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Nashville paper: No. 7 in Sun Belt

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Nashville paper: No. 7 in Sun Belt

From The Tennessean in Nashville, the closest big city to Middle Tennessee State University:

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Sunday, 08/28/05

Sun Belt picks

1. North Texas. The Mean Green, winners of 25 consecutive conference games, have a shot at running the table again with nine preseason All-Sun Belt Conference players on the roster.

2. MTSU. With more returning key players than any team in the conference, the Blue Raiders have the best chance at knocking off North Texas.

3. Troy. The defense is still solid, but not as strong as the one that led the Trojans to wins over Marshall, Missouri and to their first bowl game last year.

4. Louisiana-Lafayette. With seven starters back on both sides of the ball, including QB Jerry Babb on offense and LB Tyler Norman on defense, the Ragin' Cajuns could be the surprise team in the conference.

5. Louisiana-Monroe. Last year's most improved squad, which went from one conference victory in 2003 to four in '04, will struggle making it back to the upper half of the Sun Belt.

6. Arkansas State. A couple of the conference's top offensive players ? QB Nick Noce and RB Antonio Warren ? give the Indians a fighting chance. But the defense, which gave up 33.2 points per game last year, is bad.

7. Florida Atlantic. Howard Schnellenberger will have to pull of one of the best efforts of his coaching career for the Owls, with just eight returning starters, to make much of a splash.

8. Florida International. The Golden Panthers, a year removed from Division I-AA, are coached by former Dolphins QB Don Strock and are the youngest team in the nation.

?MIKE ORGAN, The Tennessean

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