Appalachian State University football was picked to win the Sun Belt Conference in 2016 by the league’s coaches, the conference announced on Thursday.
Appalachian being picked as conference favorites comes as no surprise. The Mountaineers return 17-of-22 starters on the offensive and defensive sides from the 2015 team that won the most games in Sun Belt Conference history with 11 victories while capturing the 2015 Raycom Media Camellia Bowl. The Apps’ lone setbacks came to national runner-up Clemson and Sun Belt Champion, Arkansas State.
Appalachian set a new record for victories by a team in its first season as a full-fledged member of NCAA Division I FBS (previously Division I-A) after transitioning from Division I FCS (previously I-AA) and the first team to win a bowl game in its initial season as a full-fledged FBS squad.
The Mountaineers and defending league champion, Arkansas State, were tied with five first-place votes apiece, but the Mountaineers edged the Red Wolves, 114-110, in total number of points, placing the Red Wolves to second place. Last season’s preseason favorite, Georgia Southern, was voted into the third slot with one first-place vote. Georgia State was picked to finish fourth while Troy and UL Lafayette were tied to finish fifth at 70 points.
Rounding out the preseason poll are South Alabama (7th), Idaho (8th), New Mexico State (9th), Texas State (10th) and UL Monroe (11th).
Last season, the Black and Gold were selected to finish fourth in the league and went on to finish second to their only Sun Belt loss of the season, Arkansas State. The last team picked to win the conference and go on to win the title was UL Lafayette in 2013. But the 2013 title was later vacated, making Troy’s 2009 SBC title run the official last time a team has won after they were favored in the preseason.
Seven different times has the team selected to win the league championship went on to claim the league trophy, while four preseason favorites have won the championship outright.
2016 Sun Belt Football Coaches Predicted Order of Finish (first place votes)
1. Appalachian St. (5) – 114 pts
2. Arkansas State (5) – 110 pts
3. Georgia Southern (1) – 98 pts
4. Georgia State – 73 pts
5. Troy – 70 pts
5. UL Lafayette – 70 pts
7. South Alabama – 62 pts
8. Idaho – 48 pts
9. New Mexico St. – 37 pts
10. Texas State – 30 pts
11. UL Monroe – 14 pts