2024 Sun Belt Power Rankings: Appalachian State Leads Several Recent Contenders

    After last year's top teams lost talented players and coaches, could Appalachian State return to the top of the 2024 Sun Belt Power Rankings?

    The Sun Belt Conference seems to be a feeder conference for some of the bigger schools in the country, as several of the conference’s best teams will rebuild in 2024 without their head coaches.

    That being said, the conference is still one of the best non-power conferences in football, and several top teams have a legitimate shot at the College Football Playoff in 2024. Here are the 2024 Sun Belt Power Rankings.

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    2024 Sun Belt Power Rankings

    The 2024 Sun Belt Power Rankings assess all 14 teams in the conference based on their coaching staff, star talent, and roster depth, plus the difficulty of the schedule they’ll face in 2024.

    14) Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks

    This could get ugly for the Warhawks in 2024. In all likelihood, Louisiana-Monroe will be favored in just one game all season, the opener against talented FCS opponent Jackson State.

    The Warhawks go to Auburn and Texas in non-conference, host James Madison, and go to Marshall in the cross-divisional games. Ouch.

    New coach Bryan Vincent takes over the worst roster in FBS and has a brutal 2024 schedule. ESPN’s SP+ metric has the Warhawks as the worst team in college football’s top division by a substantial margin.

    13) Old Dominion Monarchs

    Old Dominion struggled a bit in the transfer portal for the second consecutive season, losing standout cornerback LaMareon James but retaining quarterback Grant Wilson.

    The third through seventh spots in the Sun Belt East are wide open, so a few timely wins could propel the Monarchs higher up our 2024 Sun Belt Power Rankings, while a few losses could cause them to plummet.

    12) Coastal Carolina Chanticleers

    I recognize that I’m lower on the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers than most, but the situation is not great in Conway.

    After winning 31 games in three years under Jamey Chadwell, Tim Beck and company put up just eight wins in Grayson McCall’s last season with the program.

    Part of this low ranking is my lack of conviction in Tim Beck, whose hire I never liked to begin with, but much of it has to do with simple math. The Chanticleers lost several top players on offense and didn’t replace them in the portal. There’s not much recent precedent for that being a winning recipe.

    The Chanticleers have several toss-ups in the non-conference and draw Louisiana at home and Troy on the road from the Sun Belt West.

    11) Arkansas State Red Wolves

    In terms of pure numbers, the Arkansas State Red Wolves didn’t bring in much help for a team that won six games against one of the country’s easiest schedules last year. However, a few high-profile transfers could turn the tide for Arkansas State.

    This team has the potential to be much better this year — remarkable given a first bowl appearance since 2019 — but will need solid play out of quarterback Jaylen Raynor to do so. The defense will also need to be a bit better against a substantially more difficult schedule than a year ago.

    10) Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles

    Southern Miss will rely heavily on a huge transfer portal class to turn their fortunes around in 2024. It’s a class full of talented but unproven young Power Five playmakers. Former Florida State quarterback Tate Rodemaker immediately became the most talented quarterback to play for the Golden Eagles in years, giving this team the potential to make noise.

    If a few of those transfers pan out, we could be talking about the biggest surprise team in the entire Group of Five. If not, it could be more basement-dwelling for Southern Miss in 2024.

    9) Georgia State Panthers

    As of this writing, the Georgia State Panthers are without a head coach after Shawn Elliott left to become the tight ends coach at the South Carolina Gamecocks. However, the roster has some talent and a few of the consistencies suggest a new coach could hit the ground running.

    MORE: 2024 Sun Belt Cross-Divisional Opponents 

    The Panthers brought in some intriguing defensive transfers and transfer quarterback Zach Gibson has a lot of potential. Things aren’t the best they’ve ever been, but the situation isn’t dire in Atlanta, depending on who Georgia State can hire as its next head coach. This isn’t a bottom-dweller by any means.

    8) Troy Trojans

    New head coach Gerad Parker has his work cut out for him as he seeks to give Troy a third-straight conference title, one that could possibly come with an even bigger reward this year.

    The Trojans lost their starting quarterback (to graduation), star running back (to the NFL Draft), and top receiver (to the Transfer Portal) and did not address those positions either via the portal or recruiting, resulting in what some might consider a lowly position on our preseason 2024 Sun Belt Power Rankings.

    7) Marshall Thundering Herd

    I personally believe Charles Huff is one of the best coaches in the conference, and I would not expect the Marshall Thundering Herd to stumble in back-to-back seasons. They got two winnable games — Southern Miss and Louisiana-Monroe — in the non-conference this year and did well in the transfer portal.

    Transfer quarterback Braylon Braxton is an electric runner, but struggled as a passer last season. That being said, Marshall took a number of Power Five transfers and a few Group of Five playmakers, headlined by Middle Tennessee State transfer Elijah Metcalf.

    6) Georgia Southern Eagles

    Aside from losing offensive coordinator Bryan Ellis to Alabama and quarterback Davis Brin to graduation, the Georgia Southern Eagles emerged relatively unscathed in the offseason. Expect them to take a step forward under Clay Helton.

    The cross-divisional games are tricky against Troy and South Alabama. They’ll have a good idea of who they are early as they host Boise State in late August.

    5) Texas State Bobcats

    The Texas State Bobcats are the biggest wild card in the entire Sun Belt Conference. G.J. Kinne had the Bobcats clicking in what was supposed to be Year 0. However, he may have made a mistake in the offseason when he accepted the transfer of former Arizona quarterback Jayden de Laura.

    MORE: 2024 Sun Belt Head Coach Rankings

    When de Laura committed, quarterback TJ Finley decided to transfer, landing at Western Kentucky. Then, de Laura withdrew from school, and Texas State was left without a quarterback. If Kinne can find a solid starter at the quarterback position, though, the Bobcats should be solid in 2024.

    4) South Alabama Jaguars

    A few weeks ago, the South Alabama Jaguars may have been my sleeper pick for conference champion. Kane Wommack left for Alabama, but the Jaguars acted swiftly, promoting Major Applewhite from within to be head coach, and they haven’t lost many pieces in the transfer portal.

    It looks like sophomore Gio Lopez will be the starting quarterback this season, and he performed well in limited reps a season ago. If the Jaguars keep the roster together, they could make some noise in the wide-open Sun Belt West.

    3) Louisiana Rajun’ Cajuns

    Much like the top team in our 2024 Sun Belt Power Rankings, Louisiana made the offseason jump by simply not losing too many players or coaches. The Rajun’ Cajuns will need to replace quarterback Zeon Chriss, who transferred to Houston, but much of the offense remains intact.

    Expect Louisiana to take a step forward this season behind a strong offense and a capable defense.

    2) James Madison Dukes

    The James Madison Dukes face their first real test as an FBS program in 2024, as they will be forced to replace head coach Curt Cignetti, quarterback Jordan McCloud, and wide receiver Elijah Surratt. New head coach Bob Chesney has had a great track record but has never found high-level success in year one at a program.

    However, the Dukes have a ton of talent and excelled in the transfer portal, landing two potential stars at running back in North Texas’ Ayo Adeyi and North Carolina’s George Pettaway.

    1) Appalachian State Mountaineers

    Is this the year Appalachian State returns to its winning ways? Consistency is key here for the Mountaineers, who were able to keep their head coach, coordinators, and starting quarterback.

    Joey Aguilar erupted on the scene last year despite entering the season as the backup and took home Sun Belt Newcomer of the Year Honors.

    MORE: 2024 Sun Belt Transfer Portal Rankings 

    The defense should be solid again this season, bolstered by incoming safety transfer Avarion Cole. The schedule looks gettable, aside from an early road game at Clemson. Meanwhile, an away game at Louisiana looms large in what could be a preview of the conference championship game.

    Miss any action from the top college QB Rankings during the 2023 football season? Want to track all the movement with the college football transfer portal? College Football Network has you covered with that and more!

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