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

Ex-UConn QB transfers to D2 school to compete for starting job

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Quarterback Jordan McAfee never got his chance to play at UConn, so he is transferring to a new program to get a crack at a starting job. McAfee will look for his chance at Assumption College, a Division 2 school in Worcester, Massachusetts competing in the Northeast-10 Conference.

It is not often you see a player move from a FBS program down to a Division 2 school, but it is not unprecedented.

I transferred to compete for the starting job,” McAfee said to Hearst Connecticut Media, according to a report from New Haven Register. As noted by the report, Assumption has a handful of quarterbacks already on the roster but lacks experience at the position. Not that Mcafee fixes that concern, but he figures to bring a bigger upside to the position.

McAfee committed to UConn over an offer from Boston College, according to his Rivals profile, in the Class of 2017. The pro-style quarterback never got a chance to play for the Huskies in 2018 after sitting out the 2017 season as a redshirt player.

Suddenly, UConn is in a bit of a bind at the quarterback position with spring football next on deck for the Huskies. Just two quarterbacks are currently on the roster following offseason departures for graduation or transfer with redshirt freshman Marvin Washington and freshman Steve Krajewski. UConn will add incoming recruit Jack Zergiotis this summer as the Huskies could have a three-man race for the starting job leading up to the start of the 2019 season.

Because McAfee is transferring to a lower-division program, he will be eligible to play right away in 2019 instead of having to sit out a year before becoming eligible again.

Is new Georgia OC James Coley already on NFL radar?

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This time of the year generally leads to plenty of speculation and name dropping for the sake of creating buzz and conversation. Many times, names of “potential” candidates for various coaching jobs, whether for head coach or an assistant role, around the college game and the NFL will be thrown against the wall just to see what sticks. So when a name pops up in the conversation immediately after a coaching change anywhere is made, it is best to tread carefully around the rumor mill and give things some time to breathe.

But that won’t stop us from monitoring what is being thrown out there when it relates to some coaches around college football. Case in point, the idea that Georgia offensive coordinator James Coley could be a potential target for the Dallas Cowboys following a coaching change with the NFC East champions earlier today. The Cowboys fired offensive coordinator Scott Linehan on Friday and are now in the market for an offensive coordinator. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, via Twitter, Coley could be among those considered for the opening with the Cowboys.

Coley’s name popping up for a possible NFL job isn’t all that shocking. It seems anyone with even the slightest connection to Alabama head coach Nick Saban seems to be in the pool of candidates for any number of jobs every year in the coaching carousel around college football and in the NFL. We previously noted that was seemingly becoming more and more the case with Georgia head coach Kirby Smart even having his name floated around the NFL rumor mill a bit. Coley is a former Saban assistant during Saban’s time at LSU and with the Miami Dolphins. He has also been a part of the Florida State coaching staff from 2008 through 2012, Miami from 2013 through 2015 and Georgia since 2016. He has had plenty of experience around players going on to the NFL and that is not taken lightly.

Coley was just promoted to being the offensive coordinator at Georgia following the departure of Jim Chaney to Tennessee. Odds are probably pretty good Georgia won’t have to worry about losing a second offensive coordinator this offseason, but you just never know this time of the year.

Joe Moglia steps down as head coach at Coastal Carolina, Jamey Chadwell promoted as replacement

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Just when you thought the coaching carousel closed the books once again for the offseason, it appears there is at least one more change to make note of heading into the 2019 season. Joe Moglia is stepping down as head coach of Coastal Carolina, the school announced on Friday afternoon. Associate head coach and offensive coordinator Jamey Chadwell will take over as the new head coach of the program.

Moglia announced he will stay on as Chairman of Athletics for the remainder of his current contract with the university, which runs through June 2021. Moglia will have executive authority over the football program as well.

“On behalf of the Coastal Carolina University family I want to thank Joe Moglia for all he has done not only to transform our football program, but for his support of the University,” Coastal Carolina University President David DeCenzo said in a released statement. “Joe is one of those individuals who bring such great talent and success to everything he’s touched. He’s taken us to a level that years ago was simply a dream. He leaves the coaching ranks with all the well-deserved accolades; and leaves a Coastal football legacy that is poised for even better accomplishments.”

Moglia took one of the most unique paths to becoming the head coach of the Chanticleers. Moglia left a career in the financial industry when he stepped down as CEO of TD Ameritrade in 2008. He joined Bo Pelini in an assistant coaching role at Nebraska, his first time coaching football since being the defensive coordinator at Dartmouth in 1983. After two years with the Huskers, Moglia was named the head coach of the Omaha Nighthawks of the short-lived UFL in 2011, and he became the head coach at Coastal Carolina in 2012.

Under Moglia’s leadership, Coastal Carolina became a rising power at the FCS level with successive playoff appearances from 2012 through 2015 before making the transition to the FCS in 2016. Coastal Carolina went 10-2 in their transition season before jumping into the Sun Belt Conference in 2017. Moglia, however, took the 2017 season off for medical reasons. Chadwell took on the role of interim head coach for the 2017 season and remained on the staff as associate head coach and offensive coordinator in 2018 after Moglia returned to the sidelines for the program.

With Chadwell as the next head coach of the Coastal Carolina program, there should be a smooth transition with some stability on the coaching staff late in the offseason for coaching changes.

Wisconsin renews contract of Paul Chryst into 2024

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In what has seemingly been an annual tradition in Madison, Wisconsin has renewed the contract of head football coach Paul Chryst by tacking on another year. Chryst is now under contract through Jan. 31, 2024 with his latest renewal following approval from the University of Wisconsin Athletic Board.

Wisconsin renewed Chryst’s contract a year ago, extending his contract through the end of Jan. 2023. Wisconsin and Chryst originally agreed on a contract that was set to expire on Jan. 31, 2020 with a written agreement that the contract may be extended with a positive annual review beginning after the 2015 football season.

The Badgers may be coming off a relatively disappointing season with a record of 8-5, but Chryst has gone 42-12 in his first four seasons as head coach of the Badgers and it is expected Wisconsin will remain a consistent contender in the Big Ten West Division with a shot to play for and win the Big Ten championship in the years to come.

According to the USA Today coaching salary database for the 2018 season, Chryst was paid $3.75 million last season. Specific details of how much Chryst will be paid now were not announced by Wisconsin.

Wisconsin also renewed the contracts of volleyball coach Kelly Sheffield, women’s soccer coach Paula Wilkins, and men’s soccer coach John Trask.