Sun Belt Champions

App State defensive back Austin Exford (9) holds up the Sun Belt Conference championship trophy next to Okon Godwin (47), Chandler Greer (78) and Brad Absher (18) after winning the 2018 Sun Belt Football Championship game on Dec. 1.

NEW ORLEANS — After securing a third straight Sun Belt Conference football title in 2018 with a victory in the league’s inaugural championship game, Appalachian State has been picked to win another Sun Belt championship in 2019.

A vote by league coaches in advance of Monday’s Sun Belt Media Day in New Orleans tabbed App State the East Division favorite and Louisiana the West Division favorite. Those two programs met for the Sun Belt title last year in the inaugural Sun Belt Football Championship game, with the Mountaineers claiming a 30-19 victory in Boone.

Overall, ASU has been picked to repeat as the championship game winner. The Mountaineers previously claimed a share of the Sun Belt Conference championship in 2016 and 2017 with Arkansas State and Troy, respectively.

The 2019 championship game will be held Dec. 7 at the home venue of the division winner with the highest winning percentage in conference play.

The Mountaineers are entering their first season under the direction of head coach Eliah Drinkwitz. Only five of the 22 primary offensive and defensive starters from a record-breaking 11-2 season in 2018 are gone, and the return of nine All-Sun Belt performers from last season has added to the excitement.

App State received 46 points and seven first-place votes to rank ahead of second-place Troy (39 points with one first-place vote) and Georgia Southern (35 points with two first-place votes) in the East Division poll. Coastal Carolina and Georgia State rounded out the East side. With 46 points and six first-place votes, Louisiana was picked to win the West Division ahead of Arkansas State (42 points with three first-place votes), ULM, South Alabama and Texas State.

App State will open the 2019 season with an Aug. 31 home game against East Tennessee State.

The rest of the home schedule at Kidd Brewer Stadium involves matchups in Boone with Charlotte (Sept. 7), Coastal Carolina (Sept. 28), ULM (Oct. 19), Georgia Southern (Thursday, Oct. 31) and Texas State (Nov. 23). The road games are at North Carolina (Sept. 21), Louisiana (Wednesday, Oct. 9), South Alabama (Oct. 26), South Carolina (Nov. 9), Georgia State (Nov. 16) and Troy (Friday, Nov. 29).

The Sun Belt Media Day is being held Monday in New Orleans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Drinkwitz and two App State players (quarterback Zac Thomas, safety Josh Thomas) will participate in interviews throughout the day, as Monday’s media schedule begins at 9:30 a.m. with Sun Belt Commissioner Keith Gill giving his “State of the Conference” address.

2019 Sun Belt Football Coaches Predicted Order of Finish (first-place votes in parentheses)

East Division

Appalachian State (7) — 46 pts

Troy (1) — 39 pts

Georgia Southern (2) — 35 pts

Coastal Carolina — 17 pts

Georgia State — 13 pts

West Division

Louisiana (6) — 46 pts

Arkansas State (3) — 42 pts

ULM — 27 pts

South Alabama (1) — 19 pts

Texas State — 16 pts

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