ESPN released its updated Football Power Index this week and ranked every team by its latest numbers. The FPI is defined by ESPN as a measure of team strength that is meant to be the best predictor of a team’s performance going forward for the rest of the season. FPI represents how many points above or below average a team is.
In this article, I’ll breakdown the Sun Belt numbers and identify some FPI busters as well as some key matchups throughout the season. Bowl eligibility percentages were determined through an excel sheet algorithm set up by my personal wizard Andrew Hutchinson from Hawgs247.
Best Chance to Win Conference
Appalachian State- 56.2%
Arkansas State- 22.6%
No surprises here about who the FPI has as the Sun Belt’s top three teams. Appalachian State and Arkansas State shared last season’s conference title while a collapse at Georgia Southern left Troy one game shy of a share.
Appalachian State has the best odds largely due to a soft conference schedule that has them avoiding both Troy and Arkansas State. The Mountaineers are favored in 10 games, including every conference game. The Troy-Arkansas State contest at the end of the season is set up to have the most implications. The winner will likely be able to at least claim a share of the conference title.
Appalachian State- 98.71%
Arkansas State- 84.72%
Coastal Carolina- 43.96%
Georgia State- 38.44%
Yes, I am aware Coastal Carolina is not eligible for post-season play this year. Even so, its speaks volumes to the quality of the team the Sun Belt is getting when the FPI believes the Chanticleers will be a middling team in its first season of FBS play.
Louisiana, Idaho, and Georgia State are three teams that will be vying to break into the top three of the conference. For Idaho, this will be its last chance before its Sun Belt membership ends. Mark Hudspeth’s Louisiana squad was once a consistent top tier Sun Belt team but has since had to undertake a rebuild. The Rajin’ Cajuns returned to the post-season last season after a 4-8 hiatus but Hudspeth will have to replace a lot of production on offense if Louisiana wants to eclipse the six win mark again.
New head coach Shawn Elliot has the excitement building in Atlanta for the Georgia State football team. The Panthers secured a solid recruiting class and are building a foundation strong enough to break out of the Sun Belt’s middle of the pack logjam.
Top Non-Conference Matchups
September 2- Troy at Boise State 24.2%
September 9- New Mexico State at New Mexico 24.2%
September 16- Coastal Carolina at UAB 53.2%
September 23- Georgia State at Charlotte 55.4%
There won’t be any easing into the season for Troy and Boise State. The Broncos will need a strong start to a season that also sees them playing Washington State and Virginia. Troy will be looking to show it’s a top Group of Five team after exploding for 10 wins last season.
New Mexico State notched a 32-31 win last season against New Mexico after losing five straight. The Rio Grande Rivalry is hitting matchup number 108 this season and New Mexico State is going after consecutive victories for the first time since winning three straight in 2009-2011.
Coastal Carolina’s trip to Birmingham offers up one of the more intriguing games of the season. With both teams undertaking a sizeable challenge, this contest will serve as a measuring stick for which team is further along in its FBS quest.
Georgia State and Charlotte represent two schools poised to take their respective conferences by storm. A win for the 49ers could give them a pivotal third win of the season before conference play begins. For the Panthers, this matchup comes sandwiched between road games against Penn State and Memphis. A victory would give Georgia State much needed confidence ahead of conference play.
Georgia State FPI: -14.7 (120th)
Texas State FPI: -21.2 (130th)
Georgia State is projected to go 5-7 this season according to the FPI. A pair of road games against Louisiana-Monroe and Georgia Southern are key contests for the Panthers and are both games that the FPI favors the home team. Wins could push Georgia State to 7-5 and give Elliot a bowl game in year one.
Texas State is seen by the FPI as the nation’s worst team this year and is projected to go 3-9. Coach Everette Withers’ strong depth-centered recruiting will pay dividends, though. The Bobcats aren’t favored in a single game after the season-opening contest with Houston Baptist but winnable home games against Texas-San Antonio and New Mexico State could give Withers a better than expected 5-7 season.