Everybody can see the finish line for the FCS regular season just ahead. It’s all right there, and for some, a conference title, playoff bid or both are within reach.
But does mid-November ever start to elevate the wackiness across college football. There are rivalry games, injuries catching up to teams, defenses wearing down and plenty of new heroes coming out of the blue.
Yup, it’s just the way we all love it.
Here are the FCS games of the week:
Note: All times ET
Friday, Nov. 11
No. 24 Harvard (7-1, 5-0 Ivy) at Penn (5-3, 4-1), 7 p.m.
With Dartmouth out of the title mix, Harvard and Penn can both pull into a tie with the Big Green for the most Ivy League championships at 18. For Penn, that means it must rebound from a 28-0 punch to the face by Princeton (also in the title mix). Harvard clinches at least a share of the crown with a victory.
Saturday, Nov. 12
Albany (5-4, 2-4 CAA) at No. 20 New Hampshire (6-3, 5-1), noon
With a loss to high-scoring James Madison the exception, surging New Hampshire has won five of its last six games by limiting opponents to 17 or fewer points. Coming off a bye week, the Wildcats' defense is ready for Albany’s 1,000-yard rusher Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks.
Pick: New Hampshire
No. 5 James Madison (8-1, 6-0 CAA) at No. 11 Villanova (7-2, 5-1), 1 p.m.
Just as New Hampshire is eyeing a move into first place in CAA Football, so, too, are the other Wildcats at Villanova. They have to slow down JMU quarterback Bryan Schor, the conference’s offensive player of the week in four of the last six weeks. With a win, the Dukes would clinch at least a share of the title.
Pick: James Madison
Wofford (6-3, 4-2 Southern) at No. 7 Chattanooga (8-1, 6-1), 2 p.m.
To earn a share of a fourth straight SoCon title, Chattanooga needs to win here and have The Citadel lose at VMI. Considering the Mocs can control only one of those scenarios, they’ll focus on securing a seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs. They’re coming off a bye last weekend. Pick: Chattanooga
No. 3 Jacksonville State (8-1, 5-0 OVC) at Murray State (4-5, 4-2), 2 p.m.
The host Racers are surging behind quarterback KD Humphries and pose a threat to Jacksonville State at home. But it’s time for QB Eli Jenkins and the Gamecocks' defense to put their feet on the pedal. Teams that win 22 straight conference games know how to do that.
Pick: Jacksonville State
Northern Arizona (5-4, 4-2 Big Sky) at No. 9 North Dakota (8-2, 7-0), 2 p.m.
The Lumberjacks lament All-America quarterback Case Cookus’ season-ending injury, but left-hander Blake Kemp has made a lot go right during a four-game winning streak. It’s not outlandish to think the Big Sky’s all-time winningest head coach, Jerome Souers, could spoil UND’s perfect conference season.
Pick: Northern Arizona
No. 16 Cal Poly (6-3, 4-2 Big Sky) at Weber State (5-4, 4-2), 2 p.m.
The Cal Poly offense has been rotating a high-scoring game with a low-scoring game. The pattern says it’s a good week for the triple option, and the Weber State defense isn’t particularly strong against the run.
Pick: Cal Poly
No. 23 Northern Iowa (4-5, 3-3 Missouri Valley) at No. 14 Western Illinois (6-3, 3-3), 2 p.m.
UNI is trying to come back from a 3-5 record to gain an at-large playoff bid and WIU is trying to hold on to one after a 5-1 start. Panthers head coach Mark Farley is trying anybody and everybody in his offensive backfield to get the job done. At WIU, quarterback Sean McGuire has been a constant all season.
Pick: Western Illinois
No. 15 Montana (6-3, 3-3 Big Sky) at Northern Colorado (5-4, 3-3), 2:05 p.m.
Montana’s Chad Chalich subbed in for quarterback Brady Gustafson and accounted for eight touchdowns (seven passing, one rushing) against Idaho State. Upset alert? No, the Griz simply have more talent than UNC despite the Bears’ resurgence the last two seasons.
South Dakota (4-5, 3-3 Missouri Valley) at No. 10 South Dakota State (6-3, 5-1), 3 p.m.
Control within the Mount Rushmore State has changed with South Dakota State winning seven straight games in the series for a 52-50-6 lead entering the 109th meeting. Jackrabbits tight end Dallas Goedert and wide receiver Jake Wieneke have seven 100-yard receiving games each this season (Goedert is on a seven-game run).
Pick: South Dakota State
Nicholls (5-4, 5-2 Southland) at No. 12 Central Arkansas (8-1, 7-0), 3:30 p.m.
Every team ranked ahead of UCA in the Athlon FCS Power Poll seems to have a standout player whose name rolls off the tongue. The Bears don’t, but that’s OK with them because their balance is paying off with, well, a possible Southland Conference title. They’re a week away from facing Sam Houston State.
Pick: Central Arkansas
No. 17 Charleston Southern (5-3, 2-1 Big South) at Liberty (6-3, 4-0), 3:30 p.m.
After a surprising home loss to Gardner-Webb, the visiting Buccaneers face a dire scenario: A loss not only ends the chance for a second straight Big South title, but also it stymies playoff eligibility because they wouldn’t have enough Division I wins for an at-large bid. Liberty has won five straight games since freshman Stephen Calvert became the starting quarterback.
Pick: Charleston Southern
Southern (6-2, 6-0 SWAC) at Prairie View A&M (6-3, 6-1), 5 p.m.
While all five teams in the SWAC East Division have sub-.500 conference records, these two West Division teams need to win just to keep pace with Grambling State (6-1, 6-0), which handed Prairie View a loss already. That’s the only non-FBS loss between these two teams.
— Written by Craig Haley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Haley has covered the FCS level since 1999 and is the national writer for www.fcs.football. He appears frequently on radio shows and podcasts to discuss everything FCS. Follow him on Twitter @CraigHaley.
(Top photo by James Madison Athletics)