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Now, the Fun Really Begins

by Mike Mitchell
November 5, 2007

As if this season hasn't been exciting and unpredictable enough, the November stretch run is underway and no one has clinched  a single thing. So now, the fun really begins!

This week's schedule is void of a lot of Top 25 matchups, but contains several crucial conference battles.

The MAC takes center stage early in the week. On Tuesday, Western Michigan hosts rival Central Michigan, the only team with an undefeated record in MAC play. On Wednesday, Ohio visits Akron.

Thursday, West Virginia hosts Louisville as the Mountaineers try to stay within hunting distance of league-leading Connecticut. Also on Thursday, Mountain West front-runner BYU hosts TCU.

On Friday, it's back to the MAC for Bowling Green at Eastern Michigan. There's also a non-conference battle with Rutgers and Army meeting for the first time since 2003 and the 34th time over-all.

Saturday's top games include Auburn at Georgia, Connecticut at Cincinnati, Kansas at Oklahoma State, and USC at California.

Over-all, there are 55 games on the schedule and 48 count in the conference standings. Louisiana-Monroe and Sun Belt leader Troy (5-0) play FCS teams. Oregon, No. 3 in the latest BCS Standings, is idle along with 10 other teams - Arizona, Ball State, Buffalo, FIU, Idaho, Miami (Ohio), Mississippi, Nevada, Pitt and Toledo.

Top Conference Battles
ACC

Atlantic - After last week's loss to Florida State, Boston College is clinging to a 1/2-game lead over a Clemson team that they visit next week. (Like Clemson, Wake Forest is also 4-2 in the ACC but has already lost to B.C.). The Eagles visit a Maryland team this week that is on a 3-game losing streak and in last place in the Atlantic Division.

Coastal - Florida State plays at Virginia Tech for the first time since 1989. Virginia Tech has lost 12 straight to the Seminoles, and 15 consecutive games to Bobby Bowden (includes his West Virginia head coaching days). But the last five meetings - including a BCS title game, ACC Championship game, and a Gator Bowl contest - have been played everywhere but Blacksburg. In fact, the Hokies have only played FSU three times in Lane Stadium since a 13-10 win in 1975. Oddly, these schools haven't even met in Tallahassee since 1990. This is their first meeting in a regular season ACC game.

Virginia heads to Miami with a half-game lead on Virginia Tech in the Coastal Division. Despite taking a record of 8-2 with them, the computer (based on the Congrove Computer Rankings) favors the Hurricanes by 4.55. Virginia has five wins this year by two points or less, and six victories by 5 points or fewer. The losses have been inexplicable, falling at Wyoming by 20 points in the season-opener, and becoming N.C. State's first ACC victory this year. The Cavs are just 3-2 on the road with all three wins by 2 points or less, including a comeback win at Middle Tennessee State.

BIG EAST
The top four teams in the conference play each other this week. Connecticut (8-1, 4-0) has the outright lead in the Big East, but Cincinnati is the computer's favorite over the Huskies by nearly 10 points. Both schools are already assured of bowl bids and UConn obviously controls its own destiny in the Big East title race.

West Virginia stands alone in second-place in the Big East and would love to see front-runner Connecticut fall at Cincinnati on Saturday. More importantly, though, the Mountaineers want to avenge last year's 44-34 loss at Louisville when the two teams clash in Morgantown on Thursday. South Florida was the only other Big East team to beat WVU last year, and the Mountaineers failed to avenge that defeat when they lost 21-13 in Tampa earlier this year in a Friday night game.

BIG 10
Illinois heads to Columbus as the surprising 3rd-place team in the conference and is bowl eligible for the first time since 2001. Its' only losses have come to Missouri, Iowa and Michigan by a total of 20 points and that's nothing to be ashamed of. With a current record of 7-3, Illinois has already improved by five wins over last season's 2-10 finish. Still, the Fighting Illini are a 21-point computer underdog at Ohio State.

Michigan has reeled off 8 straight victories after an 0-2 start, including an apocalyptic home defeat at the hands of FCS member Appalachian State in the season-opener. Last week, Michigan salvaged the winning streak from collapse with a fourth quarter comeback over rival Michigan State. They travel to Wisconsin this week to face a Badger team that has lost three of its last five games, but is 6-0 at home.

BIG 12
North - Division leader Kansas goes to Stillwater a week after Oklahoma State blew a good-size lead over Texas for the fourth time in five years. The Cowboys have averaged 40 points per game in their last three contests against Nebraska, Kansas State and the Longhorns. Kansas can score points, too - the Jayhawks are 2nd in the nation with 46.22 points per game.

Second-place Missouri hosts Texas A&M which has lost three of its last four games. The Tigers and Jayhawks appear to be heading to a November 24 rivalry showdown in Kansas City for the North division title. That could be a major shootout as Missouri is 6th nationally in scoring offense with 42 points per game.

South - Division leader Oklahoma gets an apparent break as a nearly 40-point home favorite over Baylor. Meanwhile, second-place Texas is only a 9-point choice at home against potent Texas Tech. The Longhorns have won the last four meetings, and seven of the past eight.

CUSA
East - Division leader East Carolina visits cellar-dweller Marshall.  Central Florida, a half-game back of the Pirates but already a loser to ECU, heads to woeful UAB.

West - Division leader Houston goes to second-place Tulsa and the winner will be in the driver's seat for a spot in the CUSA championship game.

INDEPENDENTS
Navy needs a victory at North Texas to get to six wins and a Poinsettia Bowl bid.

Army has to beat Rutgers this week, then Tulsa and Navy, to get to 6-6.

Notre Dame hosts Air Force as a favorite by just 4.63 points after being a preseason pick in this game by over 24 points.

MAC
No team in the conference is better than 5-4.
East - Miami (Ohio) leads the East at 5-5 over-all, but 4-1 in the conference and would have to lose two if last three games to get knocked out of the MAC title game. The RedHawks have already defeated their two closest competitors in the standings - Buffalo and Bowling Green.

West - Central Michigan is the only MAC team without a conference loss (4-0). The Chippewas enter Tuesday night's game at Western Michigan with a one-and-a-half-game lead on Ball State, whom they've already defeated. Everyone else has at least three conference losses and would not be able to catch Central Michigan if it wins tonight as it would be 5-0 with just two conference games left.

MWC
BYU is about to run away with the conference title. A win this Thursday night at home over TCU would make the Cougars 5-0. No one else in the Mountain West has fewer than two conference losses.

PAC-10
Arizona State and Oregon are both 5-1, but the Ducks control their destiny after beating the Sun Devils last week. Oregon is idle this week while the computer surprisingly likes UCLA over Arizona State by 1.45.

3rd-place USC (4-2) is favored by 6.71 at 5th-place Cal (3-3).

SEC
East - Georgia has won just 3 of the last 15 home meetings with Auburn, but the Bulldogs are a narrow favorite.

West - With victories in-hand over Auburn and Alabama, LSU clinches the west with a win at Mississippi next week or at home against Arkansas in two weeks. LSU can only lose the division if it drops both of its remaining SEC games.  This week, the Bayou Bengals go out of conference to host Louisiana Tech.

SUN BELT
Troy is the only team with an unblemished conference record (5-0). The Trojans play FCS member, and future Sun Belt rival, Western Kentucky. Middle Tennessee and FAU are a game behind in the loss column and Troy plays each of them in its final two games.

This week, Middle Tennessee hosts Louisiana-Lafayette as a 14.19-point favorite while FAU is favored by 7.01 at home over Arkansas State. The Owls have the edge over the Blue Raiders in the conference race by virtue of their season-opening win over MTSU.

WAC
Hawaii and Boise State are both unbeaten in WAC play (5-0) and will clash November 23 in Honolulu in what could become the conference championship game. First, the Warriors have to survive this week's test from Fresno State, the WAC's 3rd-place team with a 5-1 conference record. Hawaii is favored by 14.68 points.

The Broncos are a 24.4-point pick to improve their home record versus WAC teams to 28-0 when they host winless Utah State.

UNBEATEN TEAMS
Hawaii, Kansas and Ohio State are all that remain undefeated.

WINLESS TEAMS
FIU and Utah State are the only two remaining winless teams.

Idaho has yet to beat a team from the bowl subdivision.

FBS vs. FCS
1-A is now classified by the NCAA as the "Football Bowl Subdivision", or "FBS", for short.
1-AA has been reclassified as the "Football Championship Subdivision", or "FCS", for short.

2 FBS teams play FCS schools this week to bring the total number to 77 for the year. In such games, FBS schools are 65-10 this season, and 285-35 (.891) since 2003.

Louisiana-Monroe hosts Grambling State. Sun Belt conference leader Troy entertains a dangerous Western Kentucky squad that won 20-17 at Middle Tennessee, the Sun Belt's 2nd-place team, earlier in the year

STREAKS
Ohio State has won 10 straight games over-all, 28 straight regular season games, and 20 consecutive Big Ten games. The Buckeyes host Illinois.

Hawaii has won 9 straight games. The Warriors host Fresno State.

Kansas has won 9 in-a-row, and 12 consecutive regular season games. The Jayhawks visits Oklahoma State.

Michigan has won 8 straight games. The Wolverines visit Wisconsin.

Boise State has won 8 straight games, 42 consecutive regular season home games, and 15 consecutive WAC games. The Broncos also have a perfect home record against their fellow WAC conference members (27-0). Boise State hosts Utah State.

FIU owns the nation's longest current losing streak at 21 games. The Golden Panthers are idle.

Utah State has lost 15 straight. The Aggies visit Boise State.

NEW COACHES
The 2006 season featured 11 new head coaches. Five led their team to a bowl game.

This year, there are 24 coaching changes for the highest number since 2001 when there were 25. We'll track their progress throughout

This week, North Carolina-N.C. State is the only game where new coaches face each other.

FIU is the only team that has yet to snag a win with its new head coach. Idaho has yet to defeat an FBS team.

Here is how each of the new coaches are faring, in order, by won-loss record.

Arizona State, 8-1 under Dennis Erickson, visits UCLA.
Boston College, 8-1 under Jeff Jagodzinski, visits Maryland.
Cincinnati, 7-2 under Brian Kelly, hosts Connecticut.
Air Force, 7-3 under Troy Calhoun, visits Notre Dame.
Alabama, 6-3 under Nick Saban, visits Mississippi State.
Tulsa, 6-3 under Todd Graham, hosts Houston.
Indiana, 6-4 under Bill Lynch, visits Northwestern.
Central Michigan, 5-4 under Butch Jones, visits Western Michigan (Tuesday).
Louisville, 5-4 under Steve Kragthorpe, visits West Virginia (Thursday).
Miami (Fla.), 5-4 under Randy Shannon, hosts Virginia.
Michigan State, 5-5 under Mark Dantonio, visits Purdue.
Louisiana Tech, 4-5 under Derek Dooley, visits LSU.
N.C. State, 4-5 under Tom O'Brien, hosts North Carolina.
Army, 3-6 under Stan Brock, hosts Rutgers (Friday).
North Carolina, 3-6 under Butch Davis, visits N.C. State.
Stanford, 3-6 under Jim Harbaugh, visits Washington State.
Rice, 2-7 under David Bailiff, visits SMU.
Tulane, 2-7 under Bob Toledo, hosts UTEP.
UAB, 2-7 under Neil Callaway, hosts Central Florida.
Iowa State, 2-8 under Gene Chizik, hosts Colorado.
North Texas, 1-7 under Todd Dodge, hosts Navy.
Idaho, 1-9 under Robb Akey, is idle.
Minnesota, 1-9 under Tim Brewster, visits Iowa.
FIU, 0-9 under Mario Cristobal, is idle.