The Sun Belt is in a time of transition right now. Idaho and New Mexico State will leave the league after this season, the league will join the rest of its FBS peers by adding a championship game next season, and many of its coaches are primed to move up and on.
As a reminder, Georgia Southern is already open and Coastal Carolina is playing without Joe Moglia, but Moglia and CCU finalized an extension through 2020 last month.
Movin’ On Up
Blake Anderson, Arkansas State
Tenure: 29-17, 24-4 Sun Belt
This year: 5-2, 4-0 Sun Belt
Anderson nearly got the Baylor job last year. Instead, he returned to Jonesboro and is in line to win or share his third straight conference crown. The Red Wolves lost only at Nebraska and at SMU, and Hurricane Irma deprived them of a showcase game against Miami in Jonesboro. Arkansas State has won its four Sun Belt games by an average of 28 points. Any SEC West school with an opening would be wise to give him a call.
Neal Brown, Troy
Tenure: 20-13, 12-8 Sun Belt
This year: 6-2, 3-1 Sun Belt
Brown doesn’t have the established record of Sun Belt dominance that Anderson has, but he is nearly a decade younger. That could be a positive or a negative, depending on the eye of the beholder. Brown does have something Anderson does not: a “holy cow” win at LSU. Brown and Troy will close their regular season in what could be a de facto Sun Belt title game at Arkansas State.
Scott Satterfield, Appalachian State
Tenure: 37-21, 24-4 Sun Belt
This year: 5-3, 4-0 Sun Belt
Satterfield is 44, in between 48-year-old Anderson and 37-year-old Brown. App State is winning, but isn’t dominating — their four Sun Belt opponents are a combined 4-13 in conference play, and all but one win has been a 1-score game. Satterfield does not play Brown or Anderson this year — he does visit 3-1 Georgia State on Thanksgiving Saturday — so a Troy win at Arkansas State could hand App State a conference title without playing either top contender.
Was Part of the Top Group, But Things Have Changed
Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana-Lafayette
Tenure: 26-35, 19-17 Sun Belt
This year: 3-4, 2-2 Sun Belt
Hudspeth made his name at the FBS level in his first four years at Lafayette, ripping off four straight 9-4 seasons and four straight New Orleans Bowl victories. But the Ragin’ Cajuns have dipped to 13-19 over the past three seasons, and they had to give back 22 wins from the 2011-14 seasons and two of those New Orleans Bowl wins due to NCAA violations committed by a Hudspeth assistant. Hud needs to finish strong.
Not on the Top Line, But Worthy of Mention
Matt Viator, Louisiana-Monroe
Tenure: 7-13, 6-8 Sun Belt
This year: 3-5, 3-3 Sun Belt
He isn’t one of the league’s hotshots, but Matt Viator has built an offense to be reckoned with in Monroe. The Warhawks lead the Sun Belt in yards per play and rank second in scoring, passing efficiency and rushing.
Joey Jones, South Alabama
Tenure: 51-47, 17-26 Sun Belt
This year: 3-5, 2-2 Sun Belt
Jones has been an institution in Mobile, serving as the program’s only head coach since its 2009 launch and taking the Jaguars to bowl games in 2014 and ’16, though he has finished in the top half of the Sun Belt standings just twice since the program joined the conference in 2012. This year’s season could go either way: USA closes with tough home games against Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State, then with winnable road trips to Georgia Southern and New Mexico State.
Is This What Either Side Had in Mind?
Everett Withers, Texas State
Tenure: 4-16, 1-11 Sun Belt
This year: 2-6, 1-3 Sun Belt
Withers left a loaded James Madison team — the Dukes won the FCS national championship the year after his departure — to take over at Texas State, and two years in the Bobcats are still struggling to turn the corner. Last year’s group finished 124th nationally in scoring at 18.6 points per game. This year’s team averages 15.1.