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In the FCS Huddle: Week 7 Preview
By Brandon Lawrence, FCS Associate
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - It's unlikely "Yale beats Cal Poly 24-10" will ever be as popular or as monumental of a headline as 1968's "Harvard beats Yale 29-29."
The famous headline was published by The Harvard Crimson, just after Harvard scored 16 points in the final 42 seconds to tie the game against the heavily favored Bulldogs. It's one of the most legendary games in Ivy League history.
But perhaps the upset over previously ranked Cal Poly is just as significant in a different kind of way.
Yale made its longest trip for a football game in program history - over 3,000 miles - out to San Luis Obispo, Calif., last weekend for its matchup with then-No. 18 Cal Poly.
The Bulldogs were heavy underdogs, as an Ivy League team going against a Big Sky opponent imaginably would be. It was the first time Ivy League and Big Sky teams have ever played each other.
After jumping out to a 10-7 halftime lead, the Mustangs didn't manage much production in the second half. The Bulldogs defense pitched a shutout the rest of the way, only allowing Cal Poly 37 more yards of offense. The Mustangs turned the ball over four times in the loss.
"The guys did a nice job," Yale coach Tony Reno said. "They're a very good football team, Cal Poly is, and they're very talented. I think our guys did a great job of focusing in, mentally and physically, and staying the course for four quarters. Some of the things that we always pride ourselves in are playing a better second half than a first half, and we definitely did that on Saturday."
The victory for Yale - its third of the season - was an eye-opener, considering the Bulldogs totaled just two wins in the entire 2012 season. But more so than that, did anyone realistically envision an Ivy League team traveling across the country and beating a ranked Big Sky opponent?
If you did, you should be off reading palms or tarot cards somewhere.
Maybe the victory is the staple of a shift in the Ivy League's favor. Since the mid-September start of their 2013 season, the Ivies have made a pretty significant splash in the FCS.
Along with the win over Cal Poly, Yale opened its season with a victory over 2012's Patriot League champion Colgate, 39-22.
Princeton is another good example of any Ivy team playing particularly well. The Tigers gave Lehigh a scare on Sept. 21 when the Mountain Hawks needed a fourth-quarter rally to win by one point, 29-28. The Tigers are 2-1 on the season.
Harvard put a big dent in Pioneer Football League favorite San Diego's schedule with a 42-20 win back in September. The Crimson and Bulldogs are both out to 3-0 starts, while last year's champion Penn is 2-1 with a loss to Villanova.
Although the Ivy League champion is not sent to the end-of-the-season FCS playoffs, the talent in the non-scholarship conference and the wins it has already produced suggest the teams could at least be competitive.
It's true Ivy League teams have only played three games this season compared to five or six for much of the rest of the FCS, so the sample size is smaller when putting together team and individual stats.
That being said, after three weeks of the season Ivy League teams are at or near the top of several statistical categories.
Reno mentioned his team has done a great job of managing controllable situations and hasn't turned the ball over much. That's why you'll find Yale, along with Harvard and the Northeast Conference's Sacred Heart, tied at the top of the list nationally in turnovers forced per game. Both the Crimson and Bulldogs average a plus-two margin weekly.
Three Ivy League teams help make up the nation's top 11 total offenses, with Princeton in fourth averaging 557.3 yards per game. Dartmouth is sixth (509 ypg) and Yale is 11th (486.7 ypg). Cornell, led by senior quarterback Jeff Mathews, is seventh in the FCS in passing offense (324 ypg).
Speaking of Ivy League quarterbacks, Harvard's offense is tied for third in the country in completion percentage. Brown is 11th in the same category, and Cornell, Princeton and Yale come in at 13, 14 and 15, respectively. Evidently there's no shortage of offense in a league in which its teams have scored at least 30 points in 13 of the season's first 20 games.
Because of the late start to the season, Ivy League squads play a shorter schedule than the rest of the FCS, which means the non-conference slate is particularly short. So the potential for non-conference upsets are limited from here on out.
Yale will get a shot at Fordham a week from Saturday, while Penn has William & Mary this weekend. Aside from the occasional matchup against Lafayette, it's officially in-conference time in the Ivy League schedule, which means we'll soon find out who comes out on top. And that will be exciting, especially if we see more games like Dartmouth and Penn's quadruple overtime bout from last weekend.
But given what we've seen to this point and what we know about the Ivy League this season, it would be nice to see these teams expand their range of competition in the future.
Maybe Yale's 3,000-mile trip is just the beginning of something big.
The following is a game-by-game breakdown for The Sports Network FCS Top 25 and other select games (all times ET):
Thursday, Oct. 10
South Carolina State (4-2, 2-0 MEAC) at North Carolina Central (3-2, 1-0)
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.
What to know: Sure, South Carolina State has won seven of the eight meetings between these two squads dating back to 1976. But the one the Bulldogs didn't win was the most recent clash a year ago, which belonged to North Carolina Central, 40-10.
That's the closest we can get to a sample of this year's matchup. Both teams have had success this season, and are unbeaten in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference play, though South Carolina State has a game on the Eagles.
The Bulldogs have only dropped contests to Coastal Carolina and FBS Clemson to start the year, and have won four straight games up to now, outscoring their opponents in that span by a 150-36 margin. But NCCU has a stellar defense, led by linebacker Tazmon Foster (sixth in the FCS and leads the MEAC with 58 total tackles) and freshman Michael Jones, the national leader with four interceptions.
The winner will be one of the front runners in the MEAC race.
Prediction: South Carolina State 28, Morth Carolina Central 23
No. 5 Eastern Illinois (4-1, 1-0 OVC) at Austin Peay (0-5, 0-1)
Kickoff: 8 p.m.
What to know: With everyone focusing on the explosive Panthers offense this season, has anyone really noticed what the defense is doing?
Eastern Illinois's defense is tied for tops in the nation with 11 interceptions and tied for seventh in turnover margin with a plus-eight differential. The Panthers average plus-1.6 takeaways per game.
Having a defense that can back up one of the nation's top offenses is paramount. And after a bye week, the Panthers should be rested and ready to continue their dominance.
Austin Peay enters this contest 0-5 and trails in the all-time series between the two programs, 10-3. For comparison, Eastern Illinois defeated Eastern Kentucky two weeks ago, 42-7. Austin Peay enters this game after a loss to EKU last Saturday, 38-3. Nothing is guaranteed here, but those numbers certainly don't favor the Governors.
Prediction: Eastern Illinois 52, Austin Peay 12
Saturday, Oct. 12
No. 17 Lehigh (4-1) at Columbia (0-3)
Kickoff: Noon (NBCSN)
What to know: OK, so the most enticing Patriot League matchup has come and gone, and Lehigh now has a loss. Sometimes a team can breathe a little easier when the pressure of maintaining a perfect record has gone out the window.
The Mountain Hawks still boast one of the better statistical offenses in the FCS, led by senior quarterback Brandon Bialkowski. The southpaw ranks third in the nation in passing yards (1,854), passing yards per game (370.8) and seventh in passing touchdowns (14).
The Lions are coming off a blowout loss to Ivy League foe Princeton, where the offense was lacking in production. Columbia managed just 136 yards of offense against the Tigers, including minus-six rushing.
The Mountain Hawks shouldn't have much difficulty getting back on track this weekend.
Prediction: Lehigh 48, Columbia 16
Rhode Island (2-4, 1-2 CAA) at No. 25 New Hampshire (1-3, 0-1)
What to know: Somehow New Hampshire received enough votes to still be ranked in the poll this week. Perhaps that says a lot about what people think this team is still capable of achieving this season.
The Wildcats dropped their second straight contest to a ranked opponent last weekend in a 44-28 setback at Towson, a team that has given the Wildcats fits in the last three seasons. Now the Wildcats return home to face a Rhode Island team that is ahead of them in the CAA standings for the first time in years.
Rhode Island is another team that, for some reason, has driven New Hampshire a little crazy in the past few seasons. The Wildcats have won the last two matchups, last season by a score of 40-20, and in 2011, 31-24. But in 2010 the Rams beat New Hampshire in Kingston on a late touchdown - one of five wins that season for Rhode Island.
With their backs against the wall, New Hampshire will be pulling out all the stops to avoid another loss, one that could potentially bury its season. It helps that Rhode Island hasn't won at Cowell Stadium since the 1995 season.
Prediction: New Hampshire 38, Rhode Island 24
The Citadel (2-4, 2-2 SoCon) at No. 22 Georgia Southern (3-2, 1-2)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
What to know: Ah, the continuing soap opera that is the Southern Conference. Each week there's another dramatic story to tell.
Last weekend, Georgia Southern held a 21-10 halftime lead over Samford, only to let the Bulldogs mount a vicious comeback for an eventual 44-34 victory behind the arm of quarterback Andy Summerlin.
Eagles freshman quarterback Kevin Ellison completed all seven of his pass attempts for 140 yards and two touchdowns - the most passing production the Eagles have had since Week 2 of the season, when Ellison passed for 151 yards. It's still all about the running game for Georgia Southern, though, as the team racked up 259 yards on the ground against Samford.
At this point, The Citadel is still clearly in the SoCon playoff hunt, but a loss could be dangerous moving forward, considering the handful of teams very much alive for that automatic bid. Ten of the previous 22 times these teams met have been decided by a touchdown or less, which includes the last two meetings.
Prediction: Georgia Southern 35, The Citadel 28
No. 10 Fordham (6-0) at Georgetown (1-4)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
What to know: With Lehigh behind them, the Rams can almost coast through to the end of the season. Of course, coaches and players won't say something like that out loud, but looking ahead on the schedule, it's hard to see another team (other than Yale, maybe Colgate) taking down the Rams now.
Georgetown is up this weekend, and it's been a rough season for the Hoyas. Aside from a win at Davidson in Week 2, Georgetown has been simply manhandled by opponents like Marist, Brown and Princeton. Now with an undefeated Fordham team, with wins under its belt against CAA and FBS teams, coming to town, the one-sided losses will likely continue.
Fordham quarterback Michael Nebrich is having a sensational year, currently ranking fourth in the country with 1,761 passing yards and just one interception through six games. Against Lehigh, Nebrich connected for 384 yards through the air with four touchdowns, and added a fourth rushing. The offensive trio of Nebrich, Carlton Koonce and Sam Ajala can't seem to be stopped.
Prediction: Fordham 54, Georgetown 17
No. 16 Bethune-Cookman (4-1, 1-0 MEAC) at Howard (1-4, 0-2)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
What to know: Despite a standout performance from junior quarterback Greg McGhee, Howard dropped yet another game last weekend, this time to MEAC foe North Carolina Central. McGhee's 328 passing yards and four touchdowns are certainly promising moving forward, though.
The Bison will undoubtedly need another performance like that plus an effective game from the defense in order to take down MEAC favorite Bethune- Cookman Saturday. The Wildcats are coming off a 21-7 win over Delaware State.
The Bison were absolutely in last week's game had it not been for an 89-yard NCCU punt return for a score and a 50-yard blocked field goal return in the third quarter. The score went from a 16-14 Eagles' lead to 30-14 in a hurry.
The Wildcats are 17th in the nation in rushing offense (235.6 yards per game), while Howard's defense allows an average of 181.2 rushing yards per game to opponents.
Prediction: Bethune-Cookman 30, Howard 17
Elon (2-4, 1-1 SoCon) at No. 12 Wofford (3-2, 2-0 SoCon)
Kickoff: 1:30 p.m.
What to know: Wofford and Samford are the teams in the driver's seat of the Southern Conference right now with perfect 2-0 records. But after getting a taste of SoCon victory last weekend, Elon would love to play the spoiler on Saturday against the Terriers.
Realistically it's a long shot, but the Phoenix did just knock Furman down a peg with a 28-25 victory at Finley Stadium in Greenville. Wofford has easily handled lesser teams this season, save for a 3-0 loss to Gardner-Webb.
The Terriers have SoCon wins over The Citadel and Georgia Southern, which greatly help the team's No. 12 ranking in the poll. If Wofford can keep up the pace, the SoCon automatic playoff bid is their's for the taking.
Prediction: Wofford 34, Elon 21
Missouri State (1-5, 1-1 Missouri Valley) at No. 1 North Dakota State (5-0, 2-0)
Kickoff: 2 p.m. (NBC ND, ESPN3.com)
What to know: Phew, that was a close one.
The Bison narrowly escaped Northern Iowa's push to take down the FCS kings on Saturday, rallying from a 13-point, fourth-quarter deficit to win, 24-23. But perhaps, even in defeat, the Panthers somehow opened a door that previously not many thought could be opened. Perhaps Northern Iowa showed the rest of the nation that North Dakota State is beatable.
The nation's top-scoring defense gave up 23 points to the Panthers, including 149 yards on the ground to David Johnson. And while Brock Jensen was effective, tossing two touchdown passes, his 99 yards weren't overly impressive against a stout defense like UNI's.
But the comeback effort also shows the resiliency of the Bison. And taking a look at the schedule ahead, not much stands in the way of a perfect season. Sure Southern Illinois, Indiana State and Youngstown State could pose problems, but it's hard to see those games ending in an NDSU loss, including this matchup with the 1-5 Bears.
Prediction: North Dakota State 41, Missouri State 14
Lamar (3-2, 0-0 Southland) at No. 2 Sam Houston State (4-1, 0-0)
Kickoff: 3 p.m.
What to know: The Bearkats are looking to extend their 18-game home winning streak, which is the longest in school history and the longest currently in the FCS. They host Lamar in Huntsville this weekend as part of the school's annual Homecoming festivities.
Sam Houston State boasts the top scoring offense in the nation (51.6 points per game) and the top rushing offense (331.8 yards per game).
Neither team has played a Southland game this season, but the winner will get a leg up on the rest of the conference, which has three teams in the nation's Top 25. The Bearkats actually have a losing record in conference openers in their 26 years of football existence, going 10-15-1 in that span.
But taking a look at Lamar's schedule shouldn't exactly scare anyone. Although the Cardinals are 3-2, their wins have come over Panhandle State, Bacone and Grambling State. Not the most intimidating of opponents.
Prediction: Sam Houston State 54, Lamar 21
No. 23 Samford (4-2, 2-0 SoCon) at Appalachian State (1-4, 1-1)
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m.
What to know: Samford jumped into the Top 25 this week after a come-from- behind win over Georgia Southern last Saturday. The Bulldogs offense, led by Andy Summerlin and Fabian Truss, dominated the Eagles defense for 44 points.
Now it's a matchup with an underachieving Appalachian State team, which is moving up to the FBS level at the end of this season. In that case, what a poor time to make the move upward, because the Mountaineers (1-4) can barely handle their FCS schedule this season.
But despite the disappointment, there are some bright spots for App State. Freshman running back Marcus Cox is already having a phenomenal year, in terms of both rushing and receiving. And this Samford defense hasn't held an opponent to fewer than 20 points this season. If App State's defense can hold up, this could very well be another Top 25 upset.
Prediction: Appalachian State 28, Samford 23
No. 6 Eastern Washington (3-2, 1-0 Big Sky) at North Dakota (2-3, 1-1)
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. (MidcoSN)
What to know: The Eagles made sure to bury Big Sky foe Weber State last weekend, earning their first conference win in the process. With a particularly difficult schedule in the home stretch for Eastern Washington, every win will be crucial.
The Eagles have to travel to North Dakota this weekend - a team coming off a win over Idaho State. Although not a severely dangerous team, UND has weapons that can make the Eagles pay. Receiver Greg Hardin, after a few weeks of mediocrity against formidable opponents, finally jumped back into the stat sheet with 126 receiving yards and a 99-yard kickoff return for a score.
As we've seen this season, most opponents will need to put up at least 40 points to outscore Eastern Washington's high-powered offense. North Dakota won't be that team this weekend.
Prediction: Eastern Washington 40, North Dakota 22
Richmond (2-3, 0-1 CAA) at No. 21 James Madison (4-2, 1-1)
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. (NBCSN)
What to know: James Madison took a dive right out of the Top 25 after a loss to Delaware nearly two weeks ago, but bumped itself right back in with a convincing, 40-13 triumph over Albany.
Now the Dukes square off against another team that has had its fair share of Top 25 glory this season in Richmond. The Spiders are looking to prove they still belong in that category, and both squads are looking to improve their CAA records.
With Maine, Towson and Villanova leading the CAA right now at 2-0 in the conference, both James Madison and Richmond have to make up some ground to catch up in the fight for an automatic bid to the playoffs. Prior to their bye week, the Spiders suffered a one-score loss to Maine. The Black Bears' Nigel Jones rushed for 115 yards and two scores against Richmond's defense, which certainly perks up the ears of Dae'Quan Scott.
Prediction: James Madison 30, Richmond 21
Tennessee State (5-1, 2-0 OVC) at No. 24 Jacksonville State (5-1, 1-1)
Kickoff: 4 p.m. (TV24)
What to know: Jacksonville State made an impression on voters by defeating UT Martin last weekend and jumped into this week's Top 25. Now the Gamecocks face a serious test of their durability against the bruising defense of Tennessee State.
The Tigers will be a terrific challenge and could validate whether the Gamecocks belong in the national poll. The key for Jacksonville State will be to get its run game going, which fueled last weekend's upset win over UT Martin, knocking the Skyhawks from the Top 25. DaMarcus James rushed 23 times for 184 yards and three touchdowns, while the offense as a whole didn't turn the ball over once.
That will be the key for Tennessee State - turnovers. If the Tigers can force the Gamecocks to make mistakes handling the ball, it could be a long day for Jacksonville State.
Prediction: Tennessee State 27, Jacksonville State 21
No. 13 South Dakota State (3-3, 0-2 Missouri Valley) at Western Illinois (3-3, 1-1)
Kickoff: 4 p.m.
What to know: Who would've thought Western Illinois would be ahead of South Dakota State in the Missouri Valley Conference standings by the time these two teams met? Well, believe it.
South Dakota State leads the all-time series between the two schools, 6-4. But the Leathernecks haven't lost a game at home this season, and South Dakota State has lost its last three games. Not a good combination for the Jackrabbits.
Certainly a realistic problem for SDSU may be that the team relies too heavily on running back Zach Zenner. Against North Dakota State two weeks ago, Zenner was held to four rushing yards, and South Dakota State as a whole was shut out. He got it going again last weekend with a 112-yard, two-touchdown performance, but his team's defense couldn't stop the Salukis in the loss.
Turnovers didn't help the Jackrabbits last weekend, and Western Illinois ranks second in the MVFC in takeaways with 14. But the Leathernecks have allowed 13 touchdowns to opposing running backs, so Zenner should once again be the dominant force he's used to being.
Prediction: South Dakota State 32, Western Illinois 20
Nebraska-Kearney (0-4) at No. 20 Central Arkansas (2-3)
Kickoff: 4 p.m.
What to know: Maybe this game is exactly what the Bears need right now.
After being slaughtered by Southland rival McNeese State, 59-28, it's clear the Bears are now only the third-best team in the conference behind Sam Houston State and McNeese, and could even be challenged by the likes of Stephen F. Austin and Southeastern Louisiana.
Quarterback Wynrick Smothers has maintained his level of play, ranking sixth in the nation in passing yards (1,639) through six weeks. It's the defense that's been the weak link lately. The Bears are ranked 64th in the country in scoring defense, allowing 28.2 points per game to opponents.
Enter Division II Nebraska-Kearney - an 0-4 team. One would have to assume the Bears are pretty angry that their perfect record on the purple and gray home turf is now blemished with a loss. It's a good time for a rebound game for Central Arkansas.
Prediction: Central Arkansas 45, Nebraska-Kearney 17
Southern Illinois (3-3, 1-1 Missouri Valley) at No. 4 Northern Iowa (4-1, 0-1)
Kickoff: 5 p.m.
What to know: With just a one-point loss to the nation's unanimous top-ranked team, Northern Iowa remained No. 4 in the national poll. The Panthers, now 0-1 in the Missouri Valley Conference, look to even their conference record against a sneaky good Salukis team.
By now, teams and fans alike are aware of what the Panthers bring to the table. A strong running game led by David Johnson, leadership under center in Sawyer Kollmorgen, and a quick and strong defense. But how about Southern Illinois?
The Salukis are getting a tremendous season out of quarterback Kory Faulkner, who leads the MVFC in passing yards and total offense. His favorite target - tight end MyCole Pruitt - is 13 receptions away from moving into second place in SIU history in career receptions.
Southern Illinois's confidence is at an all-time high after last weekend's upset win against South Dakota State. Can they keep the train rolling over Northern Iowa? It'll be a battle, that's for sure.
Prediction: Northern Iowa 30, Southern Illinois 23
Gardner-Webb (4-2, 0-0 Big South) at No. 8 Coastal Carolina (5-0, 0-0)
Kickoff: 6 p.m.
What to know: History heavily favors Coastal Carolina in this contest.
The Chanticleers own an 8-2 series lead over Gardner-Webb and are 7-3 in Big South openers. CCU also is coming off a bye week, which is more good news. The Chants are 8-2 historically coming off bye weeks, which is something the team likely needed in order to prepare for the enigma of Gardner-Webb football.
The Runnin' Bulldogs are coming off a confusing loss to Charlotte, 53-51. It was nice to see quarterback Lucas Beatty and running back Juanne Blount produce offensively, but the defense, which is typically the cornerstone for this former Top 25 squad, struggled mightily.
Despite the setback, Gardner-Webb does still in fact trot out a stout defensive front seven, which could potentially give the Chants fits. Running the ball with Lorenzo Taliaferro is what Coastal does so well, and if Gardner- Webb can neutralize him and get pressure on quarterback Alex Ross, the Runnin' Bulldogs have a chance. We'll see what happens in this first weekend of Big South conference play.
Prediction: Coastal Carolina 27, Gardner-Webb 20
Illinois State (2-3, 1-1 Missouri Valley) at No. 18 Youngstown State (5-1, 2-0)
Kickoff: 7 p.m. (ESPN3.com, CSN-CHI)
What to know: The Penguins are finally in the Top 25 after a convincing, 35-24 win over Indiana State, and are 2-0 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference with another MVFC matchup this weekend.
Freshman running back Martin Ruiz galloped all over the Sycamores, whose team has been set back offensively by running back Shakir Bell's injury. Ruiz ran for 141 yards and three touchdowns. Senior quarterback Kurt Hess continued his efficient season with a 164-yard, one-touchdown performance.
Now the Penguins host Illinois State, one of the preseason favorites in the MVFC that has underwhelemed to say the least. The Redbirds just announced on Tuesday that Iowa State transfer quarterback Jared Barnett had left the team. Barnett started the first two games for the Redbirds and played in a third before giving way to freshman Blake Winkler.
Illinois State's only two wins this season have come against FCS independent Abilene Christian and Western Illinois. It's hard to imagine a third will be coming against the 5-1 Penguins in Youngstown.
Prediction: Youngstown State 34, Illinois State 23
No. 15 Villanova (3-2, 2-0 CAA) at No. 3 Towson (6-0, 2-0)
Kickoff: 7 p.m. (NBCSN)
What to know: It seems like there is no bigger roll than the one Towson is on right now. Even North Dakota State needed a fourth-quarter comeback to win last weekend. But the Tigers haven't scored fewer than 33 points in a game this season, and their smallest margin of victory came in Week 1 against FBS UConn - a 15-point margin.
Most recently, the Tigers disposed of New Hampshire, and look to continue that success against CAA opponents (this is their third consecutive conference game). Villanova, as we now know, is no pushover.
The Wildcats have rebounded from an 0-2 start and are now 3-2 overall, with a 2-0 mark in the CAA - the same as Towson. The winner will get a boost and move to 3-0 in the conference.
It will be a battle of the running games, as Terrance West leads the nation in rushing scores. But Villanova quarterback John Robertson and running back Kevin Monangai don't want West to steal the show.
Ultimately, it will come down to whichever defense plays best against the run. Robertson may be a better passing quarterback than Peter Athens, but he won't win this game through the air. So stopping the run is vital. And there is no stopping Terrance West.
Prediction: Towson 34, Villanova 25
No. 11 Montana (4-1, 1-1 Big Sky) at UC Davis (2-4, 2-0)
Kickoff: 7 p.m. (Max Media)
What to know: Remember, since there are so few teams out west, the NCAA allowed conference teams, like those in the Big Sky, to play in-conference matchups and not have them count against their conference record. The effort is largely used to reduce travel costs for non-conference games.
And UC Davis should be thankful for this ruling. The Aggies are 2-4 on the season, but 2-0 in the Big Sky Conference, despite losses to Northern Arizona and Portland State (which counted as non-conference games). After winning their last two against Idaho State and Southern Utah, the Aggies are on a roll.
Enter Montana, a team that is behind UC Davis in the conference standings, but will be looking to even that up this weekend. The Grizzlies are coming off a 55-27 win over one of the better offenses in the country in Portland State. Receiver Clay Pierson caught three of Jordan Johnson's four touchdowns passes. An interesting stat to keep an eye on: Montana ranks seventh nationally in third-down conversions (32-for-64), while UC Davis ranks 14th in the FCS and first in the Big Sky at stopping teams on third down (teams are 27-for-90 against the Aggies).
With Montana State on a bye, and Sacramento State facing Northern Arizona, look for Montana to climb back up toward the top of the Big Sky standings by matching those teams' two conference wins.
Prediction: Montana 44, UC Davis 20
Stephen F. Austin (2-3, 0-0 Southland) at Southeastern Louisiana (3-2, 0-0)
Kickoff: 8 p.m.
What to know: We know who the top team is in the Southland Conference - it's Sam Houston State. We also know that McNeese State is behind the Bearkats. Central Arkansas sits third, but has had an up-and-down season.
And speaking of up and down, Stephen F. Austin is about as inconsistent as it gets. The Lumberjacks are 2-3 this year, with wins over McMurry (a Division II program) and Montana State. They followed up the Sept. 21 win against the Bobcats with a loss to the SWAC's Prairie View A&M. Who knows what this team will do next?
The Lumberjacks and Southeastern Louisiana are vying for the upper echelon in a tough Southland Conference, and right now the ball is in SELU's court. The defense will have to contend with Lumberjacks quarterback Brady Attaway, who ranks second in the nation in passing yards with 1,917. Attaway's squad is also second nationally in total offense, averaging 378.8 yards per game.
It will be hard to slow SFA's pace, but the Lions may be able to counter with weapons of their own.
Prediction: Southeastern Louisiana 35, Stephen F. Austin 28
No. 19 Northern Arizona (3-2, 1-1 Big Sky) at Sacramento State (3-3, 2-0)
Kickoff: 9:05 p.m.
What to know: After beating Montana two weeks ago, Northern Arizona was put on public display against Montana State last weekend in Bozeman, and was in almost every way humiliated by the Bobcats in front of a record Montana State crowd of 21,027.
What typically works for the Lumberjacks is its run game, which was suspiciously absent Saturday for several reasons. The Bobcats had a very good scheme for containing Zach Bauman and stuffing him at the line of scrimmage. But when the Lumberjacks fell behind early, it forced the offense to go to the air to try and play catch up. Quarterback Kyren Poe and the passing game didn't fare much better than Bauman.
But Sacramento State is certainly no Montana State. The Hornets have three wins on the season - two in the Big Sky Conference. But those wins have come against Weber State, Northern Colorado and non-conference Southern Oregon - nothing to brag about. The Lumberjacks should be able to get back on track this weekend.
Prediction: Northern Arizona 29, Sacramento State 21
No. 7 Montana State
No. 9 McNeese State
No. 14 Maine
Last Week's Record: 16-6 (.727)
Season Record: 100-41 (.709)
10/10 11:38:22 ET