The Pi-Rate Ratings

August 11, 2022

Sun Belt Conference Preview

In 2001, the Sun Belt Conference, having sponsored basketball for a quarter century with membership of many programs that didn’t have scholarship football, decided to add football to its sanctioned sports. For several years, the league languished as the weakest Division 1-A and later FBS conference. Teams left the league to join what was then a stronger Conference USA.

About five years ago, the league began to rapidly improve. Not only did it become the equal of Conference USA, when a couple of programs became really good, the SBC left CUSA in its rear view mirror and then passed the Mid-American Conference. The league planned to expand to 14 teams next year, but an 11th hour decision brought Marshall, Old Dominion, and Southern Mississippi into the league this year. Additionally, James Madison makes its FBS debut. This league has the potential to improve to the point where it is the equal of the Mountain West and American Athletic Conferences.

Sun Belt PiRate Ratings–Preseason

East Division
Georgia St.99.298.4102.5100.0
Appal. St.
Coastal Car.92.794.194.993.9
J. Madison87.
Old Dominion89.389.389.489.3
Ga. Southern86.585.987.086.5
West Division
South Alabama85.285.586.485.7
Southern Miss.85.085.585.185.2
Texas St.80.381.281.380.9
Arkansas St.80.081.680.580.7
Sun Belt88.789.390.189.4

Sun Belt Conference Official Media Poll

#East1st PlaceOverall
1Appalachian St.1094
2Coastal Carolina277
3Georgia St.168
5Georgia Southern135
6James Madison031
7Old Dominion025
#West1st PlaceOverall
2South Alabama279
4Texas St.041
5Southern Miss.040
6Arkansas St.037

The PiRate Ratings are meant to be used to predict the outcomes of games being played in the week that they are released and updated. They are not really meant to look forward past the next week of games, but nevertheless, here are the predicted won-loss records for the league.

Appalachian St.7-19-4
Georgia St.7-18-4
Coastal Carolina6-28-4
Old Dominion6-26-6
James Madison3-55-6
Georgia Southern2-64-8
South Alabama3-55-7
Southern Miss.3-54-8
Texas St.1-73-9
Arkansas St.1-73-9

Louisiana picked to beat Appalachian St. in the Sun Belt Conference Championship Game.

March 18, 2021

PiRate Ratings College Basketball Spreads

NCAA First Four

Team 1Team 2Spread
Mount St. Mary’sTexas Southern1.3
DrakeWichita St.2.0
Norfolk St.Appalachian St.0.3
UCLAMichigan St.0.7

August 10, 2019

2019 Sun Belt Conference Football Preview

The Sun Belt Conference is a league on the rise, and in 2019, it has moved past two other leagues to third best in the Group of 5, at least according to our preseason PiRate Ratings.

Recent success has led to coach poaching by Power 5 schools, much like the poaching of MAC schools for decades by the Big Ten.  The East Division breaks in new coaches at the top two programs, as Appalachian State’s former coach Scott Satterfield moved on to Louisville, and Troy’s former coach Neal Brown took the West Virginia job.

It’s the personnel that returns in droves this year in the SBC.  Most of the contenders will be as talented or better than 2018, and the few teams that look a tad weaker were already the also-rans of the league.

Here’s how the Sun Belt Conference Media voted in their preseason poll.


Sun Belt Conference Media Poll
East Division
Pos. Team 1st Place Votes Overall Votes
1 Appalachian St. 7 46
2 Troy 1 39
3 Georgia Southern 2 35
4 Coastal Carolina 0 17
5 Georgia St. 0 13


West Division
Pos. Team 1st Place Votes Overall Votes
1 Louisiana 6 46
2 Arkansas St. 3 42
3 Louisiana-Monroe 0 27
4 South Alabama 1 19
5 Texas St. 0 16


Championship Game Winner
Appalachian St.


The preseason PiRate Ratings differ minimally from the media poll.


Preseason PiRate Ratings–Sun Belt Conference
East Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Appalachian St. 105.2 103.3 104.3 104.3
Georgia Southern 98.3 98.0 97.7 98.0
Troy 95.1 95.5 94.1 94.9
Georgia St. 84.2 85.6 83.2 84.3
Coastal Carolina 81.2 82.6 80.0 81.3


West Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Louisiana 92.1 92.9 91.0 92.0
Arkansas St. 91.2 91.7 91.1 91.3
Louisiana-Monroe 89.0 89.9 89.0 89.3
Texas St. 83.6 84.9 83.6 84.0
South Alabama 74.8 78.0 73.6 75.5


SBC Averages 89.5 90.2 88.8 89.5

Note:  These preseason ratings are accurate as of August 1, 2019, and subject to change before the first week of the season due to personnel changes prior to the first week of the season.


Predicted Won-Loss Records

The PiRate Ratings were not created to forecast won-loss records like other ratings might attempt.  Our ratings are valid for just the next game on the teams’ schedules, and we have pre-set adjustments built into our ratings on many teams.  For instance, if a team has exceptional starting talent but little depth, their rating has a pre-set reduction per week of the season, so that even if they win or lose a game by the exact expected margin, they will lose some of their power rating due to their depth issues.

If a team has exceptional, but inexperienced talent, their rating will have a pre-set addition per week of the season, and even if their performance may be exactly what was expected, their power rating will rise.

What you see in these predicted won-loss records are our opinion and not calculated from the ratings.  These are the estimated records based on a vote, with the Captain having 50% of the vote and the crew having the other 50%.  The Captain then rounded up or down those teams picked to have an average wins that were not whole numbers.


PiRate Members Predicted Won-Loss
East Division
Pos Team Sun Belt Overall
1 Appalachian St. 7-1 10-3*
2 Troy 6-2 9-3
3 Georgia Southern 6-2 8-4
4 Coastal Carolina 2-6 4-8
5 Georgia St. 1-7 2-10


West Division
Pos Team Sun Belt Overall
1 Arkansas St. 6-2 7-6
2 Louisiana 6-2 8-4
3 UL-Monroe 4-4 5-7
4 Texas St. 2-6 3-9
5 South Alabama 0-8 1-11
* Appalachian St. Picked to Win SBC Championship Game


Bowl Predictions
New Orleans Appalachian St.
Dollar General Arkansas St.
Camellia Louisiana
Cure Georgia Southern
Arizona Troy


Coaches That Could Move To Power 5 Conferences

Chad Lunsford, Georgia Southern

Billy Napier, Louisiana


Coaches On The Hot Seat

Shawn Elliott, Georgia St.


Top Quarterbacks

Shai Werts, Georgia Southern

Zac Thomas, Appalachian St.

Caleb Evans, Louisiana-Monroe


Best Offense

Appalachian St.




Best Defense

Georgia Southern


Appalachian St.


Coming Tomorrow–The Mountain West Conference

August 10, 2018

2018 Sun Belt Conference Preview

Welcome to the 2018 College Football season! It has been a long Winter, Spring, and Summer in dry dock, but the PiRates have fixed the ship up better than new, and we are anxious to launch our repaired vessel to the Gridiron Sea for 2018-19.

If you read yesterday’s post, we took on a remodeling job with our ratings this year. New analytical data became available to convince us that we needed to tweak the weighting we gave each position on the field, more in the NFL, but still a great deal in the NCAA. Thus, some schools that may have been ranked in the top 25 to start the season did not climb out of the 30’s, while one or two schools that may have faced what we thought might have been rebuilding seasons stayed in the top 25. We will know soon how well the new system fares. The advanced statistics should be more accurate if history holds up, but the sample size is still small enough that some increased standard deviation and variance could give us some nervous Saturdays in September. By the first of October, the ratings should be about the same as they would be if we kept the old algorithms.

Before we start with out first preview, let us notify you that the preseason ratings you see in the previews may not be the same as the ratings you see for the first game. We update every team’s rating based on player injuries, changes to the depth charts, and other factors that may change during preseason practice. Of course, we also have two major stories that will force us to alter the ratings before week one–What happens with Urban Meyer at Ohio State, and how many players from North Carolina will not dress for the California game in Berkeley.

With our ratings, the total average for the 130 teams must be 100.0, so if we remove 10 points from one school and 7 points from another, those lost 17 points have to be redistributed to the other 128 teams. It isn’t as easy as that, because upwards of 40 schools will need to have their opening week ratings lowered due to the high number of roster adjustments in August, and the remaining 90 schools will then pick up fractions of a point to as much as a couple of points.

Now that the preliminary announcements have been made, let’s start with this year’s first conference preview. Bringing up the rear yet again is the Sun Belt Conference, which ranks 11th out of 11 leagues in FBS power rating.

The SBC has changed quite a bit in 2018. Idaho left the conference and FBS football, as the Vandals dropped to FCS. New Mexico State left to become an independent just one year after breaking a string of 14 consecutive losing seasons and celebrating their first bowl win since 1960.

There are now 10 teams in the Sun Belt Conference, but the league has now split into two divisions, and there will be a conference championship game on December 1st.

Last year, Appalachian State and Troy tied for the league championship, with Arkansas State, Georgia State, and former member New Mexico State joining the co-champions in bowl games. Troy won with their defense and a strong passing game, while Appy State won with their balanced offense and tough pass defense.

Here is how the SBC media voted in the preseason poll.

Team Votes
East Division 1st Place Overall
1. Appalachian State 6 46
2. Troy 4 44
3. Georgia State 0 26
4. Georgia Southern 0 22
5. Coastal Carolina 0 12
West Division 1st Place Overall
1. Arkansas St. 9 49
2. Louisiana-Monroe 0 37
3. South Alabama 1 26
4. Louisiana 0 25
5. Texas State 0 13

There were no votes for overall conference champion.

The PiRate Ratings are a tad different to begin the 2018 season. They agree with the media all up and down in the West Division, but the East is different at the top, where Troy begins the season ranked ahead of Appy State, and Georgia Southern leads Georgia State at the beginning of the season.

East Division
Team SBC Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Troy 0-0 0-0 91.8 93.7 93.7 93.1
Appalachian St. 0-0 0-0 87.5 89.1 88.7 88.4
Georgia Southern 0-0 0-0 82.5 83.7 82.4 82.9
Georgia St. 0-0 0-0 77.6 80.6 78.4 78.9
Coastal Carolina 0-0 0-0 73.2 76.4 73.6 74.4
West Division
Team SBC Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Arkansas St. 0-0 0-0 88.0 89.8 89.7 89.2
UL-Monroe 0-0 0-0 87.3 86.7 88.1 87.4
South Alabama 0-0 0-0 81.4 83.8 82.6 82.6
Louisiana 0-0 0-0 78.9 81.1 79.9 80.0
Texas State 0-0 0-0 70.4 73.9 69.9 71.4
Sun Belt Averages 81.9 83.9 82.7 82.8

New Coaches
Georgia Southern elevated Chad Lunsford from interim coach to full-time head coach, and Lunsford will move the Eagles back to the option/zone read offense that former coach Willie Fritz used when GSU went 8-4 and played in the Bowl. Lunsford assumed head coaching duties last year when Georgia Southern began the year 0-6 and averaging just 18 points per game. Under Lunsford, the team finished 2-4 and averaged 23.7 points per game. Expect the Eagles to top 25 points per game and approach 28 to 30 this year.

Louisiana begins the Billy Napier era in Lafayette. Napier has an impressive resume that includes working for Dabo Swinney and Nick Saban. He most recently served as offensive coordinator at Arizona State, where the Sun Devils averaged 31.8 yards and 431 yards per game. Napier was offered to remain in Tempe as the offensive coordinator under Coach Herm Edwards, but he took the job in Lafayette instead.

South Alabama welcomes Steve Campbell to Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Campbell enjoyed an outstanding four-year stint at FCS Central Arkansas. He led the Bears to a 33-15 record including back-to-back 10-win seasons and FCS Playoff bids. Campbell served as the offensive line coach at Mississippi State for one season and as offensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee for one season as his only paid FBS coaching experience. He was also a graduate assistant under Pat Dye at Auburn.

Predicted Won-Loss Records

Team Conference Overall
Troy 8-0 11-2*
Appalachian St. 6-2 9-3
Georgia Southern 4-4 6-6
Georgia St. 2-6 3-9
Coastal Carolina 0-8 1-11
Team Conference Overall
Arkansas St. 8-0 10-3
UL-Monroe 6-2 7-5
Louisiana 4-4 6-6
South Alabama 2-6 3-9
Texas St. 0-8 1-11
* Troy picked to win SBC Championship Game

Bowl Tie-ins
The SBC does not have a set bowl order. They send eligible teams to bowls to create the best overall games. These are the bowls tie-ins for 2018.

Arizona Bowl in Tucson, AZ
Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, AL
Cure Bowl in Orlando, FL
Dollar General Bowl in Mobile, AL
New Orleans Bowl in New Orleans, LA

Coming Tomorrow–Conference USA

August 15, 2016

2016 Sun Belt Conference Football Ratings Preview

The PiRate Ratings kick off its 2016 college football coverage today with the first of 11 previews. We will preview conferences in order of lowest overall average rating to highest, so as we have every year since this league’s inception, we begin with the Sun Belt Conference today.

Last year, Arkansas State ventured to Appalachian State to decide the conference championship in early November. Both teams were undefeated in conference play at the time, and Appy State was a 10-point home favorite. The Mountaineers led 21-14 just before the half, but the Red Wolves scored 26 straight points and won 40-27 and ran the table to finish 8-0 in the league.

This year, the same two teams, plus third place Georgia Southern will contend for the 2016 SBC crown. The PiRates believe four additional teams will compete for bowl eligibility, with three becoming successful, and four teams will try to stay out of the basement and go winless in the league, and possibly winless overall.

With the more favorable FBS vs. FCS schedules this year, it is our opinion that considerably more than the needed teams will be bowl eligible, so this league is likely to see at least one team end the season bowl eligible and not receive a bowl invitation.

Here is how the Sun Belt Media predicted the order of finish in the pre-season media roundup.

2016 Sun Belt Conference Media Poll
# Team 1st Pl. Total
1 Appalachian St. 5 114
2 Arkansas St. 5 110
3 Georgia Southern 1 98
4 Georgia St. 0 73
5t UL-Lafayette 0 70
5t Troy 0 70
7 South Alabama 0 62
8 Idaho 0 48
9 New Mexico St. 0 37
10 Texas St. 0 30
11 UL-Monroe 0 14

The Beginning PiRate Numbers differ very little from the official poll.

Sunbelt Conference
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Appalachian St. 95.5 95.7 97.1 96.1
Arkansas St. 91.9 94.2 94.4 93.5
Georgia Southern 93.0 91.7 95.5 93.4
Troy 83.6 90.2 85.2 86.4
Georgia St. 81.7 87.1 83.9 84.2
Idaho 78.1 85.2 79.7 81.0
UL-Lafayette 76.3 86.8 78.7 80.6
South Alabama 75.3 85.2 76.2 78.9
New Mexico St. 73.7 76.5 74.9 75.0
UL-Monroe 67.9 73.3 68.3 69.8
Texas St. 68.8 69.5 69.5 69.3
Sun Belt Averages 80.5 85.1 82.1 82.6

The PiRate Ratings are best used just to look forward to the next week game schedule.  These ratings cannot really be used to predict won-loss records, so with that caveat, here are the projected won-loss records based on the ratings above.

Sun Belt Conference Projected Standings
Team Conference Overall Bowl
Arkansas St. 8-0 9-3 New Orleans
Appalachian St. 7-1 9-3 GoDaddy
Georgia Southern 7-1 8-4 Cammelia
Troy 5-3 7-5 Cure
UL-Lafayette 5-3 6-6 [Independence] *
Idaho 5-3 6-6 Bowl Eligible
Georgia St. 3-5 5-7
South Alabama 2-6 3-9
UL-Monroe 1-7 2-10
New Mexico St. 1-7 1-11
Texas St. 0-8 1-11

*  This is an at-large bowl bid

Next Preview: Tuesday, August 16–Conference USA

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