Beignets, coffee and football: Ragin’ Cajuns and Nevada clash in the New Orleans Bowl on Saturday morning _lowres

UL-Lafayette running back Elijah McGuire

Appalachian State

Coach: Scott Satterfield

Players: Senior WR Simms McElfresh, senior DB Doug Middleton

Easy to answer: The Mountaineers proved they belong at the FBS level by winning their final six games behind strong performances from running back Marcus Cox (1,080 yards and 14 touchdowns in last seven games) and a defense that led the conference in yards allowed.

Tough to say: Quarterback Taylor Lamb took over the starting job after the second game and put up solid numbers on his way to the SBC Freshman of the Year award. But the Mountaineers were better when they relied on him less, going 5-0 in games when he attempted 22 or fewer passes.

Follow along on Twitter: @AppState_FB

Arkansas State

Coach: Blake Anderson

Players: Senior TE Darion Griswold, senior DB Rocky Hayes

Easy to answer: The Red Wolves have arguably the best 1-2 offensive punch in the Sun Belt in quarterback Fredi Knighten and running back Michael Gordon. They combined to have a hand in 50 touchdowns last season.

Tough to say: Arkansas State’s defense was exposed in the second half of last season, giving up 39 points per game in their final seven games, including 55 to the Cajuns and 63 in a bowl loss to Toledo.

Follow along on Twitter: @RedWolvesFBall

Georgia Southern

Coach: Willie Fritz

Players: Senior DB Matt Dobson, senior OL Darien Foreman

Easy to answer: Georgia Southern claimed the title in its inaugural SBC season thanks to an offense that churned out nearly 400 yards per game on the ground. Running back Matt Breida (1,475 yards, 17 TDs) and quarterback Kevin Ellison (1,082 yards, 12 TDs) return to spearhead that attack.

Tough to say: Not only are the Eagles losing nine starters, but they also will have to play the upper-echelon teams from the conference. Their undefeated 2014 conference slate came against teams that went a combined 31-65.

Follow along on Twitter: @GSAthletics_FB

Georgia State

Coach: Trent Miles

Players: Senior WR Donovan Harden, senior LB Joseph Peterson

Easy to answer: Nick Arbuckle led the conference in passing yards with 3,283 and tossed 15 TDs to eight INTs against SBC foes.

Tough to say: Is this the year the Panthers score their first SBC win? They’ve gone 0-15 in two years in the SBC and are 1-23 overall since moving up to the FBS level when they joined the SBC in 2013.

Follow along on Twitter: @GeorgiaStateFB


Coach: Paul Petrino

Players: Senior LB Marc Millan, senior RB Elijhaa Penny

Easy to answer: The pieces are there for the offense, which averaged 25 points during a 1-10 campaign.

Tough to say: Idaho’s defense was atrocious: The Vandals gave up 37.3 points and 462 yards per game. In an effort to change things, the Vandals are switching to a 3-4 scheme under new defensive coordinator Mike Breske.

Follow along on Twitter: @VandalFootball


Coach: Mark Hudspeth

Players: OL Mykhael Quave, LB Dominique Tovell

Easy to answer: Running back Elijah McGuire has been the SBC’s most dynamic player the past two years, and he should get even more opportunities after the departure of Alonzo Harris.

Tough to say: There are two major hangups when it comes to predicting the Cajuns to continue their trend of success: They don’t have a starting quarterback yet, and their defense is replacing studs on the line and in the secondary.

Follow along on Twitter: @RaginCajunsFB, @LukeJohnsonAdv


Coach: Todd Berry

Players: Senior WR Rashon Ceaser, Senior DB Mitch Lane

Easy to answer: The defense was one of the best in the SBC last year, and it returns most of its core, including Gerrand Johnson (6.5 sacks).

Tough to say: Despite being one of the few SBC teams with a solid defense, ULM slumped to a 4-8 record. On top of that, ULM will break in a new quarterback, and Berry is the new play-caller.

Follow along on Twitter: @ULM_FB

New Mexico State

Coach: Doug Martin

Players: Sophomore LB Rodney Butler, sophomore QB Tyler Rogers

Easy to answer: The lone bright spot in an ugly first year back in the SBC was Larry Rose III, who ran for 1,102 yards and nine scores.

Tough to say: The Aggies are breaking in a new offensive coordinator and are still unsettled at quarterback.

Follow along on Twitter: @FootballNMSU

South Alabama

Coach: Joey Jones

Players: Junior DB Roman Buchanon, senior OL Chris May

Easy to answer: The Jaguars could look a lot like UAB of 2014, especially on offense. USA is replacing its top producers at QB, RB and WR, and UAB transfers (there are seven on the roster) could fill those slots.

Tough to say: The Jaguars have to replace three-quarters of their starting defensive line, both starting linebackers and 40 percent of their starting secondary.

Follow along on Twitter: @JagsFootball

Texas State

Coach: Dennis Franchione

Players: Senior RB Robert Lowe, senior DB David Mims

Easy to answer: The Bobcats more than doubled their conference win total in their second year of SBC play and should be near the top again.

Tough to say: Texas State has to replace the 173 tackles racked up by Defensive Player of the Year David Mayo and nine sacks from Michael Odiari.

Follow along on Twitter: @TxStateFootball


Coach: Neal Brown

Players: Senior RB Brandon Burks, senior DE Tyler Roberts

Easy to answer: Troy’s offense was punchless last season, but that happens to be Brown’s specialty.

Tough to say: For the first time in a quarter century, someone other than Larry Blakeney is calling the shots. Troy hasn’t had a winning season since 2010 (8-5).

Follow along on Twitter: @TroyTrojansFB