2024 Sun Belt Power Rankings: Appalachian State, James Madison Favorites To Unseat Troy

    Last year's top programs lost talented players and coaches, allowing room for Appalachian State to return to the 2024 Sun Belt Power Rankings throne.

    Conference realignment left the Sun Belt untouched this offseason, but coaching changes and roster turnover did not. With back-to-back conference champion Troy entering a new era under Gerard Parker, there’s room for another name on the trophy.

    Which teams atop the 2024 Sun Belt Power Rankings have the best chance of taking home the league title — and possibly earning a spot in the newly expanded College Football Playoff?

    2024 Sun Belt Power Rankings

    14) Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks

    While first-year (and first-time) head coach Bryant Vincent has the potential to turn the program around, don’t expect the Warhawks to do much better than the 2-10 record they posted in 2023. Outside of a Week 1 contest with FCS opponent Jackson State, it’s difficult to foresee many victories, especially with Texas and Auburn on deck.

    The roster was already low on talent but also low on experience, with only 10 players returning who played meaningful snaps last season. A whopping 27 JUCO transfers and enter the fold, and while a few of them will prove their worth, that number alone tells you all you need to know.

    13) Old Dominion Monarchs

    Jason. Henderson. The All-American LB single-handedly raises Old Dominion’s floor in the 2024 Sun Belt Power Rankings, but there’s work to do elsewhere. QB Grant Wilson and two of his three leading WRs, Kelby Williams and Isiah Paige, return, providing a solid offensive foundation.

    However, the Monarchs’ defensive secondary will feature entirely new players compared to last season, potentially causing their ranking to fall from sixth in the conference for points allowed per game.

    12) Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles

    Southern Miss burst onto the Sun Belt stage with a 7-6 record in 2022 but fell to 3-9 in 2023. Will the real Golden Eagles please stand up? It isn’t difficult to envision both finishes in 2024 — it all depends on how their transfer additions pan out. Head coach Will Hall didn’t just dip into the portal; he dove in.

    The offense replaces nine starters, and four transfers are slated to start on defense. The most notable transfer is Florida State QB Tate Rodemaker, whose play will determine much of Southern Miss’ success … or lack thereof.

    11) Coastal Carolina Chanticleers

    After 31 wins in three years with HC Jamey Chadwell and QB Grayson McCall at the helm, the Chanticleers fell to a middle-of-the-road team in Year 1 of the Tim Beck era. The 2024 season will be the real test, with McCall off to North Carolina State and the majority of the defense gone.

    Sophomore QB Ethan Vasko looked solid in four starts last season, and Beck brought in FCS and Division II defenders to supplement that side of the field. Although the Chanticleers likely won’t reach 9+ wins, they aren’t going to be a pushover either.

    10) Arkansas State Red Wolves

    After going 2-10 and 3-9 to kick off the Butch Jones era, the Red Wolves played their way to six wins and a bowl appearance in 2023. And there’s reason to believe they can take another step forward this season.

    MORE: 2024 Sun Belt Season Win Total Predictions

    The schedule is a bit more difficult, and Jones didn’t add much high-profile talent from the transfer portal. But that’s not a bad thing, as the offense was led by freshman QB Jaylen Raynor and six sophomores, and they’re all back in 2024.

    With offensive continuity, expected growth, and a defense that received several additions in the front seven, Arkansas State is a team to watch this year.

    9) Troy Trojans

    Jon Sumrall joined the Trojans in 2022, led them to back-to-back conference titles and 11+ win seasons, and left to become Tulane’s HC this offseason. Former Notre Dame offensive coordinator Gerad Parker will take the reigns, but fans shouldn’t expect a third straight Sun Belt Championship.

    Just five starters — both offensive and defensive — return, putting immense pressure on several transfer portal acquisitions to hit. The Trojans are still talented, but it will take time for the team to reach its stride under Parker.

    8) Georgia State Panthers

    With HC Shawn Elliott leaving to become the TEs coach at South Carolina, the Panthers were in need of new leadership. Enter longtime Georgia assistant Dell McGee. His only head coaching experience came at the high school level, but he was a proven winner, leading Georgia’s Carver-Columbus to an 85-21 record, six conference titles, and one national championship.

    McGee inherits a Georgia State team fresh off a 7-6 season with a bowl victory, but there was significant turnover after Elliott’s departure. Georgia Tech’s Zach Gibson is the favorite to start under center, and Coastal Carolina’s C.J. Beasley should line up with him in the backfield.

    7) Georgia Southern Eagles

    With OC Bryan Ellis leaving for Alabama and QB Davis Brin graduating, the Eagles’ offense seems to be in a state of flux — at a quick glance. HC Clay Helton promoted TEs coach and passing coordinator Ryan Aplin to OC, and Indiana’s Dexter Williams II will compete with sophomores J.C. French and David Dallas.

    WRs Derwin Burgess Jr. and Dalen Cobb return, as do RBs Jalen White and O.J. Arnold. In short, the offense should be fine, but the defense needs to improve in Year 2 under DC Brandon Bailey.

    6) South Alabama Jaguars

    HC Kane Wommack, starting QB Carter Bradley, leading rusher La’Damian Webb, and all-world receiver Caullin Lacy are all gone, but all is not lost in Mobile. South Alabama promoted Major Applewhite from within, and he has largely been able to keep the roster together.

    MORE: 2024 Sun Belt Cross-Divisional Opponents 

    Most of the Jaguars’ transfer additions were freshmen and sophomores, pointing to Applewhite’s belief in his returners. And if sophomore QB Gio Lopez picks up where he left off in the bowl game vs. Eastern Michigan (14 of 19 passing for 192 yards and three TDs; 7-88-1 rushing line), South Alabama will be in good hands.

    5) Marshall Thundering Herd

    Bob Pruett. Doc Holliday. Charles Huff. The Thundering Herd have had some excellent coaches patrolling their sidelines over the years, and Huff has a chance to cement his place next to all-time program greats.

    The transfer portal hit the team hard, but Huff did his best to fill the holes. With former Wake Forest QB Mitch Griffis stepping away from football, Tulsa’s Braylon Braxton appears to be the favorite under center. Transfers will likely start on the right side of the offensive line, at WR, and at RB, but new OC Seth Doege has the talent to work with.

    4) Louisiana Rajun’ Cajuns

    Michael Desormeaux has posted back-to-back 6-7 seasons since taking over for Bill Napier, and his squad could take a big leap in 2024. The roster was largely intact this offseason, with nine defensive starters and most of the offensive line and skill-position corps returning.

    QB Zeon Chriss is off to Houston, but Ben Wooldridge and Chandler Fields have starting experience and should keep the Cajuns battling for position near the top of the 2024 Sun Belt Power Rankings.

    3) James Madison Dukes

    Curt Cignetti and the Dukes blitzed the FBS in their first two seasons, going 19-5. And while the team is nearly unrecognizable after Cignetti took the Indiana job, James Madison is still a top team in the 2024 Sun Belt Power Rankings.

    HC Bob Chseny took Holy Cross to five straight conference titles and four FCS playoff appearances in his six-year tenure and hopes to build off the foundation Cignetti established in Harrisonburg. Washington QB Dylan Morris and North Texas RB Ayo Adeyi will lead Chesney’s vaunted offensive attack and should have no issue putting up points.

    Defensively, LB Jacob Dobbs (Holy Cross) and EDGE Eric O’Neill (Long Island) highlight FCS transfers expected to produce, and there is enough returning talent for the unit to mirror their 2023 output.

    2) Texas State Bobcats

    G.J. Kinne led the Bobcats to their best FBS season (8-5) in his first year at the helm, and Year 2 could be even more special. The Jayden de Laura fiasco resulted in T.J. Finley transferring to Western Kentucky, but Texas State may have ended up with an upgrade in Jordan McCloud.

    McCloud will have 1,300-yard rusher Ismail Mahdi to hand off to behind an OL that returns three starters and added ULM star Tellek Lockette. The WR corps is solid, and the defense has playmakers at every level, including one of the best defenders in the country: EDGE Ben Bell

    1) Appalachian State Mountaineers

    Returning production is what sets Appalachian State apart in 2024. QB Joey Aguilar and his top six pass catchers are back, along with 15 of 21 defenders who played meaningful snaps last season.

    KEEP READING: 2024 Strength of Schedule For All 134 FBS Teams

    September games against Clemson and Liberty are major stumbling points on the schedules, but those contests will show just how high the Mountaineers can climb in 2024 — possibly all the way to the top: the expanded College Football Playoff.

    College Football Network has you covered with the latest news and analysis, rankings, transfer portal information, top 10 returning players, the 2024 college football season schedule, and much more!

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