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The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers were my No. 1, absolute favorite team last season. Not just because they came through as +280 underdogs against BYU, but because this team was fun to watch. Quarterback Grayson McCall threw for nearly 2,500 yards, 26 passing touchdowns and just three interceptions in his freshman year.
His passing game was great, but McCall brought excitement with his legs, rushing for 569 yards and seven scores, both second best on the team. McCall, for me, was a weekly reminder of why I love college football — that teams outside the Power Five conferences can shine, too.
The question is: Will some of that first-year magic carry over? The answer is yes.
McCall, the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, obviously returns, and he’ll be fun to watch again. But Coastal will have to shine without leading RB CJ Marable, who accounted for 12 of the team's 30 total rushing touchdowns. The RB unit is still experienced with the next two backs returning in Reese White and Shermari Jones (876 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns combined last season).
When the strength of your team is down a top player, I worry if the offensive line is also down a few notches. However, Coastal was 17th best in quarterback protection last year and returns all five starters. This running back unit plus McCall ranked top 25 in both rushing yards per game and rushing yards per attempt, and will be a top-25 squad once again.
Aside from a stellar offense, the Chanticleers wreaked havoc on quarterbacks with 34 total sacks and 220 sack yards lost. It’s one of the reasons Coastal defeated Zach Wilson and BYU 22-17 as 10-point underdogs.
Wilson threw just one touchdown — the fewest in any game he played in 2020 — had one interception and had a season-low 240 passing yards, 100 below his season average.
The Chanticleers lose top defensive end Tarron Jackson (8.5 sacks), but return the rest of the unit. This is the area I’m keeping my eye on. If Coastal can maintain its strength in the pass rush, the Chanticleers will be solid contenders again this season.
Coastal Carolina went 8-3-1 ATS last season, including 4-0 ATS as underdogs. They are unlikely to be underdogs this season and finished the year 4-3-1 ATS as favorites.
Coastal draws a friendly schedule, especially in the early weeks. The Chanticleers open against an FCS team, then face Kansas (0-9 in 2020), Buffalo (new coach, least returning production, and down a star RB), Massachusetts (0-4 in 2020), and UL Monroe (0-10 in 2020).
They do travel to Arkansas State and Appalachian State, but get my underrated SBC team in Georgia State at home and avoid facing the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns.
Last year, we were supposed to see these two squads compete in the Sun Belt Conference championship game, however, it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
My guess: We’ll see Coastal Carolina vs. Louisiana in the 2021 SBC title game.
Betting option: Coastal Carolina +160 to win the Sun Belt