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Conference Championship Notes

Conference Championship Notes

Playing for a championship is the goal of every program and eight conference champions will be decided on Saturday. College Playoff berths are not likely on the line in the Conference USA, American, Sun Belt, and Mountain West games but all four contests will be rematches to fill out the championship Saturday schedule. One of these teams should also get called for the top Group of 5 spot in the New Year’s Six.

CONFERENCE USA CHAMPIONSHIP

Match-up: UAB Blazers at Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders

Venue: At Johnny Floyd Stadium in Murfreesboro, Tennessee

Time/TV: Saturday, December 1, 1:30 PM ET, CBSSN

Line: Middle Tennessee State -1, Over/Under 44½

Last Meeting: November 24, 2018 at Middle Tennessee State (+3) 27, UAB 3

UAB wasn’t playing football two years ago and after a successful bowl season in last year’s re-boot the Blazers look to take another step this season with a division title and a shot a the conference title. Middle Tennessee State is also in the Conference USA Championship for the first time looking to keep a run of four consecutive championships for the East division champion going.

Bill Clark stayed with UAB through the two-year hiatus after coaching the Blazers for his first season in 2014 following one year at Jacksonville State. UAB was perfect at home this season in a 9-3 campaign though the team enters this game off back-to-back losses, falling 41-20 to Texas A&M and then in last week’s game in Murfreesboro. Senior quarterback A.J. Erdely miss three November games before returning last week with freshman Tyler Johnston filling in with similar numbers as both could see the field this week.

Rick Stockstill won a Sun Belt title in his first season with the program in 2006 and this will be his first trip back to a championship game, leading mostly successful results over now 13 seasons with an 87-76 record and no losing seasons in Conference USA play. Last year’s team had a lot of potential but his son Brent was injured most of the year. Back as a senior quarterback the younger Stockstill has posted terrific numbers this season and he missed most of the one conference game the Blue Raiders lost at Florida International.

These schools are only about 200 miles apart as a good crowd should be expected even with some potential rain in the forecast for Saturday.

Regular Season Meeting: These teams met just last week on the same field. The incentives were vastly different however as Middle Tennessee State needed to win to get to this game and shortly after kickoff knew that Florida International had lost to make it a win-and-win-the-division-title game. UAB had already clinched its division and had little at stake last week and it showed, ultimately posting only 89 net yards of offense and not scoring again after taking a 3-0 lead on the opening drive in an eventual 27-3 result.

Series History: UAB won last season’s meeting 25-23 while Middle Tennessee State has won four of seven meetings since 1995 with a 3-2 ATS run in lined games since 2000.

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AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP

Match-up: Memphis Tigers at Central Florida Knights

Venue: At Spectrum Stadium in Orlando, Florida

Time/TV: Saturday, December 1, 3:30 PM ET, ABC

Line: Central Florida -3, Over/Under 65

Last Meeting: October 13, 2018, Central Florida (-4½) 31, at Memphis 30

This will be the fourth meeting in two seasons for these programs with UCF looking to extend the nation’s longest winning streak to 25 games with a second straight conference title. The storyline however will be the absence of quarterback McKenzie Milton who was injured for UCF in last week’s win over South Florida.

In last year’s championship game these teams put on a show with Milton helping to deliver a 62-55 win in double-overtime with both teams eclipsing 700 yards of offense in a game with several big swings. UCF has won the regular season meetings the past two years as well, getting a lopsided home win last year and this year winning in Memphis by one-point with a second half comeback.

The Tigers are one of the nation’s top rushing teams with Darrell Henderson posting 1,699 yards so far and Memphis posting 6.4 yards per carry for nearly 276 yards per game. Replacing a highly productive quarterback, junior Brady White has been effective in his first season after transferring from Arizona State. Freshman Darriel Mack will start at quarterback for UCF with Milton out. Mack did play in entire game in the win over East Carolina but that has been his only meaningful action this season. He is much bigger than Milton and a serious rushing threat but likely not nearly the same caliber performer in the passing game at this point in his career.

Regular Season Meeting: In a highly anticipated rematch of the 2017 championship game Memphis took command early with a 30-14 edge until just before halftime. UCF trimmed the deficit to just six points in the third quarter and then took a one-point lead in the fourth. Memphis fumbled twice in the second half to wind up shut out in the second half at home and losing despite a 281-165 rushing edge.

Series History: Central Florida has won S/U 12 meetings in a row in this series going back to 2005 with the last win for Memphis coming in 1990 when UCF was not playing at the top college football level. Memphis has gone 4-2-1 ATS in the seven meetings going back to 2010.

 

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SUN BELT CHAMPIONSHIP

Match-up: UL-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns at Appalachian State Mountaineers

Venue: At Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone, North Carolina

Time/TV: Saturday, December 1, 12:00 PM ET, ESPN

Line: Appalachian State -18, Over/Under 59

Last Meeting: October 2, 2018 at Appalachian State (-25½) 27, UL-Lafayette 17

The Sun Belt split into two five-team divisions this season and will join the Championship Weekend with the inaugural title game this weekend after often featuring a full regular season schedule in this final weekend in previous years. There was great drama in determining the division champions this season with last week’s results meaningful and the heavy Sun Belt favorite to open the season, Arkansas State, did not make it.

Scott Satterfield led a 4-8 FCS squad in his first season in Boon in 2013 but has had a winning season every year since the program jumped to the FBS level in 2014. The Mountaineers are 3-0 in bowl games the past three years and 39-11 the past four years combined while going 28-4 in Sun Belt play in that span. Expect Satterfield to field interviews from prominent openings if he so chooses as he has done a remarkable job. This year may have been his best work as the roster appeared to be in a major transition with the loss of several key players from last season.

The one game in Sun Belt play that Appalachian State lost came without quarterback Zac Thomas at Georgia Southern and the numbers were dominant for the Mountaineers with a 255-108 scoring record in going 7-1 in league play. Appalachian State went 5-0 at home on the season and nearly upset Penn State in the opening week on the road.

Louisiana started the season 1-3 but losses at Mississippi State and at Alabama certainly are forgivable. The Ragin’ Cajuns beat Arkansas State at home 47-43 and last week earned this spot by besting rival UL-Monroe on the road 31-28. The Ragin’ Cajuns played both Appalachian State and Troy on the road for a difficult crossover draw and lost both games by 10 points in lower scoring games. In going 5-3 in Sun Belt play Louisiana outscored foes by just 24 points while being outscored overall on the season despite being 7-5.

Regular Season Meeting: As a massive home favorite Appalachian State led just 17-10 at the half before pulling away. The final score was 27-17 but Louisiana scored with 63 seconds to go to make the final margin tighter, though the yardage edge for the Mountaineers was modest at 372-328. The ground game was the key with a 266-140 rushing advantage for the Mountaineers at home.

Series History: These teams have met each of the last five years with five straight wins for Appalachian State, going 3-2 ATS including 2-1 in the home meetings.

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MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERNCE CHAMPIONSHIP

Match-up: Fresno State Bulldogs at Boise State Broncos

Venue: At Albertson’s Stadium in Boise, Idaho

Time/TV: Saturday, December 1, 7:45 PM ET, ESPN

Line: Boise State -2½, Over/Under 50½

Last Meeting: November 9, 2018, at Boise State (+2½) 24, Fresno State 17

These teams met in the Mountain West title game last season with a 17-14 win for Boise State with a 90-yard touchdown drive for the lead late in the fourth quarter. That was after Fresno State defeated Boise State at home the previous week to close the regular season. These teams also met in the 2014 MWC Championship, also a win but missed cover for Boise State.

The stakes are potentially higher this season as if UCF loses to Memphis now playing without its star quarterback, the victor of this game could be the highest rated Group of Five squad in line for a New Year’s Six bowl bid. Boise State is currently 22nd while Fresno State is 25th in those rankings. UCF is 8th and could potentially hold the highest ranked spot with a loss though that would be an unusual precedent to set as they wouldn’t be a conference champion and would likely look like a much less promising team without Milton.

Marcus McMaryion and Brett Rypien are both in the nation’s top 12 in QB Rating and both seniors are coming to the close of excellent seasons and careers. They have combined to throw only 10 interceptions in nearly 800 attempts. Defense has been the key for Fresno State however, second nationally allowing just 13.5 points per game with a significant edge in pass defense relative to Boise State. The Broncos are 119-7 S/U at home since 1999 for truly the toughest home field edge in the nation however.

Regular Season Meeting: As a rare home underdog Boise State fell behind 17-3 early in the third quarter. The Broncos rallied to win in the fourth taking a 24-17 edge while Fresno State had a missed field goal while getting stopped on downs in Boise territory on its final two possessions. Boise State had a 448-390 edge in yards and committed the only turnover in the game.

Series History: Boise State is 15-4 S/U in this series since 1996 with a 13-5 ATS record however Fresno State has covered in four of the past five meetings. This will be the MWC Championship matchup for the third time in the last five years with a 28-14 win for Boise in 2014 and a 17-14 win over Boise last season with the Broncos hosting all of those games. Fresno State did win S/U hosting Boise State in the regular season in 2013 and 2017 but has not won in Boise since 1984.

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