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FCS Football: Best Games and Predictions for Week 5

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FCS

Now that the FCS is basically done giving the FBS fits, it’s time to get serious about the conference title races.

You don’t want to fall behind in your race — William & Mary, Illinois State, Montana... ahem.

Related: FCS Rankings: Power Poll for Week 5

Apparently, the best way to avoid the upset bug in the FCS is to be on a bye. Fortunately for the fans, most top teams are in action this weekend as the schedule is competitive again.

Here are the FCS games of the week:

Note: All times ET

Friday, Sept. 30

Penn (0-2, 0-0 Ivy) at Dartmouth (2-0, 0-0), 7 p.m.

Both teams have played tough early-season schedules with results that are decidedly different. Penn, which has allowed two opponents to convert 24-of-35 third downs (a gaudy 68.6 percent), has to fix its defensive shortcomings. Dartmouth outside linebacker Folarin Orimolade doesn’t have to fix a thing — he’s making plays everywhere.
Pick: Penn

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Saturday, Oct. 1

Delaware (2-1, 0-0 CAA) at No. 7 James Madison (3-1, 1-0), 1:30 p.m.

With their deep backfields, these two CAA Football teams are going to try to run the ball right through the other. Delaware wants to get back to the FCS playoffs. If the Blue Hens want to make a meaningful statement, well...

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Pick: James Madison

No. 9 Cal Poly (3-1, 1-0 Big Sky) at North Dakota (2-2, 1-0), 2 p.m.

The Mustangs’ express rolled on against Montana last week with... the passing game? North Dakota has gotten on track with two straight wins and the Fighting Hawks have the kind of run defense to trouble the Mustangs’ sizzling triple option.

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Pick: North Dakota

No. 19 Illinois State (2-2, 0-1 Missouri Valley) at No. 1 North Dakota State (3-0, 0-0), 2 p.m.

It’s not quite the showdown it could have been the last two seasons, when they didn’t meet in the regular season and wound up sharing the Missouri Valley Conference title. NDSU has won its last 22 games after an open week. That’s not good for Illinois State when it’s a little banged up.

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Pick: North Dakota State

Wofford (3-1, 1-0 Southern) at Samford (2-1, 0-1), 3 p.m.

Wofford didn’t allow East Tennessee State’s offense to reach its side of the field last week. No doubt quarterback Delvin Hodges will take Samford there in this SoCon showdown.

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Pick: Wofford

William & Mary (2-2, 0-1 CAA) at New Hampshire (2-2, 1-0), 3:30 p.m.

As successful as UNH has been through the years, something usually goes wrong against the Tribe, which hold a 15-4 series lead, winning 11 of the last 13 matchups. The loser will have a hard time making the FCS playoffs.

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Pick: New Hampshire

No. 14 The Citadel (3-0, 2-0 Southern) at Western Carolina (1-2, 0-1), 3:30 p.m.

These SoCon teams want to beat each other so much they both took off last week to have an extra week of preparation. The clutch Bulldogs seem to get better throughout a game.

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Pick: The Citadel

No. 4 Sam Houston State (3-0, 2-0 Southland) vs. No. 25 Stephen F. Austin (3-1, 1-0) in Houston, 4 p.m.

“The Battle of the Piney Woods” will push 30,000 strong at NRG Stadium in Houston. Quarterback Hunter Taylor has been a savior off the SFA bench. The talented Bearkats haven’t needed late heroics; they’ve put opponents away by halftime.

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Pick: Sam Houston State

Prairie View A&M (3-1, 3-0 SWAC) vs. Grambling State (3-1, 2-0) in Dallas, 4 p.m.

Prairie View was the preseason favorite in the SWAC West Division over Grambling, the defending champ. Both offenses can score in bunches. The difference is Tigers head coach Broderick Fobbs has the better defense for the “State Fair Classic.”

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Pick: Grambling State

Southern Utah (2-1, 1-0 Big Sky) at No. 10 Montana (2-1, 0-1), 4:30 p.m.

Southern Utah isn’t ready to give up its Big Sky crown just yet and the host Grizzlies would be in trouble if they don’t win this one. Think it will get loud at Washington-Grizzly Stadium?

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Pick: Montana

No. 12 Charleston Southern (2-2) at No. 15 Coastal Carolina (3-1), 6 p.m.

No longer rivals in the Big South, both teams have been through so many injured quarterback that a Wildcat offense must be on standby. Running backs Darius Hammond (CSU) and De’Angelo Henderson (Coastal) always seem to dial long distance.

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Pick: Charleston Southern

No. 6 Western Illinois (3-0, 0-0 Missouri Valley) at No. 13 South Dakota State (1-2, 0-0), 7 p.m.

The Leathernecks may be flat emotionally after leaving Northern Illinois with an FBS win. Meanwhile, the Jackrabbits are fired up over their loss at WIU in the regular-season finale last November, which denied them of a top-eight seed in the playoffs and sent them on the road.

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Pick: South Dakota 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.

(Top photo by Sam Houston State Athletics)