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By Tim McDonnell, FCS Assistant - Archive - Email
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Week 2 Preview
Illinois State, behind quarterback Matt Brown, will try to upset Eastern Michigan on Saturday.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Each year during the start of college football season, our favorite FCS schools are showcased on a national level, and, more often than not, it's because they are getting pummelled by FBS programs.

The first Saturday of the season is almost always highlighted by some of the best teams from the FBS beating up on weaker opponents who have no business playing in the game.

Let's face it, when FCS schools face FBS opponents, it's a daunting task. The odds are always against the lesser-talented, underfunded and seemingly overmatched football team with fewer scholarships.

"The only difference I would say between the two levels is over time," said Illinois State coach Brock Spack, whose team faces Eastern Michigan this week. "You know, if you had to play 12 games like that over a season, it would be tough. With 63 scholarships, you play one or two of those games (FBS games) you can play well, you might get worn down over time, but any given Saturday I think our league is good, well-coached, tough and as physical as any league in America. I've always been very impressed with it."

Every once in a while, the so-called weaker opponents - which the majority of time are FCS schools - slay Goliath with an upset sling. It's not a common occurrence in any sense, but in the last couple of years, FCS teams have come away with legitimate wins over their "big brother" Division I foes.

Most notably, Appalachian State defeated the No. 5-ranked Michigan Wolverines in the Big House (2007) and James Madison took down the No. 13-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies in Blacksburg in 2010. There certainly have been other numerous victories, but none came in such shocking fashion.

In Week 1, FCS teams went a combined 4-31 versus FBS programs. Youngstown State defeated Pittsburgh, UT Martin defeated Memphis, Eastern Washington beat Idaho and McNeese State took down Middle Tennessee State.

There easily could have been other opportunities with Wagner losing 7-3 at Florida Atlantic, William & Mary losing 7-6 at Maryland, Northern Iowa losing 26-21 at Wisconsin, Liberty falling 20-17 at Wake Forest and Indiana State losing to Indiana, 24-17.

This week's schedule features 26 FCS-versus-FBS contests. Interestingly enough, two teams which upset FBS schools last week will try to make it two in a row in Week 2. Eastern Washington and UT Martin play at Washington State and Northern Illinois, respectively.

"There's still 10 games left, but, hey, I'm sure looking forward to trying to capitalize off of it," UT Martin coach Jason Simpson said about his team's FBS upset in Week 1. "The team chemistry and the confidence that you build ... this week is going to be an unbelievable challenge for us, but, hey, it won't hurt you."

Playing one FBS game and getting a victory is tough enough, but trying to beat two FBS teams in one year and in back-to-back weeks is nearly impossible.

"I don't want to have to play two a year, but this year we felt like it was something we needed to do for our program," Simpson said. "It doesn't guarantee us anything the rest of the season, but you would rather be sitting here 1-0 than the opposite of that."

Illinois State plays an 0-1 Eastern Michigan team which lost to Ball State last week. The Redbirds are coming off a 56-14 win over Dayton and had two running backs go over 100 yards, while quarterback Matt Brown threw for three touchdowns.

"I get excited until I watch the tape," Spack said as he laughed. "Eastern Michigan is pretty good. You know, we're going to have to play very well. I obviously hope that maybe we can go and compete. I think we're at a stage in our program where we are ready for a game like this and we'll see how ready we are. ... We really don't look at the foe or opponent, as much as we've got to focus on the process of getting better and trying to be successful on Saturday."



The following is a game-by-game breakdown for The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS Top 25 and other select games (all times ET):

Saturday, Sept. 8

No. 16 Lehigh Mountain Hawks (1-0) at Central Connecticut State Blue Devils (0-1), noon

Series record: Tied, 1-1

Last meeting: Central Connecticut State 28, Lehigh 21

What to know: Lehigh came away with a win in Week 1 against an improved Monmouth squad and senior Michael Colvin finished 17-of-32 for 221 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in his debut as starting quarterback. Many wondered how the Mountain Hawks would look without Chris Lum under center and while it wasn't the prettiest win, coach Andy Coen should feel better heading into the matchup versus a struggling Central Connecticut team.

The Blue Devils faced a tough task last week, opening the season at nationally ranked Stony Brook. The Seawolves used a couple of big plays to help build their first-half lead. Early on, they scored on three straight plays to make the score 21-0 in the first quarter. CCSU utilized junior quarterback Andrew Clements, who rushed for a career-high 103 yards in the loss, scoring a pair of touchdowns, but the Blue Devils only passed for 64 yards in the contest.

Stud receiver Ryan Spadola picked up right where he left off, catching nine passes for 111 yards last week, leading the developing offensive attack. Colvin's confidence should grow in an expected win versus a rebuilding CCSU program.

Prediction: Lehigh 35, Central Connecticut State 14

No. 14 New Hampshire (1-0) at Minnesota (1-0), noon (Big Ten Network)

Series Record: First meeting

Last Meeting: None

What to Know: UNH is 5-4 all-time against FBS opponents, stringing together an unprecedented five straight wins from the 2004-09 seasons. The Wildcats want to hang in the game - or better yet, lead it - and make the Gophers start questioning themselves and remembering their losses to FCS members in the last two seasons (South Dakota in 2010 and North Dakota State in 2011).

UNH wants to control the clock - as it did against Holy Cross - but the game plan may be a bit more conservative with redshirt freshman Sean Goldrich facing a Big Ten opponent which picked off three passes at UNLV. Unlike other FCS teams, though, the Wildcats have big enough lines to give Minnesota some trouble in the trenches.

Former Southern Illinois coach Jerry Kill, the 2004 Eddie Robinson Award winner, is in his second season guiding the Golden Gophers. He will have senior quarterback MarQueis Gray test the Wildcats defense with his dual- threat abilities.

Prediction: Minnesota 34, New Hampshire 20

No. 18 Illinois State Redbirds (1-0) at Eastern Michigan Eagles (0-1), 1 p.m. (CSN-Chicago)

Series record: Tied, 12-12-6

Last meeting: Illinois State 28, Eastern Michigan 7 (Oct. 19, 1981)

What to know: With all the success the Missouri Valley Football Conference had in last week's kickoff, Illinois State quietly defeated Dayton, 56-14. The Redbirds offense put up impressive numbers with two hundred-yard rushers in Darrelynn Dunn (137 yards, three touchdowns) and Cameron Hunt (120 yards, one touchdown). Quarterback Matt Brown was 22-of-34 for 192 yards passing and three touchdowns.

However, Illinois State's opponent in Week 2, Eastern Michigan, does not even compare to Dayton. The Eagles and Redbirds will be renewing a rivalry that has been dormant since the 1981 campaign. Although EMU is coming off a 37-26 loss versus Ball State, it doesn't help that the Eagles have posted an 8-3 record against FCS opponents since 2001. Eastern Michigan will be well aware of any upset possibility and can't afford to drop to 0-2 on the season. On the other hand, the battle of the birds could come down to special teams.

Prediction: Illinois State 36, Eastern Michigan 33

No. 20 Maine Black Bears (0-0) at Boston College Eagles (0-1), 1 p.m. (ESPN3.com)

Series record: Tied, 3-3

Last meeting: Boston College 22, Maine 0

What to know: Last year, the Black Bears accomplished something that few teams have done in the last decade. That is, win a playoff game at "The Rock" versus Appalachian State, in the first round of the FCS playoffs. Of course, this season, few expect Maine to make any noise in CAA Football without quarterback Warren Smith, linebacker Vinson Givans and safeties Jerron McMillian and Trevor Coston. Longtime coach Jack Cosgrove hands over the offense to junior Marcus Wasilewski, whose inexperience could show in the opener at Boston College.

Keep in mind, the Eagles are coming off a disappointing loss in the hands of the Miami Hurricanes on national television and their defense struggled, so the timing is ideal. Maine only lost to Pittsburgh, 35-29, last year and Cosgrove has shown the ability to sneak up on a couple of FBS programs. But, with the loss of many key players - and Boston College coach Frank Spaziani on the hot seat - BC should take care of business.

Prediction: Boston College 42, Maine 17

Quincy Hawks (0-1) at No. 23 Indiana State Sycamores (0-1), 2:05 p.m.

Series record: Tied, 1-1

Last meeting: Indiana State 56, Quincy 22 (Oct. 2, 2010)

What to know: If there were any questions about junior running back Shakir Bell living up to his stellar sophomore campaign, they were answered pretty quickly in Indiana State's seven-point loss to Indiana. Bell, who tied for second place in the Walter Payton Award voting last year, rushed for 192 yards on 24 carries and one touchdown in a game which ISU easily could have won.

"He has been playing great," coach Trent Miles said about Bell. "He doesn't amaze me anymore. Unfortunately for him, we have come to the expectation to play well."

Signal-caller Mike Perish made his Sycamores debut and amassed 211 yards through the air on 20-of-31 passing. If Indiana State can further improve its passing offense, it could make a run in conference play, which begins Sept. 22 versus South Dakota State.

First and foremost this week, the Sycamores play Division II Quincy, which lost in Week 1 and gave up 368 rushing yards. Bell could put up even bigger numbers than last week.

Prediction: Indiana State 51, Quincy 13

No. 9 Eastern Washington Eagles (1-0) at Washington State Cougars (0-1), 3 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)

Series record: Washington State leads, 2-0

Last meeting: Washington State 73, Eastern Washington 0 (1908)

What to know: In coach Beau Baldwin's Eastern Washington debut in 2008, the Eagles opened the season with a 49-24 loss to Texas Tech. In that game, quarterback Graham Harrell and wide receiver Michael Crabtree and the Red Raiders piled up 536 of its 639 yards of offense through the air. The relevance of that contest? Texas Tech was led by Mike Leach back then, and now for the second time, Baldwin faces another Leach-coached team as EWU visits Washington State.

In one of the most intriguing matchups in Week 2, Eastern Washington looks to take down two straight FBS opponents after last week's 20-3 win at Idaho. SMU transfer Kyle Padron was only 13-of-33 for 260 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. His production should improve with targets like Brandon Kaufman, Nicholas Edwards and Greg Herd becoming more comfortable with him. The Eagles defense had a huge game last week, allowing only 237 yards of total offense.

Leach's Cougars couldn't do anything offensively in a 30-6 loss at Brigham Young, which was surprisingly uncharacteristic. If Eastern Washington can get things started quickly on offense, expect the Eagles to have a legitimate shot a pulling one out in Pullman. The last time these teams met in 1908, Washington State won by 73. There's a good chance this one will be closer.

Prediction: Eastern Washington 28, Washington State 21

Delaware State Hornets (1-0) at No. 15 Delaware Blue Hens, 3:30 p.m. (NBCSN)

Series record: Delaware leads, 3-0

Last meeting: Delaware 45, Delaware State 0 (Sept. 17, 2011)

What to know: In Week 1, Delaware came away with a 41-21 win versus Division II West Chester in the final game of a series that dates back to 1941. The Blue Hens remain ranked at No. 15 partly because the victory was less than stellar. West Chester put up 224 rushing yards compared to 177 for Delaware. The biggest performance of the night came from the visitor's running back, Rondell White, who rushed for 209 yards and caught a touchdown pass while racking up 269 all-purpose yards. Even more amazing, White broke the Delaware Stadium record for rushing yards by an opponent.

If any coach in the FCS will have his team focused and ready in Week 2, it is K.C. Keeler. In the fourth installment of this Route 1 rivalry, UD should once again prove it's not anything close to a rivalry versus Delaware State.

Nick Elko ran four yards for a touchdown with 45 seconds left to lift Delaware State to a 17-10 season-opening win over Virginia Military Institute, but the Hornets run into an angry inner-state opponent who will establish the run with Andrew Pierce.

Prediction: Delaware 42, Delaware State 10

Valparaiso Crusaders (0-1) at No. 6 Youngstown State Penguins (1-0), 4 p.m.

Series record: Youngstown State leads, 1-0

Last meeting: Youngstown State 77, Valparaiso 13 (Sept. 10, 2011)

What to know: Youngstown State is coming off one of the FCS' most impressive wins last week, with its 31-17 upset at Pittsburgh. The Penguins outgained the Panthers, 381-369, had more first downs, 23-17, and the defense forced two turnovers. Quarterback Kurt Hess (13-of-23) threw for 154 yards and two touchdowns, running back Jamaine Cook rushed for 84 yards and had a key halfback pass touchdown, extending the lead to 21-10 early in the third quarter. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the addition of redshirt freshman Andre Stubbs, who had 172 all-purpose yards (71 rushing, 61 receiving and 40 kickoff returns) and scored two touchdowns - one receiving, one on the ground.

Valparaiso gave up a 6-yard touchdown run with 24 seconds to play in losing its opener to Division II Great Lakes Valley Conference member St. Joseph's (Ind.). The Crusaders gave up 549 yards, while St. Joseph's wide receiver Julian Walker had a huge game, catching 11 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns.

Coach Eric Wolford should have his YSU squad mentally prepared after such a big win. This one could get ugly.

Prediction: Youngstown State 55, Valparaiso 13

Pace Setters (0-1) at No. 17 Stony Brook Seawolves (1-0), 6 p.m.

Series record: Stony Brook leads, 10-2

Last meeting: (Stony Brook won, 1998)

What to know: Stony Brook last started the season with a 2-0 record in 2007. After a seemingly easy victory against Central Connecticut State, in which Stony Brook rolled up 489 total yards, the Seawolves should have no problem taking care of business versus Pace.

Miguel Maysonet rushed for 171 yards and scored three touchdowns last week, while Iowa transfer Marcus Coker debuted with 75 yards and a touchdown on the ground. SBU hopes to set itself nicely for more difficult opponents in the next three weeks. Included are road contests at Syracuse and Army, with a home game versus Colgate in between.

The Setters, out of the Northeast-10 Conference, lost their season opener at Bentley, 42-0. Interestingly enough, the two New York-based teams were once similar competitors at the Division II level. This contest should prove just how different the programs turned out.

Prediction: Stony Brook 62, Pace 7

Morehead State Eagles (1-0) at No. 21 Eastern Kentucky Colonels (0-1), 6 p.m.

Series record: Eastern Kentucky leads, 49-16-4

Last meeting: Eastern Kentucky 16, Morehead State 8 (Sept. 13, 2008)

What to know: Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State meet for the 70th time overall, but just the second meeting since 1995. When the Eagles competed in the Ohio Valley Conference from 1948 until 1995, the schools played in the regular season finale 31 times.

In Week 1, Eastern Kentucky fell to Purdue, 48-6, despite forcing five turnovers. The Colonels had trouble moving the ball on offense, gaining only 190 yards, and on defense they gave up 547 yards.

Pioneer Football League member Morehead State scored 24 points in the first 13 minutes of its season opener to blow out Southern Virginia, 55-0. Senior quarterback Zach Lewis led Morehead State by completing 16-of-22 passes for 249 yards and four touchdowns, with one rushing score. But Eastern Kentucky will be a completely different challenge. The Colonels need to get their ground game going with Matt Denham. Expect EKU to get back on track after a slow start to open the season.

Prediction: Eastern Kentucky 33, Morehead State 20

Alcorn State Braves (1-0) at No. 5 James Madison Dukes (1-0), 6 p.m.

Series record: First meeting

Last meeting: None

What to know: This offseason, Alcorn State wanted to hire a new head coach who would make them more competitive. After the Braves' season opening win versus last year's SWAC champion, Grambling State, it was clear Jay Hopson was the man for the job. Alcorn started off its new era in the right direction, but that will all change this week when the Braves take on James Madison.

The Dukes put on a show in a 55-7 rout of Saint Francis (Pa.). They converted on every trip to the red zone, running 89 offensive plays and holding the Red Flash to just 155 yards of total offense on 49 plays and only 4-for-12 on third-down conversions. Lead signal-caller Justin Thorpe lived up to the hype of a Madison offense that has a scary amount of talent. The senior rushed for 76 yards and two touchdowns, while passing for 177 yards. The Dukes might not lose at home this year.

Coach Hopson told one reporter that his team will travel to Harrisonburg via bus, leaving Friday at 4:30 a.m. It won't be a fun trip home after the 7 p.m. game ends Saturday.

Prediction: James Madison 52, Alcorn State 17

Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs (0-1) at Richmond Spiders (0-1), 6 p.m.

Series record: First meeting

Last meeting: None

What to know: Gardner-Webb faced a very dangerous Wofford team in Week 1 and only managed to score one touchdown in its 34-7 setback. Wofford ran for a whopping 402 yards and held the Runnin' Bulldogs to 12 yards on the ground. Coach Ron Dickerson Jr. faces a familiar face to the Big South Conference with Richmond head coach Danny Rocco (formally of Liberty), who is in his seventh season as a Division I FCS head coach and first in charge of the Spiders' program.

Richmond looks to keep its unblemished night game record at Robins Stadium intact, after a 43-19 loss at Virginia last week. Senior quarterback John Laub set career bests in the loss, going 17-of-35 for 178 yards.

The Spiders have not lost a home opener since the 2005 season, beating three Big South teams during the streak. This game is huge for Rocco to show his team can be a lot more competitive than last season's 3-8 campaign.

Prediction: Richmond 38, Gardner-Webb 14

Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (1-0, 0-0 MEAC) at South Carolina State Bulldogs (1-0, 0-0), 6 p.m. (ESPN3.com)

Series record: South Carolina State leads, 29-8

Last meeting: South Carolina State 26, Bethune-Cookman 18 (Sept. 10, 2011)

What to know: If it weren't for one of the FCS' most colossal matchups this week - and in recent decades, for that matter - between Appalachian State and Montana, this game would take center stage in Week 2.

After trailing 21-0 in the second quarter in last week's annual MEAC/SWAC Challenge, Bethune-Cookman decided to throw in Louisiana Tech transfer, multi- dimensional quarterback Brodrick Waters. The senior, who also can play wide receiver and running back, threw for two touchdowns, ran for 100 yards and added a touchdown on the ground. B-C stunned Alabama State, scoring 38 unanswered points on route to a 38-28 win. The Wildcats rushed for 367 yards and were helped by running backs Isidore Jackson and Rodney Scott, who ran for 123 and 100 yards, respectively.

South Carolina State took care of business in Week 1, defeating CAA Football newcomer Georgia State on the road, 33-6. The Bulldogs offense racked up 488 yards total offense, with junior receiver Caleb Davis and senior Lennel Elmore each finishing with over 100 yards receiving on the night.

Last year, Bethune-Cookman entered its Week 2 matchup in similar fashion, beating Prairie View A&M, 63-14, but lost at home against the Bulldogs, 26-18. The players, coaches and the conference, for that matter, understand the significance of this game. Each team has high expectations in the MEAC and a blemish early could hurt one of these teams further down the road.

Prediction: Bethune-Cookman 24, South Carolina State 23 (OT)

No. 3 Georgia Southern Eagles (1-0, 0-0 Southern) at The Citadel Bulldogs (1-0, 0-0), 6 p.m.

Series record: Georgia Southern leads, 17-4

Last meeting: Georgia Southern 14, The Citadel 12 (Nov. 5, 2011)

What to know: Very few times throughout the FCS football season a pair of triple option teams square off. That is, of course, unless you look at the Southern Conference, which is home to three veer-oriented programs in Georgia Southern, The Citadel and Wofford.

In the SoCon's only conference game this week, The Citadel - a team in its third season in a new offense - takes on Georgia Southern, whose success has related directly to its a lethal run game.

In last week's 49-14 dismantling of Charleston Southern, the Bulldogs rushed for 479 yards, their most in a game in 18 years, while using a plethora of rushers who accounted for seven touchdowns. Starting quarterback Ben Dupree ran for 77 yards and two touchdowns and sixth-year senior Rickey Anderson scored three touchdowns. However, if the Bulldogs want to win this week, they can't play like they did in the first half, fumbling the ball six times, losing two of them.

Georgia Southern made its season opener versus Jacksonville look like a walk- through scrimmage. New signal-caller Ezayi Youyoute ran for 164 yards and three scores, while sophomore sensation Dominique Swope added 104 rushing yards and three touchdowns of his own. Like the Bulldogs, the Eagles scored seven touchdowns on the ground, but even more impressive, they rushed for 557 yards.

A year ago, the Bulldogs held the Eagles to 191 rushing yards and 320 yards of total offense, but GSU squeaked out with a 14-12 win, after blocking a pair of extra points. The Citadel won't have the element of surprise this week and Georgia Southern will capitalize on every mistake they make.

Prediction: Georgia Southern 42, The Citadel 24

No. 7 Old Dominion Monarchs (1-0) at Hampton Pirates (0-1), 6 p.m.

Series record: Old Dominion leads, 2-0

Last meeting: Old Dominion 45, Hampton 42 (Sept. 17, 2011)

What to know: Old Dominion's first road game of 2012 is also its shortest, having to travel just 14 miles to play area rival Hampton. Last year, the Monarchs won, 45-42, and were still trying to figure out their identity after just three games. Flash forward almost one year later and ODU seems to be a clear favorite after a 57-23 win over Duquesne. There's no doubt, much of the Monarchs' success comes in the hands of their sophomore quarterback, Taylor Heinicke, who shook off a slow start in Week 1, finishing with 530 yards of total offense and 492 yards through the air.

On the other hand, Hampton trailed 31-7 at halftime versus Tennessee Tech - making a nice second-half comeback - but lost, 41-31. Hampton's defense looked vulnerable, allowing 548 yards - 209 rushing and 339 passing. Nine of Old Dominion's 11 games will be played in the state of Virginia, and it shouldn't face a real test until Sept. 22 versus New Hampshire.

Prediction: Old Dominion 50, Hampton 17

No. 12 Montana Grizzlies (1-0) at No. 11 Appalachian State Mountaineers (0-1), 6:30 p.m. (ESPN Game Plan, ESPN3.com)

Series record: Montana leads, 2-0

Last meeting: Montana 24, Appalachian State 17 (Dec. 12, 2009)

What to know: You won't be able to find too many people in Boone, N.C., on Saturday night who will not be in attendance at "The Rock" for one of the most anticipated regular-season non-conference matchups in the history of the FCS.

For those questioning the significance of a regular-season contest between the Southern and Big Sky conferences, keep in mind both programs have a combined five national championships, 10 FCS championship-game appearances and 40 FCS postseason berths. In the last seven years, Appalachian State and Montana are the winningest programs in all of the FCS with 79 and 78 victories, respectively.

To make things even more interesting, Appalachian is coming off a disappointing 8-4 season without a playoff win (yes, disappointing in the eyes of the Mountaineers faithful) and lost to Eastern Carolina last week. The Grizzlies had a troubled offseason with player arrests, assault allegations and the firing of its head coach. Montana won its opener, but trailed a South Dakota team that won three FCS games in 2011, 24-16 midway through the third quarter. The Grizzlies rushed the ball effectively and won, 35-24.

Very rarely do teams come away with victories against Appalachian State in the confines of Kidd Brewer Stadium. Coach Jerry Moore is 20-3 all-time in home openers for the Mountaineers and 10-1 in the last 11 years.

Prediction: Appalachian State 33, Montana 28

No. 25 Central Arkansas Bears (0-1) at Murray State Racers (0-1), 7 p.m.

Series record: Central Arkansas leads, 2-0-1

Last meeting: Central Arkansas 21, Murray State 20 (Sept.18, 2010)

What to know: Central Arkansas played well in its opener versus SEC foe Mississippi. The Bears led 20-14 at the half, but were outscored 35-7 in the second half, losing, 49-27. In just his second career start, quarterback Wynrick Smothers (maybe the best name in the FCS) completed 25-of-32 passes for 247 yards and two touchdowns.

This game could be strange for UCA, at least early on, because Murray State played on the road at Florida State last week and lost, 69-3. So being able to accurately prepare for a team that played the FBS' No. 7-ranked team in the Seminoles will be harder than expected. Defensively, Central Arkansas played well in the first half against an SEC team. UCA will have a lot of confidence to come away with a win versus a developing Racers' squad.

Prediction: Central Arkansas 35, Murray State 14

Norfolk State Spartans (1-0) at Liberty Flames (0-1), 7 p.m. (Flames Sports Net, MASN2)

Series record: Liberty leads, 3-1

Last meeting: Norfolk State 34, Liberty 17 (Nov. 19, 2005)

What to know: Liberty nearly started off the Turner Gill era with a victory versus an FBS opponent in Wake Forest, before the Demon Deacons came up with a critical fourth-down stop with less than two minutes remaining to win, 20-17. The Flames outgained Wake Forest on the night, finishing with 363 total offensive yards to Wake Forest's 293 total offensive yards, of which only 98 came on the ground.

Norfolk State won last year's MEAC title and defeated Division II Virginia State, 24-0, to open the season. Liberty's biggest challenge will be facing a defense that allowed just 107 yards of total offense versus Virginia State and ranked No. 2 in the FCS in total defense in allowing a stingy 275 yards per game in 2011. The Spartans lost seven starters from that dominant defense and played well against an easy opponent last week, so Liberty won't know how good Norfolk's defense is until they have played a couple of series.

Flames coach Turner Gill missed the majority of practice this week to mourn the loss of his mother. He plans to coach Saturday and his team will show up to support him.

Prediction: Liberty 20, Norfolk State 10

No. 2 North Dakota State Bison (1-0) at Colorado State Rams (1-0), 7 p.m.

Series record: First meeting

Last meeting: None

What to know: North Dakota State looked like a team which was defending a national title last week in its 52-0 blasting of Robert Morris. However, this week the Bison play FBS member Colorado State, which is a whole different animal compared to RMU. On the other hand, the Bison gave up only 88 yards of total offense and Robert Morris only had three snaps inside NDSU territory with the 48-yard line being its deepest advancement. At any level, when you accomplish that feat, it's impressive.

Colorado State picked up a win in coach Jim McElwain's debut over long-time rival Colorado. The Rams offense was mediocre in the victory, but the defense was solid, giving up 245 yards, only 58 of those on the ground. Redshirt freshman linebacker Cory James added three sacks, while place-kicker Jared Roberts was 3-of-3 on field-goal attempts.

Colorado State knows it will have to earn a win, even while playing at home. North Dakota State has a 5-3 record against FBS teams since 2006 and has a legitimate shot to take down CSU in Collins. A win for the Bison would make three straight FBS victories in the last three years.

Prediction: North Dakota State 24, Colorado State 20

Chattanooga Mocs (0-1) at No. 24 Jacksonville State Gamecocks (0-1), 7 p.m.

Series record: Chattanooga leads, 27-9

Last meeting: Chattanooga 38, Jacksonville State 17 (Sept. 10, 2011)

What to know: Both Chattanooga and Jacksonville State have a lot to gain and a lot to lose with this early season matchup. Both teams lost their season openers to FBS programs in South Florida and Arkansas, respectively.

The Mocs won't have quarterback Terrell Robinson, who quit the team for two days this week and won't be on the travel squad. Redshirt freshman Jacob Huesman, the coach's son, will get his first start.

Meanwhile, Jacksonville State will be without senior running back Washaun Ealey, who was arrested Wednesday morning on drug possession charges and will not play this week.

The Gamecocks struck fear in thousands of Arkansas Razorback fans Saturday ... at least early on in the contest, when the Gamecocks led 14-7 in the beginning stages of the second quarter. The No. 10-ranked Razorbacks then woke up and reeled off 28 straight points and never looked back.

UTC's defense is one of the best in the SoCon, which saying a lot. However, Jacksonville State is 10-2 home openers under coach Jack Crowe, and the Mocs have a lot of questions on offense.

Prediction: Jacksonville State 17, Chattanooga 16 (OT)

Portland State Vikings (1-0) at North Dakota Fighting Sioux (1-0), 7 p.m. - (considered non-conference game by Big Sky Conference)

Series record: Tied 1-1

Last meeting: North Dakota 17, Portland State 10 (1981)

What to know: For the first time in 31 years, Portland State plays North Dakota. However, although they are both Big Sky Conference members, the contest will be considered a non-conference game (the NCAA allows the conference to do this because of the lack of FCS teams out west). Each team faced weak opponents in their openers and are looking to make some noise in the generally wide-open Big Sky race.

North Dakota put forth a dominant performance - including 653 yards of total offense - last Thursday in the team's 66-0 season-opening win over South Dakota School of Mines. The whooping came with a price, as starting quarterback Braden Hanson will miss two to three weeks after suffering a leg injury. Fifth-year senior Marcus Hendrickson will get his first career start against the Vikings.

Portland State came away with a victory over a competitive NAIA Carroll College team. True freshman Kieran McDonagh made his debut as the lead Vikings signal- caller, passing for 192 yards and two touchdowns.

With 13 teams now in the conference, the competitive nature has grown. Thus, both teams still have much to prove.

Prediction: North Dakota 28, Portland State 20

Lafayette Leopards (0-0) at William & Mary Tribe (0-1), 7 p.m.

Series record: First meeting

Last meeting: None

What to know: William and Mary played as well as any FCS team versus an FBS school in its 7-6 loss at Maryland in Week 1. The Tribe's defense held the Terps scoreless until midway through the fourth quarter. In all, W&M forced four turnovers and allowed just 236 yards of total offense. Once again, coach Jimmye Laycock lost his starting quarterback to injury. Brent Caprio will miss the game with a shoulder injury, while Michael Graham will compete with Raphael Ortiz for the lead signal-caller. Lafayette, a member of the Patriot League, is coming off a 4-7 campaign in 2011 and looks to rebuild. The Leopards' initial trip to Williamsburg, Va., is the farthest south the Lafayette program has ventured since 1988.

Prediction: William & Mary 28, Lafayette 10

Incarnate Word Cardinals (1-0) at No. 1 Sam Houston State Bearkats (0-0), 7 p.m. (Bearkat Sports Net)

Series record: First meeting

Last meeting: None

What to know: Last year's Southland Conference champion and national runner-up Sam Houston State opens the 2012 season against future league member Incarnate Word. The Bearkats began 2011 unranked in The Sports Network FCS Top 25, but finished 14-1 after North Dakota State kept the top-seeded Bearkats from becoming the first undefeated team in the FCS since Marshall finished 15-0 in 1996. Coach Willie Fritz, who is 20-6 in three seasons with the program, faces an even tougher test in 2012, with only three true home games.

Sam Houston plays on the road at FBS foes Baylor and Texas A&M (to end the season) and return 20 starters from last year's squad. The target has certainly grown for the Bearkats, but Incarnate Word will serve as the first step moving forward in their new season.

Prediction: Sam Houston State 56, Incarnate Word 7

Central State Marauders (0-1) at No. 8 Northern Iowa Panthers (0-1), 7 p.m.

Series record: First meeting

Last meeting: None

What to know: Few expected Northern Iowa to compete like it did at Camp Randall Stadium versus Wisconsin. The Panthers nearly pulled out a dramatic comeback win, rallying from a 19-point deficit only to be defeated, 26-21. Redshirt freshman Sawyer Kollmorgen answered any questions UNI had at the quarterback position. He completed 18-of-34 pass attempts for 265 yards and three touchdowns and was named the Missouri Valley Football Newcomer of the Week.

Mark Farley's team faces Division II Central State, which will be utterly overmatched in the UNI-Dome. Northern Iowa faces another Big Ten opponent, Iowa, in Week 3 and can't afford to mess around against the Marauders.

Prediction: Northern Iowa 48, Central State 10

Lincoln Lions (0-1) at No. 10 Wofford Terriers (1-0), 7 p.m.

Series record: First meeting

Last meeting: None

What to know: Wofford started the season in typical fashion with a 34-7 win at Gardner-Webb. The Terriers ran for 402 yards, including 219 by Eric Breitenstein, and limited the Runnin' Bulldogs to only 12 rushing yards. Wofford recorded five sacks despite being without one of its best defenders in All-America linebacker Alvin Scioneaux (shoulder), who will be limited in the first couple weeks of the season.

Lincoln lost its opener to rival Cheyney University and played its first home game in more than 60 years after reviving the program in 2008. The Lions outgained Cheyney, 419-229, and gave up 207 rushing yards.

Breitenstein could have a huge day, in the first half. Wofford should cruise into its Week 3 SoCon matchup versus Western Carolina.

Prediction: Wofford 55, Lincoln 13

No. 4 Montana State Bobcats (1-0) at Drake Bulldogs (1-0), 7:05 p.m.

Series record: Tied, 1-1

Last meeting: Montana State 48, Drake 21

What to know: Montana State plays on the road versus a Drake program that coach Rob Ash essentially built from the ground up. Ash arrived in Bozeman prior to the 2007 season after leading Drake for 18 seasons, piling up 125 victories during his time in Des Moines, Iowa.

Last week, in the first night game in the history of Bobcat Stadium, Montana State came away with a convincing 33-6 win over Chadron State. The Bobcats allowed just 135 yards of offense and starting quarterback DeNarius McGhee continued his impressive streak of throwing at least one touchdown in each of 26 career games. The junior now has 51 career touchdown passes after his four- touchdown performance in Week 1.

Drake defeated Grand View, 28-8, in its season opener, and has now won 11 straight home contests, the last loss coming versus Lehigh on Sept. 4, 2010. Senior quarterback and 2011 Pioneer Football League Offensive Player of the Year Mike Piatkowski threw for 271 yards to push him over 7,000 career passing yards. He is one of just eight active FCS passers who have surpassed that milestone in their careers.

It will be an emotional game for Ash, who is still the winningest head coach in Drake football history. Although the Bulldogs are 7-2 against current members of the Big Sky Conference, MSU has far too many weapons on both sides of the ball.

Prediction: Montana State 42, Drake 17

No. 19 Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks (1-0) at Southern Methodist Mustangs (0-1), 8 p.m. (Time Warner Texas)

Series record: Southern Methodist leads, 1-0

Last meeting: Southern Methodist 21, Stephen F. Austin 23

What to know: Stephen F. Austin had to wait an extra 24 hours - thanks to Hurricane Isaac - to start its season off with a 49-14 win over Southwestern Oklahoma. Junior signal-caller Brady Attaway completed 21-of-37 passes for 354 yards and three touchdowns. The Lumberjacks ranked No. 1 in the FCS in sacks and tackles for loss last season and the defense showed it has the same intentions in 2012. Eight players recorded a sack and 13 others had a tackle for loss.

This is an interesting matchup because SFA faces an FBS - inner-state foe Southern Methodist - which was smoked by Baylor, 59-29, last week. The Lumberjacks have a chance to come away with a victory if their stud receivers, Gralyn Crawford and Cordell Roberson - who now have combined for 50 touchdown receptions in their standout careers - can get open, early and often.

A win in Week 2 would be enormous for Stephen F. Austin, especially when you look at its next two games on the schedule, at Montana State and Texas State in back-to-back weeks.

Prediction: Southern Methodist 24, Stephen F. Austin 23

McMurry War Hawks (0-1) at No. 22 McNeese State Cowboys (1-0), 8 p.m.

Series record: McMurry leads, 2-0

Last meeting: McMurry 21, McNeese State 0 (1958)

What to know: McNeese State came away with one of the most surprising FCS over FBS victories in Week 1, topping Middle Tennessee State on the road, 27-21. The victory was the 18th win by the Southland Conference against FBS foes since 2000.

The Cowboys dominated the line of scrimmage, rushing for 298 yards, 105 of which came on behalf of junior running back Marcus Wiltz. The upset win launched McNeese into the Top 25 and opened a lot eyes in the Southland for a team that was voted to finish fourth in the conference's preseason poll.

McMurry lost 51-0 in its debut as an NCAA Division II program, but actually leads the series, 2-0. However, the programs haven't played since 1958. The Cowboys won't have a letdown this week after such a big win to open the season.

Prediction: McNeese State 55, McMurry 10

Last Week's Record: 22-5 (.814)

Season Record: 22-5 (.814)


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