2011 Prediction & Game Story
Week 14 - Sun Belt Previews
Sun Belt Fearless Predictions &
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at North Texas 59 … Middle Tennessee 7
(AP) DENTON, Texas -- Lance Dunbar became the all-time leading rusher and set a single-game rushing record at North Texas with 313 yards as the Mean Green closed out their season with a 59-7 victory over Middle Tennessee.
Dunbar, a senior, finished with 4,224 yards to surpass Patrick Cobbs (4,050 yards from 2001-2005). He had rushing touchdowns of 1, 26, 5 and 14 yards on Saturday while carrying the ball 40 times, and also became the sixth player in NCAA history to have 4,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving.
The 313 yards is the most rushing yards by an NCAA player this year, and breaks the North Texas single-season mark of 291 set by Jamario Thomas against Colorado in 2004.
North Texas (5-7, 4-4 Sun Belt) rushed for a school record-tying 464 yards against Middle Tennessee (2-10, 1-7) and finished with its best record and most wins since 2004.
Middle Tennessee (2-9) at North Texas (4-7) Dec. 3, 4:00
Here’s The Deal … This will be both team’s last game of the year as neither will qualify for bowl eligibility. The Blue Raiders enter this matchup on a five game losing streak, and they have not been close in any of those contests. UNT enters this contest coming off a bye week, and the Mean Green should be well rested and ready to play their best on Senior Day. In the first season under new head coach Dan McCarney, the Mean Green have shown considerable progress, and with a win here they would have their first five win season since 2004.
Why Middle Tennessee Might Win: The Blue Raiders have been less than impressive this year, but they seem to play well in Denton, winning the last three matchup on UNT’s home turf. MTSU ranks second nationally in sacks allowed, only giving up .64 per game. This has allowed the passing game to pick up steam and become one of the better aerial attacks in the Sun Belt. If the Blue Raiders can hit some big plays downfield and avoid any costly mistakes then they have a shot at beating the Mean Green on the road.
Why North Texas Might Win: The Mean Green will have much more confidence in themselves than their counterparts as they have exceeded expectations this season. UNT has had two weeks to prepare and has played very well at home this season. WR Brelan Chancellor has had an outstanding year, and he will need to make a game changing play in this contest for the Mean Green to feel comfortable. He is their best pass catcher and also a threat on kickoff returns, and the Blue Raiders will need to keep an eye on him throughout the ball game. UNT has more playmakers than MTSU, and if the Mean Green is focused on this game then they should win.
What To Watch Out For: MTSU S Eric Russell & UNT RB Lance Dunbar. While Chancellor is a big play threat for UNT, Russell is every bit the playmaker for MTSU. He has two interceptions on the year with both yielding huge returns, and he has also had several long punt and kickoff returns. On defense, he has accumulated 83 tackles, including seven for loss. He can make an impact all over the field and will need to have an outstanding performance in his last game ever for the Blue Raiders to win.
Dunbar is one of the best players in UNT history, but he has not made as much of an impact this year as in previous seasons. He is still on pace, however, to become the Mean Green’s all time career rushing leader and also only the sixth player in NCAA history to have 4,000 yards rushing and 1,000 receiving in a career. In front of the home fans, he will want to have a career day in his last collegiate game, and if he can return to the form of past years then he could be the difference maker in this game.
What Will Happen: Both teams desperately want this win, and MTSU will not be intimated at all by the road environment. The Blue Raiders will play very well in the first half and may even take the lead into halftime. But, UNT will play with more heart and determination for all four quarters, and the Mean Green will pick up their fifth victory of the season in a game that will go down to the wire.
CFN Prediction: North Texas 27 … Middle Tennessee 21
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North Texas -5.5 O/U: 55.5
ULM 26 … at Florida Atlantic 0
(AP) BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Jyruss Edwards and Kolton Browning made sure Louisiana-Monroe spoiled Howard Schnellenberger's coaching finale.
Edwards ran for two touchdowns, Browning threw for two others and the Warhawks sent the 77-year-old Schnellenberger into retirement by beating Florida Atlantic 26-0 on Saturday.
Louisiana-Monroe (4-8, 3-5 Sun Belt) finished the season with wins in two of its last three games.
It was the third time FAU (1-11, 0-8) had been shut out this year, a less-than-fitting end for Schnellenberger -- an offensive coach for the 1972 undefeated Miami Dolphins, a coach for three national-championship teams under Bear Bryant at Alabama in the 1960s and then the head coach for the 1983 Miami Hurricanes, the club that won the first of five national titles at the school.
FAU is expected to introduce Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini on Monday as Schnellenberger's replacement. FAU's trustees have a Monday morning meeting scheduled to approve his hiring and a five-year contract worth around $2.5 million. A news conference to announce the hiring is tentatively planned for Monday afternoon.
FAU has not publicly confirmed any details of the looming Pelini hire, out of respect to Schnellenberger and the end of his career.
Edwards finished with 94 yards for Louisiana-Monroe, and Browning completed 16 of 24 passes for 183 yards. For FAU, Alfred Morris had 21 carries for 72 yards, nearly half of the Owls' total offense for the day.
FAU had members of Schnellenberger's family on the field for the pregame coin toss, and some fans -- those who did show up, the 30,000-seat stadium that the coach worked for so long to get built was mostly empty -- stopped and took pictures of the statue near the field bearing the inscription, "to believe is to be strong." Schnellenberger posed with soon-to-be graduating seniors and their families for pictures, kissing a lot of mothers on his way down the line.
There even were a few banners, one reading "The House That Howard Built."
In the end, it was a most unceremonious ending.
Louisiana-Monroe outgained FAU 107-33 in the first quarter, 260-78 in the first half, and the tide never turned. Luther Ambrose caught a 12-yard pass from Browning to open the scoring, Edwards scored on a 67-yard run early in the second quarter and then a 1-yard burst about 6 minutes later, and the Warhawks were up 19-0.
Kevin Steed's 1-yard touchdown catch with 8:19 left capped the scoring.
Maybe it was fitting that FAU's highlight of the day was provided by Schnellenberger himself: As Browning rolled out to his left on one play in the first half, he fired a pass toward the FAU sideline -- which Schnellenberger snared with ease, drawing a loud ovation.
Schnellenberger's career finished with a 158-151-3 record, 6-0 in bowl games, two of those at FAU along with one Sun Belt title. But the Owls have not had a winning record in any of the last three seasons, though Schnellenberger has said many times that the stadium -- which opened Oct. 15 -- is the "last piece of the puzzle" before the program can vie to become a consistent winner.
When it was over, Schnellenberger walked to the center of the field surrounded by security and photographers, as fireworks burst into the air over one of the end zones. Schnellenberger grabbed a microphone, spoke for about 2 minutes and ended his speech with a simple "Thank you" before leaving his field for the final time.
ULM (3-8) at Florida Atlantic (1-10) Dec. 3, 4:00
Here’s The Deal … This game will be the final one in Howard Schnellenberger’s legendary career
before Carl Pelini takes over, and FAU would like nothing more than to send him out with a victory. The Owls picked up their first win of the season last week by defeating UAB 38-35. ULM has put together an impressive season statistically, but the high-powered offense and stout defense has not translated to wins. The Warhawks have just not been able to put points on the board this season even though they have put together many impressive drives. This game will come down to the emotion of FAU and the efficiency of the ULM offense.
Why ULM Might Win: The Warhawks appear to be the better team across the board, and the Owls have been completely inept all season except for the win last week. ULM has an outstanding dual-threat QB in Kolton Browning, and he will dictate how the game flows. He ran for 101 yards and a touchdown last week against FIU in the loss, and if he can put up similar numbers this week then the Warhawks should win handily.
Why Florida Atlantic Might Win: The Owl players are going to be fired up for this game and will expend every ounce of effort they have to win this contest for Schnellenberger. In the win over UAB last week, RB Alfred Morris exploded with 198 yards rushing and four touchdowns. He has now eclipsed the century mark in five straight games, and while ULM does have a strong run defense, Morris will be one of the best backs the Warhawks have faced all year. The Owls will need to sustain long drives and keep the Warhawk offense off the field if they are going to win the season finale.
What To Watch Out For: ULM RB Jyruss Edwards & FAU QB Graham Wilbert. Edwards followed up his best performance of the year two weeks ago with a dud against FIU last week. He is a threat both running the ball and catching passes out of the backfield, and he will need to step up and take the pressure off Browning for ULM to win on the road.
For FAU, Wilbert has had a very rocky year, committing several turnovers, but in the win over UAB last week he was very efficient passing for 181 yards and no interceptions. He will need to play an error-free game and get the ball in Morris’ hands, and if the offense can come up with a balanced scheme then the Owls may be able to confuse the ULM defense and outscore the Warhawks in an offensive shootout.
What Will Happen: FAU finally broke through last week, and it is a testament to Schnellenberger that his team is still fighting to the finish. The Owls will play an inspired game this week and will leave nothing in the bag, but the Warhawks are just too good on both offense and defense to lose this contest. The game will be close throughout, but ULM will emerge victorious and send the Owls to the offseason with a winless Sun Belt campaign hanging over their heads.
CFN Prediction: ULM 31 … Florida Atlantic 27
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ULM -7.5 O/U: 47.5
at Arkansas State 45 … Troy 14
(AP) JONESBORO, Ark. -- Ryan Aplin threw for 356 yards and three touchdowns as Arkansas State rolled to a 45-14 victory over Troy in a Sun Belt Conference game on Saturday.
Aplin completed 25 of 37 passes, with one interception. His scoring passes came in the second, third and fourth quarters. The first one was the longest, a 30-yarder to Dwayne Frampton.
Arkansas State (10-2, 8-0) also had big efforts from its defense and special teams.
Darryl Feemster returned a fumble 60 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. On special teams, Bobby Zalud kicked a 53-yard field goal for the team's first points of the game, and Don Jones returned a blocked punt 12 yards for a touchdown early in the second quarter.
Corey Robinson threw two touchdown passes for Troy (3-9, 2-6).
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