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November 10, 2011

Week 11: CUSA, MAC, WAC, SBC and Indy

MORE PREVIEWS: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | MWC | Pac-12 | SEC

How big is Saturday's Arkansas State/Louisiana-Lafayette matchup in the Sun Belt Conference? It's big enough that ULL changed its mind about busing to the game.

Plans had called for ULL to leave campus Thursday, then travel about 450 miles by bus to Memphis, where the team was going to spend two nights before spending another 90 minutes on the bus Saturday morning traveling from Memphis to Jonesboro, Ark.

THE 10 BEST GAMES
THURSDAY
Houston at Tulane, 8 p.m.
SATURDAY
Marshall at Tulsa, noon
Rice at Northwestern, noon
Louisiana-Lafayette at Arkansas State, 3 p.m.
Navy at SMU, 3:30 p.m.
Army vs. Rutgers in New York, 3:30 p.m.
Louisiana Tech at Ole Miss, 7:30 p.m.
UCF at Southern Miss, 8 p.m.
East Carolina at UTEP, 8 p.m.
Hawaii at Nevada, 10:15 p.m.
Now, though, ULL is flying charter instead.

"This is a big-time game," ULL coach Mark Hudspeth told the Lafayette Advertiser, "and our kids - we're going to treat them big-time."

Hudspeth admitted the cost to fly is more than double what it is to bus, but he told reporters the school would make up the difference out of the football budget.

The Sun Belt title is on the line. Arkansas State is the only team unbeaten in league play, and a Red Wolves win would eliminate ULL from the title mix. But a ULL win would mean a three-way tie with Western Kentucky; Arkansas State already has beaten Western, which in turn beat ULL.

Arkansas State and ULL each have first-year coaches, and both were picked to finish in the bottom half of the league; indeed, ULL was picked to finish last.

Instead, ULL has posted eight wins for the first time since 1976 and Arkansas State is assured of its first winning season since 1995. Both already are bowl eligible. ULL never has been to a bowl, while Arkansas State has made one appearance, in the 2005 New Orleans Bowl.

"Our kids understand that this one carries a lot of weight," Arkansas State coach Hugh Freeze said. "I don't believe that you can get your kids up to their emotional highest or peak but a certain number of times a year. I do expect this to be one of those times."

Arkansas State is one of just two FBS teams leading its conference in total offense and total defense. The other is Boise State, in the Mountain West Conference.

Best matchup: Tulsa's offensive line vs. Marshall's defensive line. Though Tulsa has the reputation as a team that throws the ball around, the Golden Hurricane actually has a higher-ranked rushing attack than passing attack. Tulsa averages 190.4 rushing yards per game. Marshall is allowing 144.2 rushing yards per game in Conference USA action. DE Vinny Curry is known for his pass-rush ability, but his play against the run is going to be more important this week. Tulsa's offensive interior of C Trent Dupy and Gs Clint Anderson and Stetson Burnett need to win their battles with Marshall DTs Marques Aiken and Delvin Johnson.

[Expert picks: Week 11 predictions]

Player on the spot: Hawaii QB Bryant Moniz. Moniz needs to be extremely sharp if the Warriors are going to pull off the upset at Nevada. One problem: His offensive line and receiving corps are dealing with injuries. He has had some success as a runner this season, but his passing arm is the key Saturday. He has been held to fewer than 300 yards twice in the past three games and four times this season. He has to reach that plateau Saturday for Hawaii to have a legit shot at the win. Nevada is allowing 217.9 passing yards per game.

Keep an eye on: Houston QB Case Keenum. He should have a great game against a mediocre Tulane defense. But how great? In his most recent Thursday night game, Keenum threw nine TD passes in an evisceration of Rice. He needs 29 completions to set the NCAA career record in that category (he has 1,375), and should set the record against Tulane. But will it be in the third quarter or fourth quarter?

Numbers game: Forgive ESPN programmers if they decide to put Toledo on every Tuesday night. The Rockets outlasted Western Michigan 66-63 on Tuesday night. That set a MAC record for most points in a game; the record had been 127. This Tuesday performance came on the heels of last week's epic shootout (or, at least, what seemed to be an epic shootout) with Northern Illinois, a game the Huskies won 63-60 on a last-minute TD pass. This week's game featured 1,439 combined total yards and a MAC-record 18 touchdowns. (Incredibly, there were a combined eight punts, too.) Last week's had 1,121 yards of total offense and 17 touchdowns, a league record that lasted all of one week. Western Michigan QB Alex Carder tossed seven TDs in a losing effort, which means Toledo has surrendered 13 TD passes in the past two weeks. There are 53 teams who have allowed fewer TD passes this season.

Quotes of the week

"They're exciting. I love to watch them when they're on TV. I do not like to watch them when they are across the sideline from me." - Tulane interim coach Mark Hutson, on Houston, which is the Green Wave's opponent this week

[Y! Sports Shop: Show your school colors with college football team gear]

"There is great effort out there. There's a 'try hard' without a 'try well.' How do you change the picture?" - Army coach Rich Ellerson

"People will speculate about what kind of impact that it will have. I don't know. Every team that faces the situation acts differently. You know, all we can control is what happens to us. We don't care about their situation, and we just have to take care of business on our end and get our guys ready to play. This game is going to excite our players because anytime you go on the road to face an SEC team, it is exciting." - Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes, whose team plays at Ole Miss on Saturday. This will be the first game for Ole Miss since coach Houston Nutt announced he was stepping down at the end of the season

"I'm not naοve to think that they didn't run home and look at the television as soon as we got back because the coaches did the same thing." - Houston coach Kevin Sumlin, on how his players react to the BCS standings

"From a leadership standpoint, I think we're finally to a point where players are calling out other players. Any team that has any chance to become a consistent football team has players that will challenge players." - Utah State coach Gary Andersen

"I have no control over those things. They make the decisions and they tell me what bus to get on. I have a card that tells me what seat to sit in, and I show up." - Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, whose team plays Saturday against Maryland in Landover, Md., less than 10 miles from the Terps' campus

Poll watch: Houston is up to 11th in this week's BCS standings. It's the highest ranking in school history and the third-best in Conference USA history; Louisville's No. 9 ranking in 2004 is the best, and the Cardinals also were No. 10 that season.

[Ranking them all: Who follows No. 1 LSU in Rivals 120?]

Etc.: Nevada owns a 15-game home winning streak, tied for third-longest in the country. In addition, the Wolf Pack have won nine consecutive WAC games overall. … UCF's 24-17 loss to Tulsa last week was the Knights' fourth loss this season by eight or fewer points. UCF is tied for the national lead with four losses by eight or fewer points, joined by Indiana, Louisville, Miami, Navy and Utah State. … San Jose State registered its first safety in seven years last week. … Notre Dame starting C Braxston Cave will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. The new starter will be Mike Golic Jr. … Southern Miss scored four non-offensive touchdowns in last week's win over East Carolina. Two were interception returns, giving Southern Miss five "pick-sixes" this season, which is second nationally to Louisiana-Lafayette's six. … Utah State WR Stanley Morrison executed two successful fake punts in Utah State's win at Hawaii last week. In the second quarter, he rushed for 8 yards on a fourth-and-4 play. In the second half, he threw a 23-yard pass on fourth-and-5. Morrison also had a 71-yard touchdown reception during the game. … Eastern Michigan is 5-4 going into Saturday's matchup with Buffalo. EMU hasn't won as many as six games in a season since 1995, when it finished 6-5. … Memphis will honor its 16 seniors before Saturday's home game with UAB. A majority of those players were recruited by Tommy West, who now is UAB's defensive coordinator. … Western Kentucky has won five in a row, and three of those wins have come on the final play of the game. The Hilltoppers' streak is the longest since 2004. … Louisiana Tech takes a four-game winning streak into its contest at Ole Miss; the Bulldogs haven't won five in a row since 1999. … Houston's 9-0 start is the best in school history. … North Texas senior TB Lance Dunbar needs 129 rushing yards to become only the sixth player in NCAA history to have 4,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving. … Saturday's game against Maryland will be Notre Dame's fifth night game of the season. The Irish also have a night game scheduled for Nov. 26 against Stanford, and six night games is a Notre Dame regular-season record. … Tulsa has won 10 consecutive Conference USA games, tied for the third-longest streak in league history. Southern Miss holds the record at 14. … SMU beat Tulane 45-24 last week. This is the first time SMU has scored at least 38 points five times in one season. … Ohio U. QB Tyler Tettleton has thrown for 2,236 yards and 20 TDs. He is one touchdown pass and 133 yards shy of becoming Ohio's single-season leader for most touchdown passes and most passing yards. … Western Kentucky senior TB Bobby Rainey went past the 4,000-yard mark in last week's win over Florida International.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.

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