Our penultimate conference recap will focus on the Sun Belt, a conference that saw half of its members become bowl eligible last season. To see last year's post on the Sun Belt, click here.
First here are the 2012 Sun Belt standings.
And here are the 2012 Sun Belt SDPI standings. The standings are sorted by SDPI with ranking for each category (out of 10 teams) in parentheses.
Despite breaking in a new coach for the second-consecutive year, Arkansas State repeated as league champs. On the whole, the league sent four teams to postseason play for the first time ever.
So Who Was Better Than Their Record Showed?
Troy finished in the upper-half of the conference on both sides of the ball, but missed out on a bowl game for the second year in a row thanks to a 2-4 record in one-score league games. Overall, the Trojans were just 2-6 in one-score games, losing tight contests to both Mississippi State and Tennessee of the SEC. In addition, six of their seven losses came to teams that qualified for bowl games.
So Who Was Worse Than Their Record Showed?
Middle Tennessee State was below average on both sides of the ball and was actually the lowest rated Sun Belt team by SDPI in 2012. Yet they won three quarters of their conference games thanks to an in-conference best +10 turnover margin and a sterling 4-0 record in one-score games. In fact, over the course of eight Sun Belt games, the Blue Raiders were actually outscored by eight points despite their strong record.
Best Offense: Louisiana-Lafayette 1.79
In two seasons at the helm, Mark Hudspeth has guided the Cajuns to 18 wins, including a pair of bowl triumphs, and has made them into one of the most explosive mid-major offenses. Lafayette topped 400 yards of offense in six of their eight conference games.
Worst Offense: South Alabama -1.05
In their first season of IA football, the Jaguars (understandably) experienced some major growing pains. The offense was held below 400 yards in six of their eight conference games
Best Defense: Western Kentucky 1.31
After a 5-1 start that included a win over in-state rival Kentucky, the Hilltoppers limped to the finish with just two wins the rest of the season. However, the defense, outside of a ghastly performance against Louisiana-Lafayette, remained stout, holding seven of eight league foes under 400 yards of offense.
Worst Defense: Louisiana-Lafayette -1.75
The Cajuns certainly played an entertaining brand of football in 2012. Half of their league opponents gained over 500 yards against them and the average score of their Sun Belt games 37-28.
Time to Tighten the Ole' Sun Belt
Last post I examined the great success the MAC had in their non-conference clashes with teams from BCS conferences in 2012. This week, I want to do the same with the Sun Belt. In 2012, Sun Belt teams won three games versus teams from BCS conferences. That number equals the three they notched in 2007 as the most the league has won in its history. In addition, the winning percentage against BCS conferences was the best in league history. The table below lists the aggregate winning percentage of the Sun Belt against BCS conference opponents for each season since 2005.
The Sun Belt will be posting a net loss of two members in 2013, as Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Middle Tennessee, and North Texas move up to Conference USA and Georgia State (from IAA) and Texas State (from the WAC) join the league. However, the conference's stronger teams, Arkansas State, the Louisiana schools, Troy, and Western Kentucky remain in tow and could add additional BCS conference wins to the Sun Belt's ledger.