North Texas still rules Sun Belt

All right, we get it already. North Texas owns the Sun Belt Conference. How many different ways are there to say it?

The Mean Green will make their third straight trip to the New Orleans Bowl later this month. Their official team accessory is the little plastic bead. Café du Monde might think about opening a booth in their honor. What would a green beignet taste like? It's getting to be an annual rite each mid-December in Denton, Texas. They hang out a sign that says, "Gone to Bourbon Street."

This year's edition of the Mean Green, however, got there a little differently than past teams. The North Texas trademark has been great defense, and the Mean Green didn't abandon that foundation this year. But the offense made impressive strides this season, many of them behind junior tailback Patrick Cobbs, who led the nation with 157 yards rushing per game this season.

"To earn three straight conference championships and trips to the New Orleans bowl is a great accomplishment for us," coach Darrell Dickey said. "It's a great accomplishment for a bunch of guys who came to this program when it wasn't very good."

Beyond the Mean Green, there was a great deal of business as usual this season. Tough losses to big-time opponents, followed by a lot of beating each other up in conference play. Middle Tennessee nearly staged an historic win for the league when it almost won at nationally ranked Missouri. Instead, the league will continue to shift its membership and work toward inching closer to the big boys.

Most Valuable Player

Brandon Kennedy, DL, North Texas
They say he's too short to play in the NFL. Don't believe them. Kennedy is too good to pass up, regardless of his height. He has anchored one of the nation's most respected defenses the past two seasons, and repeaas as player of the year.

Coach of the Year

Darrell Dickey, North Texas
As long as North Texas keeps winning, Darrell Dickey is going to keep picking up this honor. And his team's success shouldn't be taken for granted. Given the Mean Green's run of dominance over Sun Belt foes, it would've been easy this season to throw in a bad game and let someone sneak up for an upset. North Texas didn't.

Newcomer of the Year

Aubrey Dorisme, DL, New Mexico State
The junior college transfer from Bakersfield, Calif., tied for the league lead with six sacks and had 10 tackles behind the line of scrimmage to rank among the conference leaders.

Biggest Surprise

Louisiana-Lafayette's late season resurgence
After starting 0-7, the Ragin' Cajuns won four of their last five to finish 4-3 in Sun Belt play.

Biggest Disappointment

New Mexico State
After going 7-5 last season New Mexico State was picked to contend for the league title this season. Instead, the Aggies limped to a 3-9 mark and won just two of seven Sun Belt games.

All-Sun Belt Team

QB: Scott Hall, North Texas
RB: Patrick Cobbs, North Texas
RB: Zach Gerstner, Idaho
OL: Andy Brewster, North Texas
OL: Kimani Jones, Arkansas State
OL: Steve Subia, New Mexico
OL: Brandon Westbrook, Middle Tennessee
OL: Nick Zuniga, North Texas
TE: Chris Cooley, Utah State
WR: Fred Stamps, Louisiana-Lafayette
WR: Kerry Wright, Middle Tennessee

DL: Adrian Awasom, North Texas
DL: John Bradley, Arkansas State
DL: Antonio Floyd, Louisiana Lafayette
DL: Brandon Kennedy, North Texas
LB: Les Echols, Arkansas State
LB: Chris Hurd, North Texas
LB: Cody Spencer, North Texas
DB: Jonas Buckles, North Texas
DB: Johnathan Burke, Arkansas State

DB: Chris Harris, Louisiana Monroe
DB: Craig Jones, North Texas

Special Teams
PK: Sean Comiskey, Louisiana-Lafayette
P: Joel Stelly, Louisiana Monroe
KR: Charles Estes, Louisiana-Monroe

Eric Crawford covers college football for the Louisville Courier-Journal.