My wife doesn’t know the house is on the line this week. She already says I’m a knucklehead, but the fact we’re trying to pick winners from this week’s FCS games, well, her words might be too kind.
This week features one of the more competitive schedules of the season. Even top-ranked North Dakota State isn’t safe.
Maybe let us fold fitted sheets over picking winners. That’s easier.
Here are the FCS games of the week:
Note: All times ET
Saturday, Oct. 15
No. 7 James Madison (5-1, 3-0 CAA) at New Hampshire (4-2, 3-0), noon
First place in CAA Football is at stake and both teams are on three-game winning streaks. It’s the Dukes’ second trip to the upper end of the conference as they won at Maine already. Tired legs? Not running back Khalid Abdullah.
Pick: James Madison
Bryant (2-3, 1-0 NEC) at Saint Francis (3-3, 1-0), noon
Bryant quarterback Dalton Easton has gotten it done with 14 touchdown passes, but he won’t face a better defensive back this season than Saint Francis safety Lorenzo Jerome.
Pick: Saint Francis
No. 25 North Carolina A&T (4-1, 2-0 MEAC) at Bethune-Cookman (0-4, 0-2), 1 p.m.
Bethune-Cookman is the sentimental choice as its campus in Daytona Beach, Florida, recovers from Hurricane Matthew. N.C. A&T is simply too good behind running back Tarik Cohen, the MEAC’s new all-time leading rusher.
Pick: North Carolina A&T
San Diego (4-1, 3-0 Pioneer) at Drake (3-3, 2-1), 1:30 p.m.
San Diego isn’t the first team that comes to mind when discussing conference powers in the FCS, but the Toreros are shooting for their fifth PFL title in six seasons. They rank second in the FCS in scoring defense (14.6 ppg).
Pick: San Diego
Southern Utah (3-2, 2-1 Big Sky) at No. 18 North Dakota (4-2, 3-0), 2 p.m.
Fighting Hawks fans are clamoring to be in the playoffs. What better way than to win the Big Sky title? Bubba’s boys would take sole possession of first place with a win.
Pick: North Dakota
No. 5 Chattanooga (6-0, 4-0 Southern) at No. 12 The Citadel (5-0, 3-0), 3 p.m.
Two of the five unbeaten teams in the FCS collide, but, more importantly, first place in the SoCon is on the line between last year’s co-champs. The Citadel found out in last year’s game that Mocs quarterback Alejandro Bennifield is a dynamic player.
No. 10 South Dakota State (3-2, 2-0 Missouri Valley) at No. 1 North Dakota State (5-0, 2-0), 3:30 p.m.
The Bison dynasty has won all eight meetings since the 2010 season, but an upset might be brewing with the way SDSU quarterback Taryn Christion has clicked with wide receiver Jake Wieneke and tight end Dallas Goedert. The Bison want to pound the rock and control the clock.
Pick: North Dakota State
No. 13 Villanova (5-1, 3-0 CAA) at No. 7 Richmond (5-1, 2-1), 3:30 p.m.
Even ‘Nova head coach Andy Talley is saying this game will show if the Wildcats are for real. Richmond is coming off the best CAA game of the season – a 36-30 in over Albany in three overtimes – but the injuries are mounting.
No. 23 Central Arkansas (4-1, 3-0 Southland) at McNeese (3-3, 2-2), 7 p.m.
UCA hasn’t exactly been beating the upper echelon of the conference while jumping out to a big start and McNeese may have blown a realistic shot at the playoffs with last week’s late meltdown. A McNeese win could make the Southland vulnerable to being a one-bid conference.
Pick: Central Arkansas
No. 17 Northern Iowa (2-3, 1-1 Missouri Valley) at No. 14 Youngstown State (4-1, 2-0), 7 p.m.
It’s getting close to being now or never for UNI, whose schedule is strong enough to probably get the Panthers in the playoffs at 6-5. Something always goes wrong with the host Penguins when they’re having success, right?
Pick: Northern Iowa
Eastern Kentucky (2-3, 1-1 OVC) at Tennessee State (4-1, 1-1), 7 p.m.
Slow-starting TSU hasn’t scored a first-quarter touchdown in four of its five games, despite averaging 36.6 points per contest. With nemesis EKU in town, the Tigers can’t afford to play from behind.
Pick: Tennessee 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 The Citadel Athletics)