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Teams in final fights for league titles
Flames getting hot: Liberty carries its Big South-record 17-game home conference win streak into Saturday’s showdown with Stony Brook. During the stretch, the Flames have scored 749 points (44.1 points per game), scored more than 30 points in 15 contests and have held league foes to 321 points (18.9 ppg). The last Big South team to defeat Liberty inside Williams Stadium was Gardner-Webb on Oct. 21, 2006 in a 27-24 victory.
Lucky seven: Twice this season UT Martin senior quarterback Derek Carr has thrown seven touchdowns in a game without throwing an interception. Carr achieved that feat against Murray State on Oct. 13 and against Jacksonville State on Nov. 3. He is the only quarterback in Division I (FBS or FCS) to have two games with seven touchdown passes this season. In fact only three other Division I quarterbacks have thrown seven or more touchdowns in a game this season: Murray State’s Casey Brockman (8 vs. UT Martin), Old Dominion’s Taylor Heinicke (7 vs. Campbell) and West Virginia’s Geno Smith (8 vs. Baylor).
Return to sender: North Carolina Central leads all schools with 26.6 yards per punt return on the season. In addition, it has returned four punts for touchdowns, more than any other school. Making it more impressive is the fact that NCC has only attempted 13 punt returns this season. Meanwhile, on kickoff returns, Jacksonville is the only team with more than two kickoff returns for touchdowns as it has run three back to the house. Wagner leads the nation with 29.7 yards per return on kickoffs.
Coaching them up: Montana State head coach Rob Ash can become the school’s all-time wins leader Saturday when it hosts Portland State. He tied Sonny Holland atop the list with his 47th victory last Saturday. Ash now has 223 career victories overall, and his 47 victories at MSU rank 14th in Big Sky history. He is one behind former NAU coach Steve Axman (48), and three behind former Weber State coach Sark Arslanian (50).
For the marker: North Dakota State and South Dakota State meet for the 99th time Saturday in a series that started in 1903. The Bison lead the overall series 53-40-5. This will be the ninth time they will meet with the Dakota Marker on the line. The teams have split the previous eight games with NDSU winning the last two including a 38-14 win in Brookings, S.D. last season.
Lumberjacks control destiny: Northern Arizona can win the outright Big Sky championship with home wins on Saturday against Southern Utah and on Nov. 17 against Cal Poly. Northern Arizona can clinch at least a share of the conference championship with a win on Saturday. Northern Arizona last shared the conference title in 2003 with Montana and Montana State. Northern Arizona’s only other conference championship occurred in 1978 when the Lumberjacks finished 6-0. This year, NAU opened the season with a 63-6 loss at Arizona State, but has since won eight consecutive games, the program’s longest winning streak since 1958. The 1958 Lumberjacks opened 11-0 and played for the NAIA national championship. NAU’s current eight-game winning streak ranks as the second-longest in FCS football behind Lehigh’s nine consecutive. Northern Arizona has never been 7-0 in conference play, a feat the Lumberjacks can achieve on Saturday.
Sam Houston State going for second consecutive title: Sam Houston State visits Northwestern State Saturday with a chance to claim a share of its second consecutive Southland Conference championship. The Bearkats, who raced to an undefeated record through their seven conference games to claim an outright title last year, need a win to finish 6-1 and tie Central Arkansas for the championship this year. The Bears have already clinched at least a share of the title and locked up the Southland’s automatic bid into the Division I playoffs by virtue of its 24-20 win against Sam Houston on Sept. 22. A win by the Demons against Sam Houston Saturday gives UCA an outright championship. UCA finished conference play last week with a 35-14 win against the Demons and close the regular season at home against Eastern Illinois on Nov. 17, the same day Sam Houston visits Texas A&M.
Will Butler do it? Butler has the opportunity to claim the 2012 Pioneer Football League title outright when it travels to Drake on Saturday. Drake has plenty of motivation to spoil Butler’s trip — with a win it can move back into a tie for the title. San Diego also remains an interested party and will host Morehead State after seeing the result of Butler-Drake contest.
Southern Conference clash: Appalachian State hosts Furman Saturday with Appalachian going for its12th SoCon championship. The win would allow Appalachian State to tie Furman for the most titles in the league’s 80-year championship history. Furman’s 12 SoCon championships have come in 74 years in the conference while this is only Appalachian’s 41st season in the SoCon.
Title tilt: Decision 2012 for Ivy League football gets determined in matchup between Harvard and Penn. The red of the Crimson and the blue (and red) of the Quakers meet at Franklin Field, each with 4-1 records in conference play, in front of a national television audience on the NBC Sports Network. The winner earns at least a share of the league crown and moves its title campaign into the driver’s seat for the outright championship with a win in the final game of the season.
Game of the Week: Colgate at Lehigh. It’s a winner-take-all battle for the Patriot League crown and a bid to the playoffs. Both teams are unbeaten in league play and have one more conference game remaining. With head-to-head being the tiebreaker, the winner will get the AQ even if it loses on the final weekend of the season. Lehigh is the only undefeated team in FCS as it narrowly held on to beat Holy Cross a week ago and it will enter Saturday’s contest at 9-0. The Mountain Hawks have made a habit of winning the close game as five of their victories have been by three or fewer points. The Red Raiders meanwhile stumbled out of the gate, losing three of its first four games. Since that point, they have turned into perhaps the hottest team in the subdivision as they have won five consecutive games by averaging 53 points per game during that span.
Curry calls it a Career: Prior to the start of the season, Georgia State head coach Bill Curry announced this would be his last. Although, they are transitioning into the Football Bowl Subdivision, the Panthers have been playing in the Colonial Athletic Association and will wrap up the season Saturday at Maine. Curry had previously been head coach at Georgia Tech, Alabama and Kentucky. In addition, he also previously served as a television analyst for ESPN and played in the NFL with a host of other famous athletes and coaches.
By Mark Bedics, NCAA.com