The Sun Belt Conference has been a constant in the history of the New Orleans Bowl. The Sun Belt played in the inaugural game in 2001 against a Mountain West team and in every New Orleans Bowl since that time. In 2002 prior to the season, the Sun Belt Conference agreed to a multi-year agreement with the Conference USA. This contract created the conference rivalry we have 12 years later. Conference USA has played the Sun Belt 10 times since 2002. We mentioned last month that the 2014 season welcomes Mountain West as an official tie in over the next 6 years. While the conferences have been consistent, the teams that make up those conferences change on occasion.
The Sun Belt
The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers left the conference this year and moved to Conference USA. Last year, WKU had an 8-4 season and did not receive a bowl invitation. The have three bowl appearances on their scorecard. The most recent being the Little Caesars Bowl in 2012, where they were defeated by Central Michigan.
Appalachian State began their transition with Georgia Southern to the Sun Belt Conference in 2013. These two teams will not be bowl eligible until 2015. However, the Mountaineers and Eagles will play for conference titles this season. Two former independent schools, Idaho and New Mexico State are also joining the Sun Belt conference as “Football only” schools. Both the Vandals from Idaho and the Aggies from NMSU had prior affiliations with the Sunbelt.
Fun Notes from 2013
New Mexico only had two wins in 2013. They defeated Abilene Christian and picked up a win against Idaho to close their season. Louisiana Lafayette defeated New Mexico at home last year on their way to a 3rd R+L Carriers Bowl appearance. Georgia Southern fell to Appalachian State in 2013, but defeated the Florida Gators to close their 7-4 season.
East Carolina and Tulane have a lot in common. Both teams represented Conference USA at the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. The Green Wave from Tulane (2013) and the ECU Pirates (2012) each fell at the hands of UL Lafayette. The difference is their recent history with bowl games. ECU has a deep bowl history. Since 1999, they have made 10 bowl appearances while Tulane had not made a post season appearance in a decade prior to December’s game in the Dome. Both teams are leaving C-USA, along with Tulsa, to join the American Athletic Conference. The AAC in its current form is built from the C-USA. Cincinnati, Houston, Louisville, Memphis, South Florida, Central Florida, and Southern Methodist are all former C-USA schools who are now ACC members.
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