Here's the final SBC preseason poll and what each writer thinks of FIU's chances this coming season with each writer's predicted finish for FIU. My rankings are below all this:
UNOFFICIAL SUN BELT WRITERS
PRESEASON FOOTBALL POLL
1. Middle Tennessee (6) 78
2. Troy (3) 75
3. Louisiana 58
4. Florida Atlantic 48
5. FIU 44
6. ULM 38
7. Arkansas State 32
8. North Texas 22
9. Western Kentucky 10
* First-place votes in parenthesis.
Preseason Offensive Player of the Year — Dwight Dasher, Middle Tennessee
Preseason Defensive Player of the Year — Jamari Lattimore, Middle Tennessee
MTSU beat writer
The Daily News Journal
With games against Rutgers, Texas A&M, Maryland and Pittsburgh to start the season, FIU could be pretty good but still be 0-4. I think FIU will be the most unpredictable team in the league, but I’ve still got a hunch that FAU is better.
Troy beat writer
The Golden Panthers have recruited plenty of talent over the past few years. It’s time for that talent to talk the talk.
MATTHEW V. ROBERSON
ASU beat writer
Same old Florida International.
FAU beat writer
South Florida SunSentinel
(Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.)
Coach Mario Cristobal brought in new offensive and defensive coordinators to try and squeeze more out of the talent on the roster. If they don’t, he could be gone.
UNT beat writer
Denton Record Chronicle
It looked like FIU was ready for that breakout season last year, but finished 3-9. With T.Y. Hilton back and maybe the best recruiting class in the league coming in, this could be the year the Golden Panthers get to .500. FIU will have to improve defensively to get there.
ULL beat writer
The Daily Advertiser
Good luck predicting how the Golden Panthers will do in 2010. Coach Mario Cristobal was poised for a breakout year but won only three games in '09. WR T.Y. Hilton is a stud but needs a quarterback to get him the ball.
ULM beat writer
The News Star
The Golden Panthers put up a lot of hype last preseason only to produce a mediocre season, therefore it is difficult to give too much optimism this season with the entire offense left to rebuild.
WKU beat writer
(Bowling Green, Ky.)
Intense early schedule with a new quarterback could cause some early issues for FIU. Always one of the more athletic squads in the league, the Golden Panthers need to start turning athleticism into victories.
FIU beat writer
Offensive Player of the Year — Dwight Dasher, Middle Tennessee
Defensive Player of the Year — Jamari Lattimore, Middle Tennessee
SUN BELT PREDICTIONS
1. Middle Tennessee
Dwight Dasher is the most electrifying player in the conference and the key to a potent offense. Despite losing Chris McCoy, the Blue Raiders should be fine defensively led by Jamari Lattimore. Middle should unseat Troy for the conference crown.
The Trojans have plenty of offense to defend their Sun Belt crown. 2009 Sun Belt Player of the Year Levi Brown is a big loss, but DuJuan Harris and Shawn Southward returning at running back and Jerrel Jernigan at receiver will keep the Troy offense humming. Although, it won’t be enough to knock off the Blue Raiders.
The Panthers could be in the top 3 in the league or somewhere in the middle of the pack. A lot will depend on their offensive and defensive lines. FIU has plenty of talented skill players on offense and speed to burn. New defensive coordinator Geoff Collins has turned around defenses everywhere he’s coached.
4. Florida Atlantic
FAU will not have to break in a new quarterback despite the loss of Rusty Smith to the NFL. Jeff Van Camp filled in admirably last season. Explosive running back Alfred Morris is back and the Owls always seem to hang around the Sun Belt race.
Running back Frank Goodin should help new coach Todd Berry in his first season. Berry should bring a new look to the offense. Despite losing linebacker Cardia Jackson, the Warhawks should play gritty defense and are solid on both lines.
The Cajuns should be ranked higher up, but for some reason have underachieved recently. Plenty of starters return and sophomore running back Yobes Walker should have another strong season. Quarterback Chris Masson and the passing game need to step up and balance the offense.
7. Arkansas State
The Red Wolves lost a ton of talent, including defensive stalwart Alex Carrington and quarterback Corey Leonard. Someone else will have to emerge at running back with the departure of Reggie Arnold.
8. North Texas
North Texas’s big question mark is who will play quarterback after Riley Dodge moved to receiver. Coach Todd Dodge and new offensive coordinator Mike Canales have to find a reliable signal caller or the Mean Green will struggle moving the ball. Running back Lance Dunbar will help move the chains. If UNT doesn’t improve defensively it could be competing with Western Kentucky to stay out of the SBC basement.
9. Western Kentucky
The Hilltoppers will struggle again, but with a little luck and an improved defense they could be knocking on North Texas’s door to avoid last place