There are still plenty of FCS matchups against the FBS this week, but many more teams will settle into playing each other.
And, oh, does that create some fascinating games. If you hear a coach saying the most improvement for a team occurs between the first and second games of the season, then you know we’ve moved on to Week 2 clichés.
Here are the FCS games of the week:
Note: All times ET
Saturday, Sept. 8
No. 7 Villanova (1-0) at Lehigh (1-0), 12:30 p.m.
Lehigh running back Dom Bragalone led the FCS in rushing yards last season, but Villanova basically kept him in check (82 yards on 25 carries) while posting its sixth straight victory in the series. But it’s a different season, and both teams impressed in Week 1 with defending Patriot League champ Lehigh showing improved defense against Saint Francis and Villanova beating Temple for an FBS win. In a week of good QB matchups, don’t overlook Zach Bednarczyk versus Brad Mayes.
Chattanooga (1-0, 0-0 Southern) at The Citadel (0-1, 0-1), 6 p.m.
In the deep Southern Conference race, this is a must-have win for both teams. Chattanooga’s last-season improvement in 2017 rolled into its opener, and it also helped to a healthy Nick Tiano at quarterback and weapons at running back (Tyrell Price) and wide receiver (Bryce Nunnelly). Triple-option teams aren’t supposed to overcome 21-0 deficits, but The Citadel did in tying up defending SoCon champ Wofford before falling.
Pick: The Citadel
Furman (0-1) at Elon (0-1), 6 p.m.
There’s no truth to the rumor these two teams will schedule a home-and-home series for each season. But they basically did last season considering they each beat the other on the road, with Furman taking their first-round meeting in the FCS playoffs. It's now three meetings in 13 games. Each team lost to an FBS opponent last week, so the possibility of being 0-2 is enough to fire them up.
Colgate (1-0) at New Hampshire (0-1), 6 p.m.
Speaking of possibly being 0-2, UNH is going to have to avoid that daunting scenario with backup quarterback Christian Lupoli running the show. CAA offensive player of the year Trevor Knight suffered an AC joint sprain in his shoulder while the Wildcats were getting whacked over the head at Maine. They last time these two teams met in 2015, Colgate left Durham with a playoff win.
Pick: New Hampshire
Montana State (1-0) at No. 3 South Dakota State (0-0), 7 p.m.
The Bobcats tripped up Western Illinois to open the Big Sky-Missouri Valley Challenge Series (the Big Sky leads, 2-1). They have one of the more interesting stories in the FCS because Troy Anderson is playing quarterback after winning the 2017 Big Sky freshman of the year award as a two-way running back/linebacker. SDSU has one of the top quarterbacks in the FCS — senior Taryn Christion. He’s itching to prove it again after the Jackrabbits’ opener at Iowa State was canceled by severe weather.
Pick: South Dakota State
No. 4 Eastern Washington (1-0) at Northern Arizona (1-0), 7 p.m.
This game doesn’t count in the Big Sky standings, which is unfortunate because Eastern was picked first and NAU third in the conference’s two preseason polls. Still, the matchup is meaningful on a national scale and it features one of the top quarterback matchups of the FCS season — Eastern’s Gage Gubrud versus NAU’s Case Cookus. The host Lumberjacks are coming off an FBS win (if hapless UTEP still qualifies for that).
Pick: Eastern Washington
Prairie View A&M (1-1) at No. 8 Sam Houston State (0-0), 7 p.m.
It’s odd that a program of Sam Houston State’s stature is opening its season in Week 2. Head coach K.C. Keeler has turned the offense over to quarterback Mike Dare, who replaces two-time Walter Payton Award winner Jeremiah Briscoe. While the Bearkats awaited their opener, Prairie View got acclimated to new head coach Eric Dooley in a big way, nearly beating Rice and then putting up 40 on North Carolina Central in the MEAC-SWAC Challenge.
Pick: Sam Houston State
No. 9 Samford (1-0) at Florida State (0-1), 7:20 p.m.
Samford doesn’t exactly shy away from the big boys when it comes to FBS scheduling, including Georgia last year. The confidence of Devlin Hodges, Ahmad Gooden and Co. must have risen a little when the Seminoles looked so bad in head coach Willie Taggart’s debut Monday night — a 24-3 home loss to Virginia Tech.
Pick: Florida State
Eastern Illinois (0-1) at Illinois State (1-0), 7:30 p.m.
The road team has won the last three meetings as Illinois State takes a 55-42-9 series lead into the Mid-America Classic. The Redbirds didn’t get a lot out of beating NAIA member Saint Xavier for their playoff resume, but they will by slowing down Eastern Illinois wide receiver Alexander Hollins (three touchdowns already) and beating their non-conference rival.
Pick: Illinois State
San Diego (1-0) at UC Davis (1-0), 10 p.m.
The visiting Toreros have beaten a Big Sky team in the playoffs each of the past two seasons, but UC Davis handled them, 35-7, for head coach Dan Hawkins’ first win with the Aggies last September. He got an even bigger win last week — a 44-38 victory over San Jose State. Anthony Lawrence versus Jake Maier is a darn good quarterback matchup. Does the winner move into the Top 25?
Pick: UC Davis
— 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.
(Photo courtesy Furman Athletics)