Mario Cristobal

CFT predicts: the Sun Belt

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Like other non-power conferences, the Sun Belt will be getting a different look in the near future. Florida International and North Texas are out to Conference USA, while Georgia State and Texas State will enter in 2013.

FIU is the preseason favorite for the second consecutive year and Arkansas State will have a new coach in former Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn.

Looking ahead to the 2012 season, here’s how the Sun Belt should shake out:

(Let it be known that I reserve the right to change my mind at any time without notice.)

1. Florida International (last season: 8-5; lost Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl) 
Mario Cristobal continues to be the hot coaching commodity, but he turned down Rutgers for another year with FIU. The Golden Panthers are the favorite to win the league this year despite losing receiver T.Y. Hilton.

2. Arkansas State (last season: 10-3; lost GoDaddy.com Bowl)
The Red Wolves have Gus Malzahn as the coach to replace Hugh Freeze. They do not, however, have former Auburn running back Michael Dyer joining them this year, next year or any year. Dyer was dismissed from the team last month after another run-in with the law.

3. Western Kentucky (last season: 7-5) 
Willie Taggart is doing great things at Western Kentucky, and he’ll keep the momentum going this year despite losing the most productive running back in the conference last year in Bobby Rainey. The Hilltoppers have a tough schedule to start, but could end strong.

4. Louisiana-Lafayette (last season: 9-4; won New Orleans Bowl) 
Mark Hudspeth is quickly making a name for himself as one of the hot name coaches in college football. However, the Ragin’ Cajuns return only 12 starters and need to replace practically their entire defense.

5. Troy (last season: 3-9)
The Sun Belt had belonged to Troy for the past couple of years, but a 3-9 campaign last season was an eye-opener. The Trojans could pass the ball, but not much else and were statistically one of the worst teams in 1-A (FBS) football in 2011. The return of nine offensive starters and 15 overall should help.

6. Louisiana-Monroe (last season: 4-8) 
Things should get bad and fast for Louisiana-Monroe. The Warhawks do have Brent Leonard coming back at receiver, but ULM also has to replace more than half their defensive starters from a year ago.

7. North Texas (last season: 5-7)
Dan McCarney was able to pull UNT out of the dark ages and lead the Mean Green to the most wins  in a season since 2004. UNT has lots of returning starters, but they do lose their key running back, Lance Dunbar. Also, North Texas plays just five home games this season.

8. Middle Tennessee (last season: 2-10) 
The Blue Raiders have been trending down since 2009, but Rick Stockstill isn’t on the hot seat just yet. Another year like 2011, though? Things could be warming up. Like North Texas, MTSU only plays five home games this year.

9. Florida Atlantic (last season: 1-11) 
Legendary coach Howard Schnellenberger has had better departures than the one he had at FAU. Ex-Nebraska assistant Carl Pelini will try to get the Owls back into the postseason and has added former Ohio State and Alabama wide receiver Duron Carter. 

10 South Alabama (last season: 6-4 in FCS) 
South Alabama, already a Sun Belt basketball member, finally makes its football debut. Even in a mostly terrible league, the Jaguars will struggle despite a relatively soft non-conference schedule.

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Interested in our other 10 conference projections along with Division 1-A (FBS) Independents? View ‘em all below by clicking the individual links or our projections landing page HERE. And don’t forget to check out CFT’s preseason Top 25.

ACC
Big East
Big Ten
Big 12
Conference USA
MAC
Mountain West
Pac-12
SEC
WAC
Independents

LSU kicker injured in crash that killed Nebraska, Michigan State punters issues statement

COLLEGE STATION, TX - NOVEMBER 27:  Colby Delahoussaye #42 of the LSU Tigers kicks a 43-yard field goal in the second half of their game against the Texas A&M Aggies at Kyle Field on November 27, 2014 in College Station, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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As the Michigan State and Nebraska football communities come to grips with the loss of their loved ones, there’s an LSU player who very well could be coming to grips with survivor’s remorse.

On their way home from a kicking camp Saturday night, Cornhuskers punter Sam Foltz and ex-Spartans punter Mike Sadler were killed in a car accident as they were driving through a severe thunderstorm in Wisconsin.  Additionally, LSU placekicker Colby Delahoussaye, a backseat passenger in the Mercedes driven by Sadler, was injured in the crash that claimed the players’ lives.

Delahoussaye sustained burns to his legs and lacerations that required stitches, but it’s the former injury that’s being credited with saving his life.

“All he remembers is that the fire was burning his leg and that woke him up,” Dwayne Delahoussaye, told the Baton Rouge Advocate. “He was knocked unconscious. The burning sensation revived him. That’s all he remembers. He doesn’t even know how he got out. He doesn’t know where he crawled out of.”

The told the Advocate that his son has no recollection of how he escaped.  Through his dad, the Tiger kicker also declined to discuss the incident.

The younger Delahoussaye did, though, issue a statement on his personal Twitter account:

In 2013 and 2014, Delahoussaye, a senior walk-on with the Tigers, converted on a combined 24-of-29 field goal attempts.  He was replaced last season by Trey Domingue, who announced earlier this month that he was transferring from LSU after his scholarship wasn’t renewed before confirming this weekend that he’ll be continuing his collegiate playing career at Texas.

It’s unknown if Delahoussaye will be healthy enough to participate in the start of summer camp, which kicks off early next month.

As for celebrating the lives of of Foltz and Sadler, the two football programs both announced arrangements Tuesday.

One-time Wisconsin commit Marvin Robinson lands at Kentucky

LEXINGTON, KY - SEPTEMBER 29: The Wildcat mascot for the Kentucky Wildcats works up the crowd against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Commonwealth Stadium on September 29, 2012 in Lexington, Kentucky.    (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)
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Marvin Robinson was never able to make it to the Big Ten to start his collegiate career, but now it appears he’ll get that opportunity in the SEC.

On Kentucky’s official online roster, Robinson is now listed as a wide receiver for the Wildcats.  According to John Hale of the Louisville Courier-Journal, Robinson, at least initially, will be a walk-on on Mark Stoops‘ squad.

Robinson had been a verbal commitment to Wisconsin and was set to sign with the Badgers in February of 2015.  However, the Fort Lauderdale product failed to qualify academically at UW.

The 6-4, 175-pounder sat out the 2015 season, so he’ll be eligible to play immediately in 2016.  Whether seeing the field actually comes to fruition remains to be seen as the Wildcats return five wide receivers who caught at least 10 passes in 2015, including the top four on the team in receptions and receiving yards — Dorian Baker (55-608), Garrett Johnson (46-694), Jeff Badet (29-430) and Blake Bone (20-210).  Ryan Timmons (12-114) is the fifth, with those five also accounting for nine of the team’s 10 touchdown receptions on the season.

Robinson was a three-star 2015 prospect who was rated as the No. 146 receiver in the country.

‘No timetable’ for Wisconsin LB T.J. Edwards’ return from foot injury

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 05:  ArDarius Stewart #13 of the Alabama Crimson Tide is tackled by T.J. Edwards #53 of the Wisconsin Badgers in the second quarter during the Advocare Classic at AT&T Stadium on September 5, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Wisconsin will need all hands on deck if they hope to contain LSU’s Leonard Fournette in the 2016 opener at Lambeau field.  Unfortunately for the Badgers, a key hand may be unavailable.

A report emerged late last week that T.J. Edwards would be sidelined indefinitely because of a foot injury.  The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote that “Edwards was seen wearing a walking boot this week and a source confirmed the redshirt sophomore is out” for the foreseeable future.

During the Big Ten Media Days Tuesday, head coach Paul Chryst somewhat addressed the linebacker’s status.

The Badgers open summer camp August 8. The opener against the Tigers is scheduled for Sept. 3.

As a redshirt sophomore last season, Edwards started all 13 games.

Mitch Leidner shares gruesome post-surgery foot photo

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 7:  Joshua Perry #37 of the Ohio State Buckeyes hits quarterback Mitch Leidner #7 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers just as Leidner releases the ball forcing him to throw an interception in the second quarter at Ohio Stadium on November 7, 2015 in Columbus, Ohio. The interception was returned for a touchdown for the Buckeyes.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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If you’re the squeamish type, you might want to do your best to avoid the picture that appears in this post.

Mitch Leidner has been dealing with foot issues since the 2014 season, specifically ligaments that he’s torn on multiple occasions.  Following Minnesota’s win over Central Michigan in the Quick Lane Bowl this past December, the quarterback underwent surgery to repair the ligaments in his left foot but returned in time for spring practice.

Leidner was one of the Gophers’ player representatives at the Big Ten Media Days Tuesday, and decided he’d share a post-operation picture of his surgically-repaired foot.  Again, if your squeamish, look away.

As if the photo doesn’t paint this picture, head coach Tracy Claeys acknowledged that the starter was worse off health-wise than the football program let on last year.

“We hid his injuries pretty good a year ago,” Claeys said according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “He was banged up pretty good. The foot injury he had was tough and really limited him.”

Now, though, Leidner proclaims himself, “[p]hysically, I’m in the best shape of my life, by far.” The fifth-year senior, projected by some to be a first-round quarterback prospect in the 2017 NFL draft, added that he feels “like I’m throwing the ball better than I ever have before.”