for Arkansas State and Troy to give them trouble.
Top Heisman Candidate: Kolton Browning, QB, Louisiana-Monroe. He engineered a win at Arkansas last year and took Auburn to overtime. Browning will not drop off this season.
Offensive Player Of The Year: Browning. But UL's Terrence Broadway and Troy's Corey Robinson are both in the picture.
Defensive Player Of The Year: Andrew Jackson, LB, Western Kentucky. He could be the second coming of Mike Singletary.
Coach Of The Year: Larry Blakeney, Troy. The second-longest tenured coach in the FBS (behind Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer), he will bring the Trojans back to where they are used to being — winners.
Biggest Upset: There will be plenty. In fact, Sun Belt teams will beat four BCS teams. Louisiana-Monroe will beat Wake Forest, Troy will beat Duke and Mississippi State and Western Kentucky will beat Kentucky and it could be four upsets if WKU beats Tennessee. The biggest will be Troy over Mississippi State.
Emerging Star: Demarcus Smith, QB, Western Kentucky. Origninally slated to attend Louisville, he transferred from Central Florida and will start for the Hilltoppers before the end of the year. Bobby Petrino has a diamond in the rough.
Game Of The Year: Arkansas State at Louisiana-Monroe. The winner can make reservations for New Orleans.
Biggest Disappointment: Louisiana. Although Terrance Broadway will put up points, the defense will allow more.
Coach On The Hottest Seat: Dennis Franchione, Texas State. People in Texas are used to big things and the Bobcats are not one of them. Although he beat Houston last season, that is not enough to save him if his team finishes with fewer than seven wins.
A Six Pack Of Bold Sun Belt Predictions
1. The Sun Belt will have four bowl-eligible teams: Louisiana-Monroe, Arkansas State, Troy and Western Kentucky.
2. Troy's Robinson will be in the Top 5 in passing in the NCAA.
3. The most entertaining bowl game of the season will be the GoDaddy.com Bowl with Arkansas State playing MAC champ Ohio.
4. Louisiana-Monroe coach Todd Berry will get several offers to take over other programs at the end of the season. He will accept one of them.
5. The Sun Belt will overtake the MAC as the best mid-major conference.
6. Western Kentucky will not be a stepping-stone job for Bobby Petrino. The talent he inherited, the talent he can recruit and the move next season to Conference USA will keep Petrino in Bowling Green for years.
Compiled by ACC Editor Steve Barnes.