Coming off a second place finish in the Sun Belt with an 11-2 overall record and 7-1 conference record, Appalachian State football has been picked to finish first in the conference with 114 votes and five out of 11 first place votes in the Sun Belt preseason poll.
The Mountaineers were picked fourth in last years preseason poll before finishing with only one conference loss en route to making their first ever FBS bowl game, winning the Raycom Camellia Bowl.
Arkansas State, the defending Sun Belt champions and the only conference team to beat the Mountaineers, were picked to finish second with 110 votes and five first place votes.
GoDaddy Bowl champions Georgia Southern received one first place vote to finish third and Georgia State was picked to finish fourth. Troy and UL Lafayette were tied to finish fifth at 70 points.
South Alabama (7th), Idaho (8th), New Mexico State (9th), Texas State (10th) and UL Monroe (11th) round out the preseason poll.
Fresh off their thrilling Camellia Bowl win in December, the Mountaineers are set to return 17-of-22 starters from last year on the offensive and defensive sides and 47 letterman.
Despite being picked first, the last Sun Belt team to win conference after being picked first was UL Lafayette in 2013 before having that title vacated. That makes Troy’s 2009 Sun Belt title the last official time a team has won the conference after being picked first in the preseason poll.
Seven different times has the team selected to win the conference championship go on to win the league trophy and four preseason favorites have won the championship outright.
Entering their third year as an NCAA Division I FBS team and second year as a bowl-eligible team, the Mountaineers set a new record last season for victories by a team in its first season as an eligible member of the FBS with 11 wins. They were also the first team to win a bowl game in its initial season as an eligible FBS team.
The 2016 Sun Belt Media day begins on July 25 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. EPSN3 will broadcast live from the event 1-3 p.m.
2016 Sun Belt Football Coaches Predicted Order of Finish (first place votes)
Appalachian State (5) – 114 pts
2. Arkansas State (5) – 110 pts
3. Georgia Southern (1) – 98 pts
4. Georgia State – 73 pts
5. Troy – 70 pts
5. UL Lafayette – 70 pts
7. South Alabama – 62 pts
8. Idaho – 48 pts
9. New Mexico St. – 37 pts
10. Texas State – 30 pts
11. UL Monroe – 14 pts
Story by Jason Huber, Sports Editor