Study: Common factors in the 5 Sun Belt champions

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Thursday July 06, 2017

How do you win the Sun Belt? Here’s what the last five league champs have done against Sun Belt opponents.

(*Note: Arkansas State and App State shared the league title in 2016 at 7-1, but the Mountaineers had a better overall record. **Note: Arkansas State and UL-Lafayette shared the league title in 2013, but ULL won head-to-head)

- The road (mostly) goes through Jonesboro. The Red Wolves have won at least a share of five of the last six titles. 2013 ULL beat Arkansas State, but 2014 Georgia Southern and 2016 Appalachian State did not play the Red Wolves.

- Arkansas State’s success has also gone through several coaching changes. The five title shares have come with four different head coaches: Hugh Freeze (2011), Gus Malzahn (2012), Bryan Harsin (2013 share) and Blake Anderson (2015-16).

- All five teams here finished in the top 3 in scoring offense in Sun Belt play, and four finished in the top 2 in scoring defense.

- All five teams also finished in the top 3 in plays of 30-plus yards.

- Four of the five teams also finished in the top 3 in turnover margin.

- All five teams scored touchdowns in at least 60 percent of red zone trips.

- All five teams had a multi-year starting QB. The four passing teams had upperclassmen under center.

2016 App State: Taylor Lamb (JR)
2015 Arkansas State: Fredi Knighten (SR)
2014 Georgia Southern: Kevin Ellison (SO)
2013 UL-Lafayette: Terrance Broadway (JR)
2012 Arkansas State: Ryan Aplin (SR)

- What’s next in 2017? App State and Arkansas State once again don’t meet, and a conference title game isn’t until 2018. App State brings back seven offensive starters, including QB Taylor Lamb. Arkansas State has 5 returning starters on both sides, including at QB, and head coach Blake Anderson has taken over play-calling. Georgia Southern is moving back to a triple-option-focused offense. Coming off a 10-win season, Troy has 15 returning starters and big visions for 2017. And Coastal Carolina joins the league in its move up from FCS.

CoachingSearch’s 2017 offseason studies

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News,, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to