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October 24, 2011
Huguenin: Breaking down the conference races
We're done with eight weeks of the season, which is sort of sad, actually. But the good news is that the final one-third of the season has some intrigue.
It seems a given that the Alabama-LSU winner will be in the national title game, that Boise State is going to win the Mountain West crown in its first season in the league and that the Oregon-Stanford winner is going to win the Pac-12, but there remains a lot of sorting out in the other conference races and the hunt for BCS bids should be especially interesting.
Here's a look at each of the 11 conference races as we start getting ready for the final mad dash to the finish.
[ Related: Huguenin: Breaking down the BCS standings ]
[Rivals.com experts: What we learned in Week 8]
Last season, Navy set a school modern-era record by scoring 76 points against East Carolina. In that one, ECU put up 567 yards of offense, including 413 through the air, but still lost by 41. This season, ECU had less offense: 504 yards, including 372 through the air. The big difference: Navy had 596 yards last season and just 420 this season, and ECU won 38-35 Saturday. Navy has lost five in a row - its longest losing streak since 2002 - and it looks as if the Midshipmen's streak of eight consecutive bowls is going to end.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Clemson QB Tajh Boyd's five TD passes in the Tigers' victory over North Carolina is that the TD passes went to five different receivers. Still, just six Tigers have caught TD passes this season.
One of the more bizarre plays you'll see helped seal Louisiana Tech's win over Utah State. Trailing 21-17, Utah State faced a fourth-and-1 from its 33 with a bit less than five minutes left. Utah State decided to punt, but P Tyler Bennett dropped the snap. Facing a strong rush, Bennett kicked the ball after it bounced and got off about a 35-yard punt. Alas, it was an illegal play. Bennett was called for illegal kicking, which is a 15-yard penalty. Worse, it's a loss of down. Thus, Louisiana Tech took over at Utah State's 11. Four plays later, Matt Nelson booted a 24-yard field goal for a 24-17 lead with 2:39 left.
After two weeks of no FBS-FCS matchups - the first two weeks of the season with no such games - there were two Saturday, with Kentucky beating Jacksonville State and BYU hammering Idaho State. That makes FBS teams 85-6 against FCS competition; the losers are Minnesota (to North Dakota State), UNLV (to Southern Utah), New Mexico (to Sam Houston State in overtime), Western Kentucky (to Indiana State), Duke (to Richmond) and Oregon State (to Sacramento State).
Staying with FCS, there are three unbeaten teams left in that division, and two of them own victories over FBS teams: North Dakota State (7-0) and Sam Houston State (7-0). The other unbeaten is Georgia Southern (7-0). The Eagles' last regular-season game this season? At Alabama on Nov. 19.
Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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