- Sun Belt championship odds are currently available at BetMGM.
- South Alabama (+300) is the Week 1 favorite, thanks to 18 returning starters.
- James Madison is ineligible to win the Sun Belt in 2023.
- Appalachian State is a sleeper that bettors should watch closely.
We can’t let the SEC have all the fun.
College football odds are available 24/7 at the BetMGM online sportsbook, and many bettors head there with specific P5 targets in mind.
Personally, I like to carve out a little time every offseason to spend with one of my favorite conferences at any level of college football: the Sun Belt.
Following the four new additions from 2022, the Sun Belt has evolved from a conference on the rise to the true model for fun, competent G5 football. Its two divisions make geographic sense and are deeply competitive.
In the East, old-guard FCS powerhouses like James Madison, Marshall, and Appalachian State compete in a division with true 1-through-7 depth.
The West gets knocked as a weaker division because it’s not as deep, but fans of Sun Belt West teams are happy to remind everyone on the East Coast that an Eastern team hasn’t won the Sun Belt championship since 2019.
Which Football Team Won the Sun Belt in 2022?
The Troy Trojans won the Sun Belt in 2022, beating Coastal Carolina in the championship game, 45-26.
Sun Belt Championship Odds
Sun Belt Favorites: Why South Alabama Tops the Table
South Alabama hadn’t had a winning season since the program entered FBS in 2012, so the Jaguars seemingly came out of nowhere in 2022 when they posted a 10-win season. That included three-point losses against UCLA and Troy.
South Alabama has another tough schedule this year, drawing No. 24 Tulane in Week 1, Oklahoma State in Week 3, and cross-divisional conference games with JMU and Marshall. This is among the most difficult schedules in all of G5 football.
Still, South Alabama has emerged as a slight favorite in the NCAAF odds market because of what they bring back relative to the remainder of the conference. South Alabama’s Net TARP (Transferring Assets & Returning Production) rating is +8, easily the highest in the Sun Belt and a top-10 mark in all of FBS football.
The second-highest ranking in the conference is the reigning champs, Troy. But they’re all the way down at +3.5.
South Alabama has virtually no historical football pedigree to speak of, but they are the most talented team in the conference this year. With JMU ineligible, Coastal Carolina trending down, and Troy due for regression, this is South Alabama’s season to lose.
Unexpectedly, though, the Sun Belt favorite has a paltry price in the college football win totals market. Because of South Alabama’s difficult schedule, it’s priced as low as 7.5 at BetMGM, despite the fact that it’s also just 3-to-1 to win the conference.
James Madison Football Eligibility
James Madison “won” the East with the best record after demolishing Coastal Carolina in its regular-season finale, 47-7. However, the Sun Belt’s official position is that division winners only exist in the context of setting up a championship game, so James Madison won’t actually be eligible to formally win the East until 2024.
JMU does not appear in the championship odds below for the same reason. As of this writing, JMU will only be eligible for a bowl game this season if they reach six wins and there are not enough other eligible teams to fill all the bowl slots.
Sun Belt Football Sleepers: Watch Out for App State
I recently had college football magazine extraordinaire Phil Steele on my handicapping podcast, The Lion’s Edge, and he was bullish on App State’s prospects this year as a possible contender in the Sun Belt East.
“Expectations are pretty low for App State this year,” Steele said. “But when I talked to Coach [Shawn] Clark, he said, ‘You know what? I’m happy I’m the coach of this team because I know we’re going to get this thing corrected.’”
App State was only 6-6 last year, but they do bring seven starters back on offense this year. Steele believes the offense will get back to a more run-focused identity this year, which will serve the Mountaineers well.
“The last two years, they’ve gone with Chase Brice [at quarterback] and tried to throw the ball a bit more,” Steele said. “Now, they’re going back to their wheelhouse. Their quarterbacks are Ryan Burger, Joey Aguilar, Mason McHugh – these are running quarterbacks. Remember: App State, at its best, ran the football with the quarterback. That’s what they’re going to do. They’ve got [running back] Nate Noel back, too.”
The schedule is also cause for optimism.
“The only games I have them as an underdog are at North Carolina, at Wyoming, and at James Madison,” Steele said. “This is a team that didn’t even make a bowl last year. But I think they’re maybe even capable of getting to double-digit wins this year.”
I’m coming around late on App State as a win total bet. Currently 7 at @BetMGM, +105 to the over.
Gardner-Webb & ECU as non-con home games. Road SBC games against #JMU, where they’ll be a dog, but also at GaSt, at ODU, at ULM. USM at home from West.
There are 7-8 wins here.
— Chase Kiddy (@chaseakiddy) August 28, 2023
Steele has App State at No. 3 in his magazine’s Most Improved list for 2023, right behind No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 1 Texas A&M.
The list also includes Georgia Southern (+900) and Louisiana (+1600).
College Football Podcast: Want More CFB, Odds Analysis?
If you like this sort of content, or you want to hear the rest of my conversation with Phil Steele, then I’d recommend checking out my podcast, The Lion’s Edge.
Every week, I highlight odds and bets that I think are interesting or ripe for advantage bettors like me. I also bring on expert guests from both inside and outside of the sportsbook so that you can learn a little bit more about key topics in online sports betting.
Check it out and subscribe on the podcast player of your choice. You can also listen to the most recent episodes in the podcast player below.
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