The Sun Belt Conference is coming off another successful college football season. With the 40th year of existence on the horizon, the conference is looking to continue to establish itself as a premier College Football conference. The R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl has been a staple for the conference during bowl season. Last year, the Ragin’ Cajuns of Louisiana Lafayette won their 4th straight R+L Bowl with a 16-3 win over the Wolf Pack of Nevada. The Ragin Cajuns are the only football team in NCAA history to win the same bowl game 4 years in a row.
Now, it’s time to start the Road to the 2015 R+L Bowl. In the next few weeks, we will be bringing you a series of Sun Belt Conference reviews, previewing the teams for the upcoming 2015 College Football season.
Let’s start with the reigning champs.
Head Coach Mark Hudspeth and his squad are coming into the season boasting 4 straight R+L Bowl victories. The Ragin Cajuns are clearly the hunted this year on the road to the R+L Bowl, even if they will be without R+L Bowl MVP QB Terrance Broadway who is now an NFL hopeful. You may remember Broadway, who lived up to his last name in the 2014 R+L Bowl posting 277 passing yards and a TD on 26-of 31 passing, starting the game with 14 consecutive completions which is the most in college football bowl game history. This year’s team will look to replace Broadway with one of the three QBs that are currently in a battle for the starting job. C.J Bates, Jared Johnson and James Butler will look to provide experience and toughness at the wide receiver position. C.J. and Jared are returning letterwinners and Jamal is a fifth-year senior. The team will be replacing two starters on the offensive line. One player who will be returning is 2014 Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year Elijah McGuire. He will look to provide leadership and stability to this year’s team.
The Ragin Cajuns open up their 2015 campaign with a trip to Kentucky out of the South Eastern Conference on September 5, followed up by the 15th Annual Herbert Heymann Classic vs. Northwestern State on September 12. Notable Sun Belt Conference games include at Arkansas State on October 20th, which will be nationally televised on ESPN2 and at South Alabama that will be nationally televised on ESPNU.
Depth and experience. That’s what Head Coach Scott Satterfield is hoping sets his team apart in the Sun Belt Conference this year. Appalachian State finished 6-2 in its first year in the Sun Belt, making other teams in the conference take notice. Coach Satterfield will likely have 20 returning starters back of the possible 22 offensive and defensive positions. This depth and experience should bode well for the team during the season. Two positions that will have a wealth of depth are the wide receivers led by Senior Malachi Jones and running backs led by Junior Marcus Cox. The team will be at home for its first matchup of the 2015 season against Howard on September 5, but will then travel to Memorial Stadium for a match-up against ACC powerhouse Clemson. Notable Sun Belt Conference games include George Southern and UL Lafayette both at home, which could be a huge advantage playing both of those conference match-ups at home in Boone, North Carolina.
Returning eight All-Sun Belt Conference selections and 54 lettermen, the Red Wolves look to build on the success of last season. The team finished 7-6 overall and 5-3 in the Sun Belt, earning them a second consecutive trip to the GoDaddy Bowl. Senior Fredi Knighten will be calling the plays for Arkansas State this season. In 2013, Knighten was named GoDaddy MVP after recording 115 yards passing and 97 yards rushing in the bowl game, and last year was selected Preseason First Team All Sun Belt Conference by USA Today Sports. One has to think he will be a major contributor to not only the passing game but the running game as well. He rushed for 969 yards for 11 touchdowns last season. Head Coach Blake Anderson thinks this year’s squad will be strong against the run based on early spring practices. The Red Wolves are also in the process of an expansion on Centennial Bank Stadium that will bring a new press box. The construction will be complete before the team takes on defending SEC East champs Missouri in the home opener. Before the home opener, the team will travel to Pasadena, CA to take on Pac 12 powerhouse the USC Trojans. Key conference match-ups include South Alabama on October 13th and Louisiana Lafayette on October 20th. Both games will be televised on ESPN2.
Stayed turned for more Road to the 2015 R+L Bowl Sunbelt Conference previews. Next up, we will preview Georgia Southern, Georgia State and Idaho. Follow @RLCarriers on twitter and on Facebook throughout the season for future updates.