CFT predicts: Sun Belt standings

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As we look ahead to the 2011 college football season, we take with us the lessons we learned from seasons past. We calculate, scrutinize, dissect and digest schedules, returning starters, coaching changes, injuries, and yes, even hunches, and spew it back in the form of how we think each of the 11 Division 1 FBS conferences — and independents — will pan out by year’s end.

Of course, these are merely our opinions. Feel free, as we know you will, to disagree. We know that’s why you really come here anyway.

Here are our predictions for the Sun Belt:

Ben’s take
Florida International coach Mario Cristobal has transformed the Golden Panthers from the Sun Belt’s doormat, which is about as low as you can get in Division 1-A (FBS), to a conference contender. With a thrilling bowl victory over Toledo to end 2010, FIU enters 2011 with a lot of momentum.

But Troy has been the class of the Sun Belt for the past five years, and it’s hard to imagine the Trojans not being in contention for their sixth straight conference title, shared or outright. Also, keep an eye out for Louisiana-Monroe, which returns a whopping 20 starters.

Beyond the top three, the Sun Belt evens out. Middle Tennessee loses productive quarterback Dwight Dasher (who will now have to deal with money problems on his own), and both Arkansas State and North Texas will be breaking in new coaches this year. And, amazingly, Florida Atlantic’s Howard Schnellenberger could be on the way out if he doesn’t turn the Owls around quickly.

John Taylor’s take
The easy thing to do would be to slot Troy into the No. 1 slot once again and be done with it. As was the case in conference play last year, though, it won’t be that easy for the Alabama school in 2011 either.

FIU tied for the top spot in the Sun Belt last year with Troy, but received the conference’s automatic berth in the Little Caesars Bowl thanks to its 52-35 win — on the road — over the Trojans. This year, Troy will be forced to travel to Miami for a game that could once again decide the conference’s automatic bowl berth.

That’s no guarantee, however, as Arkansas State and possibly Louisiana-Monroe could find their way into the fight for the top spot, particularly the former as the Red Wolves get both FIU and Troy at home this season. Ironically, all four of those schools mentioned return their starting quarterback from a year ago, which is likely a big reason they’re all being projected to be in the hunt come November.

In the end, however, look for a repeat of last season, only this time FIU will get it done in outright fashion.

More predictions: ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, C-USA, MAC, MWC, Pac-12, SEC, WAC, Independents

CFT’s preseason Top 25

In Baker Mayfield, Texas set to face yet another QB who wanted to be a Longhorn

Baker Mayfield
Associated Press
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Jameis WinstonJohnny ManzielAndrew LuckRobert Griffin IIIJ.T. Barrett. Oh, don’t mind me. Just recounting the number of quarterbacks with ties to the Texas football program that never received a sniff from Bevo’s famous snout.

Add another to the list, perhaps the most inexplicable of all: Baker Mayfield.

Mayfield played at Lake Travis High School in Austin, a powerhouse program in a state that specializes in them. Lightly recruited out of high school (he reportedly held only an offer from Florida Atlantic), Mayfield and his family reached out to the nearby program to see if they’d take him as a walk-on.

They said no.

“They told us he had five scholarship quarterbacks, so there wasn’t any need of ‘Bake’ coming out there,” James Mayfield, Baker’s father, told George Schroeder of USA Today. “I popped off that they had five scholarship quarterbacks that couldn’t even play for Lake Travis. That’s where our relationship stalled out.”

On one hand, it utterly boggles the mind why Texas would decline a successful high school quarterback willing to pay his own way on to the team, especially considering the state of the position at the time. On the other, one would see why Mack Brown‘s staff would pass on a kid with only an offer from FAU who says UT’s quarterbacks couldn’t start for his high school team.

Instead, Texas signed Tyrone Swoopes and Mayfield enrolled at Texas Tech. He won the starting job as a true freshman, transferred to Oklahoma, walked on and then won the starting job there.

And now he’s set to face the hometown team he at one time wished he could play for.

Mayfield has completed 88-of-135 throws for 1,382 yards with 13 touchdowns and three interceptions – good for a 178.52 passer rating, which ranks fifth nationally – while adding 138 yards and four scores on the ground. His counterpart, redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard, has connected on 42-of-76 passes for 661 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions (131.74 passer rating) to go with a team-leading 67 carries for 318 yards and three touchdowns.

“As perverse as all this has been, he’s where he wanted to be,” James Mayfield said. “He’s living his dream. If he had to do it all over again, he’d do it, with the same outcome.”

Appalachian State announces five-year extension for head coach Scott Satterfield

Scott Satterfield
Associated Press

One day after it was revealed its head coach was the second-lowest paid in college football, Appalachian State announced a five-year contract extension for head coach Scott Satterfield.

“We have the right coach leading our football program in Scott Satterfield,” Appalachian State AD Doug Gillin said in a statement. “In nearly three years as head coach, he has stayed true to his convictions, built the program the right way and set Appalachian State football up for sustainable success both in the Sun Belt Conference and at the national level.”

Satterfield had earned $375,000 annually, ahead of only Louisiana-Monroe’s Todd Berry at $360,000 a year.

Satterfield, 42, is 14-14 in his third season at the Boone, N.C., school. He led the Mountaineers to a 7-5 mark in their debut Sun Belt season, and has the club at 3-1 to start the 2015 campaign.

“It’s exciting for my family and me to know that we’re going to be at Appalachian for the foreseeable future,” Satterfield added. “I’m living a dream by being the head coach at my alma mater and can’t wait to continue to work hard to help this program reach heights that it has never reached before.”