JONESBORO, Ark. (7/19/18) – With the Sun Belt Conference’s annual Football Media Day set for Monday, July 23, the league announced its 2018 Preseason Coaches’ Poll Thursday, and five-time SBC champ Arkansas State was picked as the favorite to win both the West Division and the conference’s inaugural championship game.
While the Red Wolves were previously picked to finish runner-up five times, including 2006, 2009, 2012, 2014 and 2016, the 2018 version of the poll marks the first time they have ever been predicted to win the Sun Belt Conference championship.
A-State received nine of the 10 first-place votes to win the West Division and accumulated 49 points. ULM was chosen to finish runner-up in the division with 37 points and followed by South Alabama (1 first-place vote, 26 points), Louisiana (25 points) and Texas State (13 points).
Appalachian State was the favorite to win the East Division with six first-place votes and 46 points, narrowly edging out Troy with four first-place votes and 44 points. Georgia State was picked third (26 points), Georgia Southern fourth (22 points) and Coastal Carolina fifth (12 points).
The Red Wolves have won five of the last seven Sun Belt Conference titles, including 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016, while piling up 59 victories over the last seven seasons to rank tied for the 25th most in the nation and sixth most among Group of 5 programs.
A-State returns 12 starters (7 offense/5 defense) and 54 lettermen from last season’s team that finished 7-5 overall and 6-2 in Sun Belt play while extending the Red Wolves’ consecutive bowl-game appearances to a school-record seven years.
The squad, which most recently faced Middle Tennessee in the 2017 Camellia Bowl, brings back 10 all-conference selections from a year ago, including Offensive Player of the Year Justice Hansen at quarterback. A-State’s other returning all-conference players from last year are Omar Bayless (Jr., WR), Ronheen Bingham (Sr., DE), Lanard Bonner (Sr., OL), Justin Clifton (Sr., DB), B.J. Edmonds (Jr., DB), Cody Grace (Jr., P), Justin McInnis (Sr., WR), Jacob Still (So., OL) and Sawyer Williams (Jr., K).
Blake Anderson returns for his fifth season as head coach with a 26-6 Sun Belt Conference record, giving him an .813 winning percentage that ranks second all-time in league history among head coaches who spent at least three years leading a team in the conference. Additionally, his 26 Sun Belt victories are the sixth most ever by any head coach and he enters 2018 six wins behind Rick Stockstill, who coached Middle Tennessee from 2006-12, for second place on the list.
Arkansas State is set to open its 2018 season Sept. 1 with a 6:00 p.m. kickoff at Centennial Bank Stadium against Southeast Missouri State. Season tickets, which includes six home games, are available for purchase through the A-State Ticket office, located at First National Bank Arena’s lower red entrance, in person, by phone at 870-972-2781 or online by visiting AStateRedWolves.com/Tickets.
2018 Sun Belt Conference Football Coaches’ Poll (first place votes)
2018 Sun Belt Football Coaches Predicted Championship Game Winner: ARKANSAS STATE
1. Arkansas State (9) – 49 pts
2. ULM – 37 pts
3. South Alabama (1) – 26 pts
4. Louisiana – 25 pts
5. Texas State – 13 pts
1. Appalachian St. (6) – 46 pts
2. Troy (4) – 44 pts
3. Georgia State – 26 pts
4. Georgia Southern – 22 pts
5. Coastal Carolina – 12 pts
Original article source: http://www.astateredwolves.com//ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=7200&ATCLID=211735592 | Article may or may not reflect the views of KLEK 102.5 FM or The Voice of Arkansas Minority Advocacy Council