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FCS Football: Best Games and Predictions for Week 3

Eli Jenkins TD Dive.jpg

Jacksonville State's Eli Jenkins

The conference schedule is beginning to beckon for more FCS teams, but in a September to remember, there are still key intersectional matchups and potential FBS upsets to carry the action.

FCS

Seven FCS teams have beaten FBS opponents through two full weeks of college football, including five ranked in the Athlon FCS Power Poll. The biggest FCS non-conference games continue to include Big Sky and Missouri Valley conference teams, but Ohio Valley Conference champ Jacksonville State has a huge matchup as well this week.

Here are the FCS games of the week:

Note: All times ET

Saturday, Sept. 17

No. 1 North Dakota State (2-0) at Iowa (2-0), noon

The Bison have won five straight and are 8-3 overall against FBS teams, but this is the toughest assignment to date. Just scoring a point would be a first in this series as the Hawkeyes won the only two meetings in the 1940s by a combined 98-0. Bison quarterback Easton Stick’s perfect 10 – his record as a starter – comes to an end.

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Pick: Iowa

Related: 15 Best FBS vs. FCS Football Games in 2016

Western Carolina (1-1, 0-0 Southern) at East Tennessee State (0-1, 0-0), 1:30 p.m.

Now about those 156,990 that Tennessee and Virginia Tech drew to Bristol Motor Speedway last weekend... uh, this Southern Conference game at the cavernous racetrack won’t come quite so close in attendance. But the fans there should keep a close eye on Western Carolina’s skill position standouts.

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Pick: Western Carolina

No. 15 Coastal Carolina (2-0) at No. 5 Jacksonville State (1-1), 2 p.m.

Burgess-Snow Field will be rocking to this big matchup. Coastal’s FBS-transitioning program doesn’t face a tougher road game than this one and Jacksonville State’s offense is relying too much on quarterback Eli Jenkins. Imagine if Coastal running back De’Angelo Henderson doesn’t score a touchdown.

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Pick: Coastal Carolina

Eastern Illinois (1-1) at No. 8 Illinois State (2-0), 3 p.m.

Neither wants to give an inch to the other as their longtime rivalry hits 105. Enough so that they both beat FBS teams last week — Illinois State over Northwestern and Eastern Illinois over Miami of Ohio.

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Pick: Illinois State

No. 11 James Madison (2-0) at North Carolina (1-1), 3:30 p.m.

OK, the Dukes have proven they can score points in bunches — a Division I-high 68 per game. But can running back Cardon Johnson and co. do it against this level of opponent? The veteran Dukes should be competitive.

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Pick: North Carolina

No. 19 Towson (1-1, 0-0 CAA) at No. 20 Villanova (1-1, 0-0), 3:30 p.m.

In the crowded CAA Football race, this is a key game for two contenders for FCS playoff bids. Neither has gotten off to a flying start, but a victory here would change that.

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Pick: Villanova

Delaware (2-0) at Wake Forest (2-0), 6:30 p.m.

Do you get the feeling CAA Football is in the spotlight this week? A win here and the Blue Hens can solidify they are back behind fourth-year head coach Dave Brock, whose record has moved above the .500 mark (19-18) again.

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Pick: Wake Forest

Stephen F. Austin (1-1, 0-0 Southland) at No. 13 McNeese (1-1, 0-0), 7 p.m.

Saddle up for long drives because the host Cowboys’ offense is averaging more than 40 minutes in time of possession. Of course, they want to keep the ball away from dangerous SFA quarterback Zach Conque. McNeese's defense is also much better than SFA's.

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Pick: McNeese State

No. 7 Northern Iowa (1-1) at No. 4 Eastern Washington (1-1), 7:05 p.m.

With another injury to a starter — All-America wide receiver Cooper Kupp (shoulder) makes it five — EWU is going to reach a tipping point. It’s a good thing sophomore quarterback Gage Gubrud has been spectacular. Credit these two powers for the tough non-conference scheduling, but one of them is going to be 1-2.

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Pick: Eastern Washington

No. 3 Sam Houston State (1-0, 0-0 Southland) at Lamar (0-2, 0-0), 8 p.m.

Even with two weeks to prepare last September, Sam Houston had no answer for Lamar's 2,000-yard rusher Kade Harrington in the Cardinals’ road upset. This time, he has the Bearkats’ full attention.

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Pick: Sam Houston State

— 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.