With all the offseason turmoil, from scandals at Ohio State and Miami to more talk of conference realignments, Sun Belt Commissioner Wright Waters said at the conclusion of the first coaches conference call of the season Monday by saying, "I am absolutely delighted that Thursday we will start playing football."
Thursday is the kickoff for the Sun Belt, with North Texas at Florida International, in what will be the only conference game played before Sept. 24.
Saturday the rest of the Sun Belt is in action, including FAU, with everyone on the road versus teams from major conferences.
Here are the highlights from Monday's Sun Belt coaches conference call:
Howard Schnellenberger FAU at No. 22 Florida: Schnellenberger was pretty honest about his teams chances against the No. 22-ranked Gators.
When asked if was tough preparing for a team with a new coach who was installing new offensive and defensive schemes, Schnellenberger said that it might if FAU and Florida were at or near the same level.
But since the Gators were well ahead of the Owls, "they know if they play a sound game and hard fought game they surely should win."
Schnellenberger said the development of quarterback Graham Wilbert will be the key to the offense.
He also said while he would like to think his approach to games this season wouldn't change because he will be retiring at the end of the season, he knew things would be different.
Larry Blakeney Troy at Clemson: "We have had great preparation, not many distractions," Blakeney said about the preseason. Troy has had success against teams from major conferences, beating then No. 19 Missouri in 2004 and taking LSU to the limit in 2009.
"It's a tremendous opportunity to go and make some noise with the BCS and put a feather in your cap," he said.
Asked about potential conference realignment and maybe moving to another conference, Blakeney said "we would be stupid not to be alert." He said what he and other coaches wanted was for whatever conference they were in to get an automatic bid into a BCS bowl.
Hugh Freeze Arkansas State at Illinois: "We are excited that it is finally game week. We are tired of going against each other," said Freeze, who is in his first season as coach of the Red Wolves.
Mark Hudspeth Louisiana-Lafayette at No. 9 Oklahoma State: "We have made a lot of progress. We are going to have a very physical, tough team. We don't have a lot of depth now, but I like our starters on both sides of the ball," said Hudspeth, who is also in his first year as coach.
"We have a big challenge ahead of us in Oklahoma State. They have a plethora of playmakers on the offensive side. A lot of speed on defense, a lot of size. They have to be one of the most talented teams in the nation."
Todd Berry Louisiana-Monroe at No. 6 Florida State: "I am pleased with the fact we had such a physical camp. We have a much more mature team and are playing smarter as a result," Berry said.
Berry said he will enjoy taking his team to Tallahassee, where he said the environment is one of the best in college. "There is nothing else like when Chief Osceola rides out and throws the spear in the ground," Berry said.
He also has had the war chant piped in during practices to get his players used to that. "The chant is something that is incessant. We have mentally blocked that out," Berry said.
Rick Stockstill Middle Tennessee -- at Purdue: "We have had a good camp. We have improved in areas we have needed to," Stockstill said.
Purdue lost its starting quarterback in the preseason, and Stockstill said that means he is not sure what to expect out of the Boilermakers offense. "Will they rely on [running back Ralph] Bolden and run the ball on us, or do what they did last season, spreading the field and throwing the ball a little bit more?" Stockstill said.
Dan McCarney North Texas -- at FIU Thursday: "We are ecstatic about finally getting a chance to play a football game," said McCarney, who is the Mean Green's new head coach. "I am honored to be a head coach here."
North Texas has won eight games in the last four years, and McCarney has been charged with turning things around.
"We want this to be a program people will say something positive about, because it has been a long, long time since that happened," McCarney said.
Mario Cristobal FIU hosts North Texas Thursday: "What a great challenge we have this Thursday night on national TV to play North Texas," Cristobal said. "In Sun Belt football there is so much parity we know it is going to be a heck of a football game."
Willie Taggart Western Kentucky Kentucky in Nashville on Thursday: "We are in our second day of game week. I think our guys are ready to hit someone else instead of ourselves now," Taggart said.
Like Schnellenberger taking FAU to Florida, most Sun Belt coaches taking teams on the road and will be underdogs
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