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Key showdowns in Sun Belt Conference

The Sun Belt title is still up for grabs with two weeks left in the regular season,

Arkansas State leads the pack at 6-1, but Middle Tennessee is just one-half game behind. The two teams will square off on Dec. 1 in a game that will decide the champion.

ULM is one game behind but since the Warhawks have defeated Middle Tennessee, a win over Florida International and a Blue Raiders win over Arkansas State will give them the title.

Speaking of the Warhawks, quarterback Kolton Browning returned to the lineup last week and threw for over 300 yards as ULM rocked North Texas, 42-16. Still, the Warhawks only led by 11 points going into the fourth quarter and the defense allowed 467 total yards. ULM's defense also gave up over 600 yards to Louisiana in early November.

FIU should be able to rack up a ton of yards as it did a week ago against Florida Atlantic. The offense has not been a problem this year as the unit is averaging similar numbers to last season.

Unfortunately, the veteran defense, which was expected to be No. 1 in the Sun Belt, is currently last in the league giving up over 30 points per game. However, the defense is just 17 fewer ypg away from ranking third in total defense, so the unit has not been that bad in relation to the rest of the league.

Additionally, the Golden Panthers have not been as bad as their 3-8 record indicates. They came within a touchdown or less against Louisville, Middle Tennessee and Troy, and trailed Western Kentucky by a single point heading into the final 2:30 before losing by eight.

There is no doubt ULM is the better team but going with the Warhawks and giving almost a touchdown on the road against a veteran team with tons of seniors playing their final collegiate game is not the smartest play.

Take FIU plus six points in this week's lone five-star play.

The other key Sun Belt game has Middle Tennessee hosting Troy.

As mentioned earlier, the Blue Raiders have an excellent shot at winning the conference title. All they have to do is defeat Arkansas State on Dec. 1 and they will be crowned the kings of the Sun Belt. On the other hand, that scenario makes this week's matchup with Troy meaningless.

The Trojans have won just one of their last four games and are not going to the postseason for the second straight year. But unlike last season when they were blown out at Western Kentucky and Arkansas State to end the campaign, they are battling to the finish.

In fact, since losing by 13 to Louisiana on Sept. 8, they have lost only one game by more than a touchdown and that includes games against Mississippi State, Tennessee, Navy, and the aforementioned Hilltoppers and Red Wolves.

Troy has beaten Middle Tennessee six straight times. Even when the Blue Raiders had their magical 10-3 season back in 2009 they lost to the Trojans by 24 points. In addition, the Trojans won by 29 the last time Middle Tennessee gave points to Troy (2010).

Look for the Trojans to take down the Blue Raiders for the seventh consecutive meeting with an outright victory.

Take Troy plus three points in the first of four, three-star selections.

OTHER THREE-STAR PLAYS

Syracuse travels to Philadelphia to take on Temple for the first time in eight years.

The Orange have won two straight beating previously unbeaten Louisville, 45-26, and Missouri, 31-27. However, they have failed the last four times they had a chance to win three games in a row. Moreover, they are just 2-4 away from the Carrier Dome this season compared to 4-1 at home.

Temple comes into this game fresh off its most impressive win of the season. The Owls blew out Army, 63-32, with former Boston College running back Montel Harris rushing for 351 yards and seven touchdowns.

It's one thing for Syracuse to gain outright victories over teams such as Louisville and Missouri. It's another to go on the road as a favorite and come out on top. To that end, they are 1-5 ATS the last times they were favored.

Take Temple plus eight points.

Kent State guaranteed itself a spot in the Mid-American Conference Championship Game with a 31-24 win at Bowling Green last week. The Golden Flashes have been dominant all season long as eight of their nine wins have come by double digits.

However, their home game against Ohio this Friday might be considered an afterthought, especially on a short week. In addition, the Bobcats have had a couple of extra days to prepare since their previous game was last Wednesday.

Ohio looked horrible in the fourth quarter against Ball State but it's rare to see an 8-3 team getting over 10 points from a squad that has zero to play for.

Take Ohio plus 10.5 points.

Illinois has scored more than 17 points just once in seven Big Ten games and that was a 22-point outburst in a 30-point loss at Ohio State. Northwestern has not scored more than 31 since September

Take under 50.5 points.

TWO-STAR PLAYS

Go with Iowa State +1.5 (West Virginia), Virginia Tech -10.5 (Virginia), Baylor -2.5 (Texas Tech), BYU -29 (New Mexico State), Florida State -6 (Florida) and Clemson -3.5 (South Carolina).

ONE-STAR SELECTIONS

Take North Carolina State -13.5 (Boston College), Wyoming +7 (San Diego State), Oklahoma State +7 (Oklahoma) and USC +7 (Notre Dame).