For the second straight season App State football is picked to finish first in the Sun Belt conference with 136 total points and seven out of 12 first place votes in the Sun Belt conference preseason poll by league coaches.
Capping off a 10-3 season with a 7-1 conference record to capture a share of their first Sun Belt conference championship, the Mountaineers finished the 2016 season with their second straight Camellia Bowl victory.
App State will return 47 lettermen and 13 of their 22 starters on offense and defense from a 2016 squad that tied with Arkansas State for the Sun Belt title.
In addition to App State, four other Sun Belt teams received first place votes. Troy received two votes and Arkansas State, Louisiana and New Mexico State each received one.
Troy, the only Sun Belt team to beat App State last season was picked to finish second in the conference with 127 points.
Arkansas State (122 points) and South Alabama (97 points) round out the top four. App State is not scheduled to face any of the three teams picked behind them, giving them a fairly clear path to try and repeat as Sun Belt champions.
Rounding out the rest of the preseason poll is Louisiana (5th), Idaho (6th), Georgia Southern (7th), Georgia State (8th), ULM (9th), New Mexico State (10th), Texas State (11th) and Coastal Carolina (12th), who will be competing in their first season as an FBS team.
It was a record year for the Sun Belt conference in 2016 with six teams participating in a bowl game and tying behind the ACC for the second best winning percentage amongst all conferences (.667, 4-2).
The 2017 season will be the last time that the team with the best conference record wins the championship. Starting in 2018, the Sun Belt will be split in two divisions and the top team from each division will compete in a Sun Belt championship game.
This season will also be the last season New Mexico State and Idaho competes in the Sun Belt conference.
App State became the first team since Louisiana in 2013 to be picked first in the preseason poll and end up winning the conference championship. Louisiana’s title was vacated, making App the first official team since Troy in 2009 and the eighth team of all-time to win the conference after being picked first in the preseason poll.
The Mountaineers have had multiple players named to preseason award watch lists this summer including senior linebacker Eric Boggs, junior running back Jalin Moore, sophomore Clifton Duck, senior quarterback Taylor Lamb and senior offensive lineman Colby Gossett.
The 2017 Sun Belt Conference Football Media Day begins on Sunday, July 23 with the Fais Do-Do and then on Monday, July 24 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
App State is scheduled to open the season up on September 2 at Georgia.
2017 Sun Belt Football Coaches Predicted Order of Finish (first place votes)
1. Appalachian St. (7) – 136 pts
2. Troy (2) – 127 pts
3. Arkansas State (1) – 122 pts
4. South Alabama – 98 pts
5. Louisiana (1) – 95 pts
6. Idaho – 84 pts
7. Georgia Southern – 82 pts
8. Georgia State – 48 pts
9. ULM – 46 pts
10. New Mexico St. (1) – 41 pts
11. Texas State – 31 pts
12. Coastal Carolina – 26 pts
Story By: Jason Huber, Sports Editor