Sun Belt Conference Report
Can Middle Tennessee run the table? Will Troy keep churning out NFL studs? Is Western Kentucky poised to win a game?'s 2010 conference reports continue with Matt Dollinger's Sun Belt breakdown.
How They'll Finish
Middle Tennessee8-010-2
Florida Atlantic4-45-7
Arkansas State4-44-8
North Texas4-44-8
Fla. International3-53-9
Western Kentucky0-80-12
Offensive MVP
Dwight Dasher
2009 Season Stats: 2,789 pass yards, 23 TD; 1,154 rush yards, 13 TD
2010 Projected Stats: 3,100 pass yards, 25 TD; 955 rush yards, 10 TD
The stage is clear for Dasher to become the face of the conference -- if he can get on the field. It remains to be seen if Dasher will receive a team or NCAA suspension after an admitted gambler claimed he loaned Dasher $1,500 for poker games. If the preseason conference player of the year escapes a severe punishment, he should put up huge numbers after an '09 campaign in which he became the fourth player in history to pass for 2,500 yards and rush for 1,000 more in the same season.
Defensive MVP
Troy Evans
2009 Season Stats: 32 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 4 passes defended
2010 Projected Stats: 45 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 5 passes defended
Arkansas State's Bryan Hall won the conference's preseason award, but ULM junior Troy Evans (6-foot-2, 263 pounds) is another defensive end likely to wreak havoc on conference offensive lines. As a sophomore, Evans ranked fifth in the Sun Belt with 6.5 sacks. With senior Aaron Morgan graduated, Evans will get even more chances to chase quarterbacks this season. ULM has one of the best defenses in the league and should perform up to its reputation in 2010 thanks to Evans.
Three Key Nonconference Games
Middle Tennessee vs. Minnesota
Thursday, Sept. 2
7:30 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Don't let the name fool you: Middle Tennessee is no cupcake. While the team has a chance to run the table during conference play, it can add to its postseason résumé by beating up the Gophers in a difficult season opener.
Western Kentucky vs. Indiana
Saturday, Sept. 18
The Hilltoppers failed to a win a game last season, but new head coach Willie Taggart has brought some life to the program. Is it possible they could win their home opener against the first Big Ten team they've ever played?
Troy vs. Bowling Green
Saturday, Sept. 4
The Trojans graduated a ton of talent and will face an early test against Bowling Green, a team that beat them handedly to open the 2009 season. But this time, Troy hosts the Falcons at home.
Conference Game of the Season
Troy at Middle Tennessee State
Tuesday, Oct. 5
8:00 p.m. ET (ESPN)
The Sun Belt's top two teams from '09 face off in the conference's most-anticipated game of 2010. With Trojans QB Levi Brown gone and Dasher a year older, MTSU stands as the early favorite.
Did You Know?
The Sun Belt has gone 4-3 in its seven bowl appearances over the last four seasons, giving the conference a better bowl winning percentage than the ACC, Big Ten, Conference USA and the MAC over the same period.
The conference is also gaining attention as it continues to produce NFL-caliber talent. Last year, the Sun Belt set a league record with seven players taken in the 2010 draft. Troy's Demarcus Ware and Osi Umenyiora rank amongst the Sun Belt's best products over the years.
The Sun Belt celebrates its 10th Anniversary as a football conference this season. The league has come a long way in terms of size, legitimacy and respectability. Last season, Middle Tennessee became the first team in conference history to reach the 10-win mark.

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