Sun Belt media day: Four downs _lowres

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON -- Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson speaks during media day at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Tuesday, July 22, 2014.


The term “Group of Five” was quite popular Tuesday. It refers to the five mid-major conferences — the Sun Belt, Conference USA, Mountain West, American and Mid-American — that will compete for an automatic spot in one of the New Year’s Day “access” bowls as part of the new four-team College Football Playoff. It’s unlikely, but this could — depending on record and strength of schedule — put a Sun Belt team in the CFP.


There were some new faces here — and some familiar ones, too. Appalachian State and Georgia Southern took part in their first media day appearance as FBS schools, and New Mexico State and Idaho returned to their old conference after stints in the WAC and as an independent. SBC Commissioner Karl Benson said the goal is to push the conference, which has 11 football members, to 12 so it can hold a conference title game.


More than half of the Sun Belt teams are replacing their starting quarterback from a year ago. Included in that list are UL-Monroe, Arkansas State, Troy, New Mexico State and South Alabama — all of whom are replacing a starter who threw for more than 2,100 yards last season. It’s a big reason why UL-Lafayette, which returns senior QB Terrance Broadway as the league’s preseason Offensive Player of the Year, is the runaway favorite.


The Sun Belt had seven bowl-eligible teams last year, but only UL-Lafayette and Arkansas State made bowl games. That figure is set to increase to three this year with the creation of the Camellia Bowl, to be played Dec. 20 in Montgomery, Alabama, then will bump to four in 2015 with the Cure Bowl, which will debut Dec. 19, 2015, in Orlando, Florida. The SBC is in line to face a MAC team in the Camellia and an American squad in the Cure.